Pet owners have an age-old rivalry: Dogs, or cats? Many owners have a strong opinion one way or the other, some have both animals, and still more have adopted one, but seem to be raising another.
Some dog breeds make their owners wonder… “Did I adopt a cat?” Aloof personalities, independence, and sleeping all day — while it might sound like a cat, these are also some dog breeds’ traits.
What Does It Mean that Dog Breeds “Act Like a Cat?”
Dogs and cats differ biologically; as different species, they have dissimilar anatomies, needs for socialization, and more. However, the paramount personality traits of cats — stubborn and independent, aloof, and regal — have found their way into some dog breeds.
Betsy Banks Saul, the creator of Petfinder and Heal House Call Veterinarian, had a chuckle when A-Z Animals told her about the comparison. “I believe that cats are noble creatures and dogs are lucky to find themselves compared to them! However, it is impossible not to consider the independent, stubborn, and imperious nature of my most beloved cats. Who is most like cats?”
When owners and pet lovers consider the comparison, they often think that dogs act like cats when they’re standoffish, independent, and stubborn. Some also believe their ability to sleep long hours, relax in the sun, and aversion to walks make them act like their feline counterparts.
Keep reading to discover the 16 top dog breeds that basically act like cats — with the caveat that individual dogs in a breed still vary widely in personality and temperament.
1. Shiba Inu
The breed that most often tops the list of the “most catlike dogs” are Shiba Inus with its fox-like face, dominant personality, and aloof loyalty.
“Shiba Inus indeed exhibits several cat-like behaviors. These include their independent nature, self-grooming habits, and the way they often keep themselves clean,” said Aaron Mears, a professional dog sitter and pet enthusiast with PawLand Pet Care. “Shiba Inus are also known for their agility and the ability to jump onto high surfaces, reminiscent of a cat’s climbing skills. Their aloof yet loyal personality is often compared to that of a cat, as they may form strong bonds with their owners but still maintain an independent streak.”
The author’s own Shiba Inu demonstrates many of these personality traits. She’s skittish around strangers, prefers to sleep alone most of the day, and even plays like a young kitten around hanging toys, ropes, and tiny balls.
Even according to the American Kennel Club, basenjis are cat-like. The hypoallergenic, African-descended hunting dog the basenji makes our cat-like dog behavior list thanks to its tendency to get itself in unique situations.
“The basenji is often referred to as the barkless dog and is known for its unique yodel-like sound. Much like a cat, they are incredibly independent, and curious, and are known to climb trees, which is quite a feline trait. When I was training a basenji named Luna, I often found her perched on high places, observing her surroundings, much like a cat would,” recounted Ray McNally, a 30-year veteran dog trainer and behaviorist and founder of Barky Dog Toys.
Basenjis have an intelligent, poised appearance most of the time, which also contributes to the regality of the breed.
3. Chow Chow
Chow chows remain an unusual breed simply because of their temperament. While other dogs like to please owners, chase balls, learn tricks, and be silly with their families, chow chows are neither playful nor goofy. Chow chows prefer to “do their own thing,” giving off a dignified air with aloofness or outright disdain for anyone outside of their family. Like cats, chow chows bond and have loyalty to their owners, but even that relationship takes work — and doesn’t entitle the owner to an hour-long cuddle session.
Furthermore, chow chows give off the appearance of a big cat. Their wild mane feels reminiscent of a proud male lion. Chow chows enjoy cleanliness like cats, too. The need to keep themselves clean drives the chow chow’s house training, which remains incredibly easy compared to other dog breeds.
While different species, both the Italian greyhound and greyhound dogs present unique cat-like behaviors, making owners, trainers, and vets alike question if the pet is really a dog at all.
According to McNally, the Italian greyhounds he’s trained care more about sunbathing than any other activity. “These slender and graceful dogs are known for their cat-like agility and speed,” he said, “[but] they also have a penchant for lounging in sunspots and being quite meticulous about their grooming habits. I would often joke about an Italian Greyhound I trained, saying he was a cat in a dog’s body, especially when he’d spend hours sunbathing.”
Sean Pritchard, a certified canine fitness coach (CCFC), certified professional dog trainer (CCPT), and current President and Head Canine Fitness coach of Pant & Wag, lent his expertise to the A-Z Animals list and discussed greyhounds’ cat-like behavior.
