You can switch combat mode off when wandering around town (hotkey 'c'). If you are just accidentally talking to guards when you are trying to move around, it should help to click and hold the mouse button down to direct your character, rather than repeatedly clicking on the ground.

Unfortunately, once cats or dogs turn hostile towards you, there is no way to get them friendly again (Arhu and the cat in Aleroth will not turn hostile, though). I never found a use for the cat statuette.
In Beyond Divinity, in the first act there is a confirmation dialog if you attack a friendly creature, allowing you to cancel or attack and turn that creature type hostile (for the rest of the act).

The game does get easier as it progresses, and the wastelands are mostly hack and slash, so I can see the original posters point about combat. However, you can handicap yourself, or increase the game difficulty setting, and much of the combat in the wastelands can be skipped simply by heading directly to your goals.