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My dog is a mutt with many breeds that we aren't really sure about. She is fascinated with rabbits and points, so I assume she has some hunting instincts.

Relatives of mine have a cat. When we go over there the dog whines and pulls on the leash in a way that's unusual for her. She is very interested in the cat. I fear that she might kill the cat if she gets off the leash there, but two things make me wonder if she just wants to play.

The first thing is, I've pet the cat around her, while holding her leash, and she became more interested in the cat's food than the cat itself. The second thing is, she did get away and get to the cat once (we didn't know the cat was inside). I found the cat growling at the dog, and the dog simply sitting and watching it from a few feet away.

I don't want to take a chance, but I'm also interested in hearing what experts say about the behaviors I've described.

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What you describe is not a wish to kill. As you correctly guessed, it's a natural interest in another living creature and maybe a wish to play.

Signs that your dog wanted to kill the cat

  • She wouldn't whine. She would either charge at the cat silently or bark very aggressively with a gurgling sound.
  • She would probably have a very stiff posture and the hair on her neck would stand up.
  • She would pull madly at the leash.

Signs that your dog wanted to play / interact with the cat

  • She didn't kill the cat when she had the chance. On the contrary, she sat down, which is the opposite of attacking.
  • She whines to make the cat notice her in hopes that the cat would come closer and interact with her.
  • If she wanted to play, she would dance in front of the cat with loose limbs or do the "play bow". play bow
    image source

On a side note: tail wagging alone is not a clear sign of playful behavior. It's a sign of excitement that can be positive (joy, playful mood) or negative (insecurity, stress).

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  • bestfriends.org/resources/how-introduce-dog-cat This article says that if the dog is fixated on the cat (is staring, whining, or barking), it is a bad thing. Why does it disagree? – HH- Apologize to Carole Baskin Jan 9 '19 at 23:14
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    @horsehair That article is really good and links to another article about body language of dogs. "Fixating" is a hunting posture: standing on all legs, head low, intens staring at the prey (imagine a lioness hunting). Whining and barking can be signs of agitation, excitement, stress, aggression and even happyness to see someone. It would be prefareble to introduce the dog and cat in a very calm way with the least possible excitement, but I honestly find that unrealistic. It's like showing a child a huge, favorite toy and saying "you can only have it if you're not excited about it anymore". – Elmy Jan 10 '19 at 5:13

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