Do German Shepherds Get Along With Cats? (w/ Case Study)

do german shepherds get along with cats

According to the Pet Products Manufacturers Association, a full 46 percent of dog owners own cats. It is perhaps not surprising if you’re also thinking of bringing a cat home. The problem is that you’re not sure whether your German shepherd will be good with the cat or not because they are often portrayed as sworn enemies in the movies.

So, here is the question that you might be asking yourself over and over again: “Do German shepherds get along with cats?” For the most part, German shepherds can get along well with cats or other dogs. However, you should be careful when introducing your German shepherd to the new cat, as friction can occur sometimes.

Just take a look at the video below and see how lovely these two can be.

If you want to know how to properly introduce your German shepherd to the new cat, then keep on reading. I will share with you some interesting facts that I found from my little research and simple steps that you can follow to get your dog and cat to bond.

What Is It Like to Have a Dog and a Cat Under One Roof?

When I was researching the topic, I found it wasn’t easy to find scientific information on how dogs and cats get along and what factors might influence their relationship.

Seriously, given how many households host both a dog and a cat, more research should be performed. However, I did find one study from the Journal of Veterinary Behavior (1) that could offer some insight on how to handle the dynamic between dogs and cats living in the same home.

A majority of pet owners surveyed say that their dogs and cats live amicably. An amicable relationship in this context, as defined by the authors of the study, is living “with a friendly, mutual bond, which is recognizable through the use of affiliative behaviors, maintaining proximity and effective, non-aggressive communication between individuals.”

A few respondents even say that their pets’ relationship is close and well.

Two Interesting Findings

In terms of which factors that could affect the success of these two different species relationships, the authors of the study offer two interesting findings. 

First, age seems to play a significant role in how well the relationship will work out. Dogs and cats who have grown up together from a very young age are more likely to tolerate each other. So if you already have a puppy and want to bring a cat into your family, it would be best to get a kitten instead of an adult kitty and vice versa unless your adult dog has lived with cats successfully before.

Adult dogs who aren’t raised with cats may see them as prey and will likely attack and chase them. Conversely, if you have a  German shepherd who has been raised with a cat, he will most likely welcome the new cat with open paws.

Second, it’s the cats who, in most cases, call the shots meaning they are the ones who are more likely to be uncomfortable around dogs than the other way around. In most of the respondents’ households, cats who were comfortable with dogs usually had been introduced to dogs from kittenhood. 

The authors themselves are still unsure as to what causes this behavior. They speculate that this may be because cats domesticate themselves quite early and easily. Another speculation may be that because cats are smaller than dogs which makes them viewed as more vulnerable.

Whatever the reason is, this second finding, once again, highlights the importance of raising dogs and cats together for them to coexist harmoniously.

This doesn’t mean that you should give up if the dog or cat is older. They can still share a household as long as you are willing to take the time and effort to blend the family.

What You Need to Consider Before Getting a Cat 

Here are a few things you should consider before getting a cat companion, especially if you already have an adult German shepherd or adult cat.

  • A German shepherd who has a high prey drive or has been bred and worked as herding dogs will be unlikely to become a suitable companion for a cat. Either he will chase her until the cat is exhausted, or he will stalk her until she files a restraining order.
  • If the cat is adopted first, the chance of adapting to each other is higher. Still, depending on the cat’s individual personality and behavior, your outcome may be different from other dog owners. 
  • A cat with a timid personality is not going to be a good match for a German shepherd dog. A cat who exhibits more confident and aggressive behavior is going to pick a fight with any dog she sees. Ideally, a cat that is going to live with a German shepherd dog should be calm, quiet, and laid back.

10 Tips for Getting Your German Shepherd and Cat to be Friends

1. The best age to introduce a German shepherd to a cat is anywhere between two to three months old. This is the age where dogs and cats are most open to learning and socializing.

2. Before introducing your GSD puppy to your kitten, make sure you have taught your pup to “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it” on command. These three basic commands will be helpful to keep your pup remains in place during their first meeting.

3. Some trainers recommend letting your pup get used to the kitten’s smell before a physical meetup, though I have never done this. It’s as easy as letting your pup sniff the kitten’s toys a few times.

4. Keep the first interaction between your pup and your kitten brief. The first interaction could be with your pup in his crate and your kitten in front of him. Or it could be with both pets in the room with your pup on a leash. 

Take a look first at your kitten’s body language. If she is not hissing or growling at the sight of your pup, reward her by allowing her to roam around freely. Likewise, if your pup stays calm, he should be praised and rewarded with his favorite treats.

When your pup starts to go after the kitten, you need to do whatever you can to distract his attention. You can show him his favorite toy or threat. If he ignores your attempt and keeps showing aggression toward the kitten, immediately tells him “no.” If he doesn’t back down, take the kitten away, leave, and then try again after a day or two.

5. When introducing a puppy and a kitten, be sure to keep the kitten’s claws trimmed to avoid injury to your pup, whose eyes and nose are especially vulnerable.

6. For the first couple of weeks, their safety is your utmost priority. Keep your German shepherd puppy on a leash at all times and place your pup in a crate when you leave. 

7. Never yell at your puppy if he lunges and tries to chase the kitten. Yelling will only heighten your pup’s excitement and your kitten’s feeling of being threatened, which may cause the kitten to resort to “flight or fight” mode to get away.

8. Make sure your kitten has a safe place to flee if your pup attempts to chase her. You can provide an area under your bed as a dog-free zone or build a tall cat tree with perches for the kitten to perch on.

Do not attempt to prevent your kitten from running off, and do not go rush after her and coddle her too much. Doing this only makes the kitten worry even more about the pup.

9. Be patient. It takes some time for a German shepherd puppy to learn how to deal with his new cat housemate. Observe their interaction carefully, once your pup consistently acts calm around the kitten, let him walk around the house with his leash dragging along behind him. If your puppy starts to chase the kitten, shout “No” to him and step on the leash.

10. Never force a fur-against-fur interaction between them and always supervise all the interactions until you’re sure that both pets have befriended each other.

What If My German Shepherd Dog and Cat Never Get Along

It’s a tough question to answer, but if both of your pets are never able to live peacefully, you may need to consider returning your new cat (or dog) to the shelter or rescue group. Naturally, you might feel bad about this, and returning to the shelter could be stressful for the cat (or dog) too.

That’s why you should never rush into adding one more pet without a good chance that both pets can get along.

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Andrew Garf

Hi, my name is Andrew Garf and I am 1 part part-time dog trainer, 2 part burger enthusiast, 3 part dog lover, too many parts?

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