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Are German Shepherds Good With Cats?

Are German Shepherds Good With Cats?

There’s a huge misconception that dogs and cats are rivals and that German Shepherds are especially difficult to integrate with cats simply because they are working dogs. But, keep in mind that GSDs are intelligent, highly trainable, and incredibly social. Just as with other dogs and any other animal they can share a home with a cat peacefully. It’s even possible for a German Shepherd and a cat to be the best of friends.

Are German Shepherds Good With Cats?

It depends on your particular German Shepherd. The truth is, any dog’s ability to get along with cats has nothing to do with their breed. Many German Shepherds can get along fine with a cat with proper socialization and training.

Keep in mind that individual dogs could react to their feline counterparts differently. Plus, just because they get along with one cat, it doesn’t mean they’ll get along with all cats. Don’t forget that the cat’s temperament and prior socialization also plays a huge role as well.

Many German Shepherds share their homes with cats and are actually friendly with one another. But, there are also some GSD’s that won’t tolerate a cat’s presence. So, if you have a German Shepherd and are hoping to welcome a cat into your family, you need to reflect on your GSD’s characteristics and determine whether it’s a good idea.

Signs That Your German Shepherd Will Be Good With Cats

Depending on how long you’ve had your GSD and how hands-on you are in caring for them, you probably already have a vague idea of how they might react to sharing their home with a cat. But, here are some of the critical factors that might make your German Shepherd more likely to integrate well with cats:

Are german shepherds good with cats

1) Age

The younger your GSD is, the more open they will probably be to living with a cat. It also helps if the cat is young so that neither of them is already set in their ways. When you introduce cats to dogs while they’re both still young, curiosity and playfulness will likely take over, and they probably won’t even notice their differences. That’s not to say that older German Shepherds will be bad with cats. Growing up together just tends to make things easier. 

2) Socialization

Your German Shepherd’s prior experience with cats and other animals should give you a good idea of whether or not they will tolerate or even enjoy having a feline sibling.

Are they wary of or playful with new animals they encounter? Keep in mind that if they tend to be nervous around other animals, their instinct to protect themselves might drive them to be aggressive. Have they had plenty of exposure to cats before? The more positive interactions they’ve had with other animals (especially other cats), the better your chances are of a smooth introduction.

3) Temperament

A socialized German Shepherd is one thing, and a sociable one is another. Your dog could have had plenty of exposure to other animals without incident, but is their personality suited for sharing a home with a cat?

Do they insist on always being the center of attention? How do they feel about sharing their space as well as their toys? If they’re even-tempered and laid-back, the more likely they are to be good with cats.

4) Prey Drive

Being a working breed, German Shepherds were bred to have a high prey drive. That means they have an instinct to chase after cats, especially those who make sudden movements and run away very quickly.

Generally, a higher prey drive may make it more difficult for your German Shepherd to love a cat. It’s easier for a GSD to co-exist with a cat if it has a lower prey drive.

You’ll know this by observing how your dog reacts to the presence of other animals. Some of the most obvious signs are whether they lunge after cats during walks and whether they’ve chased after other animals before.

Step-by-Step: How to Introduce Your German Shepherd to a Cat

No matter how socialized your German Shepherd is or how well they’ve behaved with other cats, it’s essential to do the introduction in stages. That’s the best way to guarantee their safety as well as their emotional well-being.

Before you begin, your GSD should have at least gone through basic training and already responds to your verbal cues obediently to make this introduction easier. Once you’re confident that both the dog and the cat are ready, follow these steps:

Step 1: Swap Scents

Prepare a clean towel for each animal. Rub the towel on our GSD’s body, particularly on the sides and armpits. Then, use the other towel on your cat, paying special attention to the area around the face.

Then, place the cat-scented towel near your dog and vise versa. Pay attention to how each of them reacts. Even better, give them a treat or praise them when they sniff the towel in order to develop positive associations with the scent.

Step 2: Expose Through Glass

Anywhere you have a glass door is a perfect place to do this. Place your GSD on one side and the cat on the other, making sure that they can’t get to each other. You don’t need to force them to interact, but it’s an excellent time to observe how they’ll react to each other’s presence.

Start with 5-minute sessions and increase the length of time in subsequent sessions. You’ll need to do this repeatedly until they get used to each other’s presence.

Step 3: Barricaded Meet & Greet

Let them interact through a pet gate or something similar. This way, they get some contact and can sniff each other while keeping them both safe from any possible aggressive reactions. Stay on this step until you’re confident that they’re both ready for full contact.

Step 4: Face-to-Face Meeting

For this step, it’s essential to keep your German Shepherd leashed. Keep the leash short and maintain control, then increase the slack little by little as they show positive behaviors. Throughout this process, make sure that you give plenty of praises or treats for actions that you want to reinforce.

While you maintain control over your GSD, keep an eye out for your cat and lookout for signs of stress and discomfort. If they walk away, let them and try again another time.

Step 5: Unleashed Meeting

It might take a while, but you mustn’t move on to this step unless you’re a hundred percent sure you can trust your German Shepherd and cat completely. Also, don’t leave them unsupervised until they’ve had plenty of unleashed interactions without incident.

Reminders for Integrating German Shepherds with Cats

  • Set your pace. Use your judgment to determine how quickly you can go through each of the steps. Observe both animals and proceed as you see fit. Don’t worry about going too slowly. What’s important is that neither of the two animals is pushed too hard.
  • Don’t punish them. Your German Shepherd might instinctively lunge or even growl at the cat when they first meet. Similarly, the cat might hiss and scratch. Don’t punish them for those behaviors because it is what comes naturally to them. Instead, reinforce positive reactions by praising them or giving them treats when they’re calm or even playful.
  • Stay calm. Your pets will always be able to sense your energy. Your GSD, especially, will detect if you’re nervous or agitated and will act accordingly. So, as you’re trying to go through the introduction stages, keep yourself collected and try to be as positive and patient as you can with both of them.
  • Don’t force it. Sometimes, the best you can hope for is a safe and peaceful co-existence. You can’t force your cat and your dog to be best friends because they each have their own personalities and preferences. Respect their boundaries and let them do what they’re comfortable with.

Cute German Shepherd and Cat Videos

Does My German Shepherd Like Cats?

The short answer is I doubt it. I don’t have a cat because I don’t think my girl would live well with one.

How do I know my Allie doesn’t like cats?

At her very first vet appointment a couple of days after I brought her home at 8 weeks old, we came out of the examining room and there was a lady sitting in the waiting room with a small crate on the floor.

My dog went up and sniffed at the crate then jumped back and growled. The lady said, “well I guess she doesn’t like cats”. That was my first clue.

Allie also has a very strong prey drive and whenever she sees a cat she wants to pounce and chase and sometimes she growls.

All this adds up to I don’t think my German Shepherd would care to have a cat in the house.

However, I know many other German Shepherd owners, whose dogs have a different temperament than my girl, and their dogs do wonderful with cats. I know one person who has 3 German Shepherds and 2 cats and they have no problems.

The temperament of the German Shepherd and the temperament of the cat is key to their ability to get along or simply co-exist. This varies on a case by case basis.

Final Thoughts

German Shepherds can get along with cats, but it all depends on the individual dog and cat. Each situation will be different.

Apart from the right temperament and proper socialization, it takes a good introduction for cats and dogs to be friendly with one another. If you’re lucky, your cat and GSD might even end up becoming the best of friends.

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