If you’re a pet owner, you know that if you have male and female unaltered dogs or cats, you can wind up with litters of puppies or kittens, respectively. Spaying and neutering will enable you to have these animals around without worrying about surprise future offspring.
But what if you have an unaltered male dog and an unaltered female cat or vice versa? Can cats mate with dogs?
The simplest answer to this question is no. Cats cannot mate with dogs or produce any offspring. This can be something that pet owners worry about, so let’s look at why this is not possible.
My Dog Is Mounting My Cat
You may look over one day and see your dog mounting your cat. Humping is a behavior in dogs that has many reasons behind it. This doesn’t necessarily mean your dog is trying to mate.
Stress, excitement, trying to dominate, and just being playful are all potential reasons for your dog to be doing this. While it’s a sexual behavior when mating, it doesn’t always mean there’s a sexual drive behind it.
What If They Mate, Anyway?
Dogs and cats rarely try to mate with one another, but you may be wondering why a hybrid species can’t be created from the pairing of the two.
A kitten/puppy hybrid might sound adorable. After all, interspecies mating has occurred in the past. A famous example of this is the mule, which is part donkey and part horse. Another example is the liger, a combination of a lion and a tiger.
Cats and dogs are different species of animals. While some species can mate and produce hybrid species, cats and dogs don’t share similar DNA.
When hybrid DNA is formed, the parental molecules are homogenous with each other. In other words, they are complementary and similar enough to have the same sequence of base pairs. The new DNA can be formed because even though the parental DNA was from two different species, they resembled each other closely enough to work.
This is why dogs can breed with wolves, tigers can breed with lions, and horses can breed with donkeys.
Even if cats and dogs figured out how to physically mate, they would never be able to produce offspring. If scientists intervened and genetically modified DNA to create a hybrid cat-dog, it would likely not be viable. If it was born, it would die shortly afterward.
DNA is found in cells bound into units called chromosomes. These chromosomes are found in pairs. Cats have 38 chromosomes, or 19 pairs. Dogs have 78 chromosomes, or 39 pairs. Species that are closely related, such as tigers and lions, have the same number of chromosome pairs. Producing hybrid offspring is possible. Dogs and cats don’t have the same number of chromosome pairs, so producing viable offspring isn’t possible.
Dogs and cats have different mating signals and behaviors that aren’t recognized by each other. Female dogs and cats go into heat at different times. The two species have different ways of communicating and don’t express much interest in mating with each other. Their reproductive organs differ too. A dog’s sperm is unable to fertilize a cat’s egg and vice versa.
Cats have barbed penises that enable them to stick to the female cat while mating. These barbs could cause harm to female dogs that aren’t made to accommodate them.
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require meat in their diet to survive. This meat must come from an animal source. Dogs are omnivores. The two animals have different digestive tracts and require different nutrients to survive, adding another reason that offspring cannot be created from them.
Kittens and Puppies
While cats can’t give birth to dogs and dogs can’t give birth to cats, there are stories of these animals accepting each other’s offspring as their own.
Female dogs have been known to accept and care for rejected or abandoned kittens. The motherly instinct takes over, and they welcome the kitten into their litter. This can also be true for mother cats that welcome puppies, but depending on the breed of dog, a cat may not be able to produce the amount of milk that they require.
It’s best if the kitten or puppy can nurse from their natural mother for at least the first 24 hours to get the necessary colostrum. This is a fluid produced by lactating mothers after the first few days of birth. This fluid is filled with antibodies and growth hormones for newborns.
That said, the vitamins and minerals that are necessary for puppies and kittens can be provided from the other animal’s milk. They can survive while nursing from animals of a different species. The milk produced is similar enough in nutritional value to keep them healthy.