German Shepherds are wonderful loving dogs that make great family pets. However, they are big strong powerful dogs with a lot of energy and a strong natural prey drive. This means they can be prone to chasing other animals in certain situations and under certain circumstances. It just depends on how they were raised and what type of socialization training they had as a young pup. Many prospective owners with cats are curious about their propensity to chase cats. This article will answer the common question, “Are German Shepherds Good With Cats?”
Yes German Shepherds are good with cats assuming they have had proper socialization training from a young age and are introduced to the cat properly. However they do have a high prey drive and may chase a cat which can result in injury and in rare cases death. It also depends on the specific German Shepherd. Some will gel more naturally to the cat and others may be more stand offish or aggressive. In the majority of cases, they can both get along just fine.
How to tell if a new German Shepherd is good with cats?
It will be impossible to tell exactly how a new German Shepherd will respond to a cat or any other animal in your household in the beginning. But there are some things to consider before introducing your new German Shepherd to your furry feline friend.
Age of your dog:
The first thing to consider is the age of the German Shepherd. A young puppy will obviously assimilate easier with the cat than an older dog in most cases. This is especially true if they are both young and grow up together. This will help them form a bond that will hopefully prevent any serious future skirmishes. Early socialization and training are key early on for youngsters.
If the dog is older, it will just depend on their temperament and how they were raised. Make sure to ask as many questions as possible when getting a new dog concerning how they are with cats.
German Shepherds are born with a high prey drive. It is in their nature to want to chase cats or other small animals. How much prey drive they have and what type depends on each individual dog.
Some dogs will be more prone to chase their toys or a ball, while others may tend to want to chase other animals. Elaine from GermanShepherds.com had this to say about her two dogs.
My GSD has the first type of prey drive and lives for his ball – totally cat safe. My greyhound has the second type and lives to chase any small animal that moves, except for my indoor cat – outdoor cats are another story.
It may be hard to assess your new dog’s prey drive so be sure to ask the adoption agency or breeder. It may take being around some other animals to make a determination. Keep in mind, there are certain dogs that will chase anything that moves.
Socialization is one of the most important factors when asking the question, are German Shepherds good with cats? A German Shepherd that is properly socialized with cats and other small animals from a young age will be less likely to be aggressive towards cats.
Find out if your new dog was properly socialized and brought up around other animals. Obviously if your German Shepherd was raised around other cats, they will be much more comfortable coming into a new home with a cat.
A German Shepherd’s temperament will vary from dog to dog. But this is a good indicator of how well they will get along with their furry feline companion.
German Shepherds normally have a loving, loyal and caring temperament especially towards their owners. However like humans, dogs have unique personalities. Some may get along great with a cat in the house, while others may see the cat as a target to chase.
How to introduce your German Shepherd to a cat?
Despite the German Shepherd’s high prey drive and tendency to sometimes chase other animals, they can live in harmony with a cat. This is especially true of a new German Shepherd puppy who has time to learn, socialize and train to be around cats in your home.
Here are the steps for introducing a new German Shepherd to a cat:
1. Prepare your home:
Before you bring home your new German Shepherd, you will want to make sure that your cat has a dog-free zone to stay safe and away from your dog in the beginning.
You can use a spare bedroom in the house or if you have multiple levels, a specific floor they can stay on, that the dog doesn’t have access to. Make sure you keep all of your cat’s essentials there such as food, water, toys, litter box and a scratching post. You want them to feel comfortable until their first encounter with the new dog.
2. Keep them separate in the beginning:
The AnimalHumaneSociety.org recommends that you keep your new dog and cat separate for 3-4 days minimum. Make sure that your new pup has had all of the appropriate vaccines and has a clean bill of health before bringing them home.
Keep your new dog in a separate room or part of the house when you bring them home. Make sure they can’t get access to the cat. You want them to be able to get used to the smell and sound of each other without the physical face to face confrontation.
3. Feed them on different sides of a closed door:
You can start by feeding them further away from the door on opposite sides. Then gradually move their bowls closer and closer to each side of the door. This will help them associate the new animal in their life with something positive like food.
Continue doing this until eventually, they are able to eat their food peacefully close to the door separating them.
4. Train your pup using basic commands:
If you are bringing home a new German Shepherd puppy, make sure to teach him some basic commands before introducing him to your cat.
You will want to make sure that they at least know how to “sit” or get “down” on command to avoid any possible kerfuffle between the two.
