The domestic cat employs an enlarged cat display when faced with hostility: arched back, stiff legs, erect fur and broadside position. The arched back and stiff legs originates in intense aggression and fear. The anger reaction results in the arched back and fear results in the stiff legs. To these the cat adds the erect fur and sideways on position; all with the intention of presenting a maximum size increase.
During the arched back display the cat hisses like a snake which turns to a growl if under attack. When the cat fights back he spits. This is the moment where the cat has a choice to retreat or advance in attack.
It takes courage to attack a much larger aggressor such as a dog but it is the better option for the cat. Running away triggers the dog’s hunting urges. The dog regards a fleeing animal as a prey item and food. His hunting mood is aroused.
A cat making a stand against a hostile dog from the get go has a much better chance of surviving because she does not give off the usual ‘prey signals’.
And cats under these circumstances can be frightening for larger animals. We have seen cats attack humans under duress and the cat often wins. They explode with ferocity. The sharp claws of the cat slashing and swiping at the dog can cause real injury to the dog’s face and nose. The dog is more likely to retreat.
The way a domestic cat can see off a hostile dog is to stand her ground and counterattack while employing the four elements of her maximum size display.