“Greyhounds are perhaps the most misunderstood dog in all of dogdom. When people think of greyhounds they think of these incredibly athletic dogs who love to run non-stop. And while they can run at blazing fast speeds, when given a choice most greyhounds would rather sleep on your couch or bed rather than run in a race. It is their need for sleep which makes them so cat-like,” he informed. “While most dogs sleep 12-14 hours per day, most greyhounds sleep 16-18 hours per day, which is the same amount of sleep the average house cat needs. I have always thought of greyhounds as gigantic, skinny cats because of their need to nap!”
Dr. Linda Simon (MVB, MRCVS), a veterinary surgeon in the UK and a main source of information for Panacea Pets, talked to A-Z Animals at length about the different dog breeds she’s come across in her years of practice that most closely resemble cat behavior. One such pick was the papillon with its small size, fringed ear hair, and strong personality.
“The papillon is a quirky and energetic little breed that reminds me of a young domestic short hair [cat]. They enjoy chasing things, patrolling, and being assertive. [Papillons] are small and delicate, with a slender frame; much like their feline cousins. They also have that sleek, straight coat and come in a range of lovely shades including white, black and tan. Though many assume the elegant papillon is a lap dog, they were originally bred as ratters. This means they can give even the sportiest cat a run for their money when it comes to chasing and hunting mice and rats.”
The Maltese breed is adaptable, affectionate, small, and gentle. They’re perfect companions to seniors or busy families who want a loveable companion but don’t have the time for constant walks and exercise. Much like a cat, Maltese dogs bond closely with their humans and prefer to lounge around for most of the day.
“Maltese dogs can be rather feline in both appearance and behavior. They are not particularly active and enjoy lazing around and basking in sunlit areas. These dogs are also quite gentle and tolerant, which is why they are so popular among families with young children,” asserted Simon. “Interestingly, in my experience, many Maltese dogs get along really well with cats and have no issues sharing a home with them. Perhaps they see them as kindred spirits!”
7. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Cavalier King Charles spaniels have soft fur and a friendly, nurturing disposition.
“I really love the personality of the cavalier King Charles dog. They are not much bigger than kitties and they have a similarly soft and straight coat, with a lovely “plume” of a tail. These guys often make great pets for elderly citizens, as they do not need a great deal of exercise and enjoy sitting on laps and getting stroked. They tend to be affectionate and docile, much like a big ole Maine Coon.”
8. Alaskan Klee Kai
The Alaskan klee kai, while hyperactive, has many cat-like traits. They like to perch on furniture like cats, they keep themselves clean, they climb on furniture they may not be the right size for, and they have a high prey drive.
McNally has worked with many klee kais and asserts their cat-like behavior. “This breed, often mistaken for a Husky puppy, has a very cat-like demeanor. They’re reserved, independent, and have a strong hunting instinct, often pouncing on toys much like a cat would with a mouse. One Alaskan Klee Kai I worked with had this adorable habit of stalking his toys before pouncing, reminding me so much of a playful kitten.”
9. Basset Hound
Basset hounds don’t have the “quiet” behavior of cats, but they do have the sleeping down pat. Notoriously lazy and tired, basset hounds sleep similar amounts to cats. They’re also incredibly stubborn, as cats are, and will surprise you with the many ways they ignore your commands.
“As a veterinarian and parent of basset hounds, I would submit that they are very cat-like in that they like to sleep a lot and usually enjoy doing so on top of a couch back, or other weird surface. Mine in particular, also like to lick themselves an excessive amount,” said Erin O’Leary, DVM, co-founder and CMO of Heal House Call Veterinarian.
Whippets may reflect the energy level of a cat better than all other dog breeds. Lazy most of the day with spurts of random energy at inopportune times, whippets have a calm and collected nature most of the time. If they’re not running around the house or trying to knock things over, they’re most likely lounging in the sun and shooting you side-eye glances that are meant to communicate their love and affection for you.
In addition, whippets are small and delicate — they know this and use caution around strangers to protect themselves. Much like a cat, they’re only their true selves when around the people they love and trust the most.
