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Monday, April 2, 2012

Help For Humping

Here's a rather interesting situation sent in by Olivia....

Background: We have an outdoor cat and 2 indoor dogs who go outside (fenced in back yard) during the day when we are at work or away. They have access through a dog door into a heated garage with carpeting and dog beds. The cat spends most of his time in the backyard with the dogs. He will even arrive at the back door in the morning to greet the dogs when they are let out. They all seem to get along.  The dogs are both female. One is about 3 years old and 20 lbs. The other is 11mos and 12 lbs. The older dog will often go up on the picnic table (which the puppy cannot get up onto) and sunbathe.

The other day I came home to find the female dog mounting the cat and very actively humping him (I'm not sure what other word to use here). They were both on top of the picnic table. The puppy was below bouncing around below trying to see what was going on. I have never seen something so weird before in my life. I know some female dogs will mount other dogs out of dominance, but why would she be mounting the cat and more importantly, why would the cat be allowing it? When they noticed me, the dog came running over and the cat laid down on the table to roll around and then proceeded to lick/clean hi crotch. He was obviously not distressed or trying to get away.


What is going on?

When someone sees a dog "humping" or "mounting" (both appropriate terms) it is usually assumed that the behavior is sexually related.  However, we can see this happen in pre-pubertal dogs as well as females.  In the former there is no sexual drive yet and in the latter, well, they simply don't do that during sexual intercourse.  So why do such antics happen?

Mounting does have an obvious sexual function and is a normal behavior during sexual arousal. In neutered or pre-pubertal males you can see them humping pillows and stuffed animals as a form of masturbation.  Even though they don't have the testosterone stimulating the behavior, they do get some physical pleasure from the act.

But sex certainly isn't the only reason for dogs acting this way.  As Olivia mentioned, dominance is one potential cause.  In humans many sexual behaviors have their origin in a desire to dominate rather than just sexual pleasure.  Many animals will mount subordinates in their social group as such a sign of dominance.  However, there are also other reasons for dogs to mount, and I don't think Olivia's dog is being dominant.

One of the most common reasons for humping is excitement and over-stimulation.  When a dog is playing and has lots of stimulation going on, it will trigger centers in the brain that can lead to mounting behavior.  One of my own dogs does this!  Inara is a three year-old lab mix, and not particularly dominant.  Overall she's pretty calm and laid-back.  Yvaine is our very playful 1 1/2 year old lab, whose favorite game is tug-of-war.  When they're playing by themselves, I don't see any humping from Inara.  But many times when I'm playing tug with Yvaine, Inara will want to join in on the fun and will start to nip or paw at Yvaine.  This isn't mean and is just Inara's way of saying "Hey, don't leave me out."  Often I'll see her try to mount Yvaine and start humping.  I can tell that she's not being dominant and is just wound up because of the play that she isn't a part of.  The only way to stop this particular form of behavior is to avoid the excitement, which obviously isn't always possible.

Olivia, my suspicion is that your dog was mounting the cat because of some kind of mental over-stimulation or excitement.  Maybe she was playing with the puppy, or the puppy was aggravating her,  and the cat just happened to be there.  In a spayed female towards a cat there certainly wouldn't be anything sexual.  And dogs generally find other ways to be dominant, especially towards cats.  Without observing the situation myself or seeing a video I can't say for certain, but I would strongly suspect that this falls in the excitement/stimulation category.

But what about the cat?  Why would he tolerate this?

Some cats are very bonded to the dogs in their family and are particularly docile.  One of my own cats, Tristan, is such a cat.  Many times we have seen the dogs, especially Yvaine, mouthing him and virtually chewing on him like he is a toy.  They are gentle and don't do any harm, but they are definitely working him over.  Sometimes we've seen him walking around with his fur wet and sticking up in odd directions and know that the dogs have been on him.  What is strange is that he tolerates this treatment.  He will just lay there letting the dogs chew, though he does have a rather pitiful expression on his face.  When they are done or when they look up, he just calmly gets up and walks away.  He is definitely the sweetest and most tolerant cat I've ever known.

