Often domestic dogs are “mental hybrids” being attached to species other than dogs because they are socialised to: dogs, cats and people. They may have a triple attachment and these other species are part of their family. Also dog and human societies are quite closely matched. That’s the background. For most male dogs encounters with bitches on heat are rare. They become frustrated and have a tendency to mate with anything that moves including human legs, cushions (these are static!), male dogs et cetera. Human legs are attractive because they are easy to grab by their forelegs and there is no other easily accessible part of the human anatomy because humans are too tall and too big.
So a level of sexual frustration is one reason combined with an underlying socialisation towards cats which facilitates the process. There are other potential reasons and they can be numerous according to my research. In addition to the above, the reasons why dogs might try to mate with cats are as follows:
- Unaltered dogs can mount an object or another animal to masturbate out of frustration;
- ‘Mounting’ i.e. an attempt to mate, may be linked to a dominance display;
- Mounting can be part of a range of canine behaviours linked to aggression, threats, standing over, guarding resources and so on;
- Young dogs might try to mate during play but perhaps this is better described as “mounting behaviour”;
- Mounting during play is apparently seen more often in dogs who are poorly socialised;
- Mounting a cat may happen during play in the family environment;
- Sometimes dogs mount when they are overemotional or stressed. Apparently it happens sometimes when they become excited because their owner has taken the leash or mentioned a car ride;
- Stress at a veterinary clinic may also result in a dog trying to mount an object out of stress.
Domestic cats can also try and mate with strange objects such as a person’s arm. This is intinctive behavior probably born out of frustration and therefore the same reason as for a dog. It is the drive to procreate which is strong and the human environment appears to provide a dearth of opportunities to satisfy this most fundamental of desires. Dogs mating with cats and vice versa cannot produce offspring due to their genetic differences.
Sources: Dr Morris’s Dogwatching, wagwalking.com and myself.
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