Though the energy of a vizsla doesn’t scream “cat,” the way they play does! Specifically, owners across the world confirm that vizslas play like kittens. Vizslas also have a wicked-sharp intelligence — owners should consistently change out toys, add to their environments, and bring new challenges into their lives to keep vizslas mentally stimulated.
Vizslas are very affectionate and bonded to their owners at the hip. While their affection isn’t always cat-like, their loyalty is. Some experts like the vizsla’s athletic prowess to Bengal cats or Peterbalds that show more affection than the usual individual feline.
12. Manchester Terrier
Cat-like dogs usually fall into one of two groups: they clean themselves to a cat’s impeccably high standards, or they have emotional and behavioral traits similar to a cat’s. The Manchester terrier has both.
This terrier, which resembles a smaller Doberman pinscher, keeps itself clean year-round. House training Manchester terriers remains an easy adventure for dog parents, as the terrier prefers to have a space as clean as themselves. Manchester terriers also act wary of strangers. They enjoy their family — but once someone new is thrown into the mix, they’d prefer to be somewhere else.
Finally, the Manchester terrier is an independent breed that chooses one or two members of their family to bond with and shows their love and loyalty unconditionally.
13. Shetland Sheepdog
Shetland sheepdogs (“shelties”) aren’t normally thought of as cat-like; they’re agile working dogs with a zest for life and happy-go-lucky nature. However, some of their more nuanced behaviors remain reminiscent of a feline friend.
Shelties are emotionally intelligent and highly sensitive to how their humans feel, much like cats can tell when something is off or wrong with their family. As loyal companions who act wary of strangers, this intelligent dog breed has a uniquely empathetic nature that combines the best of both worlds: a dog’s energy and a cat’s intelligence.
14. Afghan Hound
Tall, slender, and sporting silky long hair, Afghan hounds have an aloof and intelligent personality that only begins to scratch the surface of how cat-like they behave.
Overall, Afghans are bossy, dramatic, and need a lot of love and attention — on their own terms. Similar to a cat who whines constantly for attention and then runs away or hisses, the Afghan hound will demand its family’s love only when it’s in the mood for a hug, pets, or treats. Otherwise, Afghan hounds are mischievous at home around their family.
In public or around strangers, Afghans usually act in a shy or reserved manner. Whereas other breeds treat strangers with aggression or attempt to protect their families, Afghans have a meek and unobtrusive presence. Usually, they just want to remove themselves from the situation and get to a place where they’re comfortable again. Finally, the regality of Afghan hounds, from their appearance to how they sit and stand, reminds owners of how cats carry themselves.
An Akita’s clean, odorless existence demonstrates the cleanliness of a cat. Not to mention, these dogs have extreme loyalty to their families. Like cats, they may not always illustrate their affection through cuddles, pets, or licks — but they will stay close to their family in any heightened situation.
Usually, Akitas are not cuddly dogs and instead come off as aloof and hard to read. They lick and groom themselves as cats do, and mimic “big cat energy” when hunting. It doesn’t make its presence known. Akitas stalk their prey, keeping their bodies low to the ground until they’re ready to pounce and collect the spoils of their planning.
16. Japanese Chin
Small, silky smooth, and noble, the Japanese chin carries the regality of cats through their name — “chin” in Japanese conveys the possession of royal blood. The American Kennel Club even states that the Japanese chin is a “distinctly feline breed” with its fastidious, graceful, and indoorsy nature. Chins like to be with their family and develop deep, loyal connections — but may not always show affection through their actions.
Japanese chin owners have mentioned observing several cat-like behaviors while owning their dogs, including:
- Using their paws to clean their face.
- Walking about a full table without disturbing what’s on it.
- Resting on high, hard-to-reach places.
Heart of a Dog, Personality of a Cat
The dog breeds above are still man’s best friend — they just act a little different than what we normally consider “dog behavior.” The Shiba Inu’s independence, the basset hound’s interesting sleeping positions, and the Cavalier King Charles’ docile nature all reflect common cat behaviors.
Whether you own a dog, a cat, or one that thinks they’re the other, it’s all in good fun. The most important parts of any dog and owner relationship are love, understanding, and respect. As long as you share those characteristics, the rest of a pet’s personality is icing on the cake.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Robert Way/iStock via Getty Images
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