Here's my reconstruction of what may have happened with Olivia's pets.  The dogs were outside, perhaps playing, and maybe the puppy was bothering the older one a bit.  She jumped up onto the table as is normal, and there was the cat.  The dog was over-stimulated and the cat was in her place, so she started humping him.  He knows the dogs well, is a calm cat, and wasn't being hurt, so he just lay there, not really knowing what was going on.  After a little bit the dog stops and the cat gets up.  As I said, I can't prove this, but from what I know of animal behavior this is a reasonable assumption.

I hope this helps Olivia as well as others that have dogs who do similar things.

12 comments:

  1. My female chiweenie jack, Rosie, does the same thing to my aunts female cat, Betsy. We've been wondering what's up. Thanks so much for the info!

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    1. My female chihuahua does the same to my female cat. The dog has no idea what she's doing and ends up humping the whole body of the cat. I do not think it is out of dominance since she can't completely satisfy herself she ends up humpin air, lol. The cat seems to enjoy it... so weird. Kinda funny to watch, yet you feel weird watching it all happen at the same time.... lol

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  2. My roommate's spayed female min pin humps my neutered male cat. Its so weird!!!

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  3. I have a cat that sounds very much like your Tristan (I. Love. Your. Pet's. Names.) he's very darling and docile and chill. My 6 mo. old, 8lb female puppy often humps him (I hate it so much. I know it's not sexual but I can't help thinking it is when it happens) and he just sits there, sometimes making a "woe is me" face. It all started at a joint vet appointment, she was very nervous because she's a puppy, and he was lethargic because he had a cold, and while we waited for the doctor to come back into the room she started humping him in a nervous panic. It was definitely to calm herself down/seek comfort. She doesn't ever hump anything else, but now and then she'll go for him, esp if she's excited, in a good/playful mood, has her energy-meter full. Do you have any recommendations for how to discourage this behavior? I was also surprised my cat doesn't run away, but what you said makes a lot of sense, that it isn't sexual, so it's kind of like an annoying hug, or one of the puppy's play-bites or pounces. Anyway. I want the behavior to stop, so perhaps distracting her with another positive stimuli, or calling her to come or giving her a command to follow will work? It's so strange because female dogs have no good reason to use that action. It's NOT masturbation, right? I purposefully didn't get a male dog because of this.... ah well.

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  4. I have a female cat and boy dog i am having a problem with him humping her then she gets stressed out and sprays where shes not supposed to what can i do to fix this please help

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    1. Find a local vet who is good with behavioral problems. This is best handled in person with a consultation and follow-up.

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  5. I think my Chug hurt my female cat jumping her!! I don't want to sound gross but she has bled and has had discharge not to mention the poor thing has bowel problems. I thought she may have even gotten pregnant and lost whatever she was carrying cause her and her sister were in heat at the same time and her sister had a kitten but the (for lack of a better term) raped cat started getting sick and oozy. Can a dog penetrate or is it just the cat is just sick? I can't afford to take her the vet as I am out of work. My babies are well fed and taken care of but the dog he won't leave her alone. He hunts her down and now has my male Spitz doing the same thing. When the cat comes in my Chug is very protective of the cat and he stays very close to her. I either crazy or worried please help.

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    1. Something is not right with your dog. His actions are not normal. I'd either be getting rid of the dog or finding the cats a new home.

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  6. My dog who is fixed is humping my cat who is in heat. Should I do anything or leave it alone?

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  7. My 7 month old female Shih-Tzu pup humps my 3 month old Persian female cat.

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  8. my 1 yr pup .. humps my 6 yr cat... new pup to us. 6 mths ago... cat nerved up... does like it...does not hurt the dog... but dog always humps cat every chance...

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  9. I have a chewinnie that was humping my tabby while she was in heat and they got sruck together

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