5. Let them meet face-to-face:
Once you have accomplished the previous steps and they have the basic training commands down, it is time to let them meet face-to-face for the first time. Do this in an open area and not in their private personal spaces.
For the first few times, let them meet briefly. Keep your German Shepherd on a leash and allow the cat to explore, coming up to the dog when it feels comfortable. Let them walk around and get to know each other. Don’t try to hold either of them to avoid getting scratched or injured.
Tell your dog to sit and reward him accordingly with a treat if he stays nice and calm. You can give your cat a treat as well for good behavior. If either one of them shows any aggression towards the other, simply distract them with a toy or call them over to you, rewarding their attention.
After they are with each other for a few minutes, you can put them back in their respective private areas to relax and wind down.
6. Repeat daily meetings:
Repeat their face-to-face meetings every day until they are completely comfortable with each others presence. Remember to reward them with treats when they stay calm and civil around one another.
Keep your German Shepherd on a leash and don’t let them chase the cat, should the cat decide to exit the room. Keep the meetings short and sweet and separate them before either of them shows any type of aggression or stress from the situation.
7. Let them loose with each other:
Now it is time to let them loose with each other. Proceed cautiously and let them explore each other in the same room. You can leave your German Shepherd’s leash on but don’t hold it unless you need to grab it quickly to pull him back.
If their is any kind of aggression or tension, you can return to the previous step and continue for a few more days or weeks until they are used to one another. Just make sure that the cat can easily run back to their private room for safety and security.
8. Continue to monitor:
Once they can stay calm and be around each other, you will still need to monitor them and make sure that they stay friendly.
It is recommended that you keep them separate whenever you are not home to supervise. They will need a good bit of time before they can be left together alone. It just depends on the cat’s curiosity and the dog’s temperament.
Will a German Shepherd kill my cat?
This is a very common question with prospective German Shepherd owners. The answer depends on the specific German Shepherd and their background with socialization and training. Most of the time, they can be properly trained to be around cats safely but you can never totally get rid of their prey drive.
However their have been occasions where German Shepherds have killed cats. Vickie Raichel, a contributor at Quora, had this to say about an unfortunate event involving her niece’s GSD.
It’s definitely a case by case basis. Never leave them alone until you know which it may be. It’s always best to get both as babies and research introductions. My niece’s GS just recently killed her kitten. She even had them separated while she was at work. The GS broke down the door and through the large kennel she had the kitty in. She was devastated to say the least and even took several precautions to prevent it. She said she would never forgive herself even though she thought she had the kitty protected. Sad.
The lesson here is to make sure that when you leave them at home for work, they cannot access one another. While this is a rare case, you want to make sure your animals are completely safe when left home alone.
How to train a German Shepherd to like cats?
It is possible to train a German Shepherd to like cats but it will take patience and perseverance. It won’t be easy and in the end, you may need to hire a professional trainer to help.
However, if you think you have the know how and stamina, you can give it a shot. WagWalking.com has a great article with three different methods for training a German Shepherd to like cats. They include a do’s and don’ts method, socialization and safety method and clicker training method.
Tips for a happy home with your German Shepherd and cat:
- Give them time: It’s not going to happen overnight. It will take some time for both animals to get used to each other. You may have to extend the separate meeting period and reevaluate depending on the circumstances.
- Never punish them: There may be instances where the cat takes a swipe at your dog or your dog gets aggressive and growls at your cat. Your German Shepherd may even charge your cat. Whatever the case, do not punish them. This is a natural reaction to the situation and their instincts are kicking in. Instead, stay relaxed and calmly separate them or distract them.
- Reward them for good behavior: Whenever they get along and remain calm and relaxed around each other, give them some praise and a treat. This should reinforce that they are doing the right thing. This is a much better approach than punishing them.
- Use scents to get them familiar with each other: This is a great way to get them familiar with each other early on before their face-to-face meeting. You can use a piece of clothing or a toy to introduce their unique scents to one another. This will help later on when they finally meet face-to-face for the first time.
We hope that this article helped answer the question “Are German Shepherds Good With Cats?” There are plenty of families that have German Shepherds and cats that coexist peacefully under the same roof. So many factors play into integration of a new German Shepherd dog and a cat.
Make sure that you do your homework and research everything you can about German Shepherds and cats. As we stated earlier, the friendship between your dog and cat will totally depend on each specific animal’s socialization and temperament.
Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
What is your opinion? Are German Shepherds Good With Cats? Do you have any experience with introducing the two animals? Let us know! We would love to hear about any new ideas, tips or tricks!