We are all aware of the famous animal rivals: dogs and cats , and cats and mice. While the cat and mouse relationship is harder to achieve, dog and cat friendships are possible and even more common than one might guess.
There are some breeds that will make this friendship easier than other breeds, but the question that will be answered in this article is, ˝Are German Shepherds good with cats?˝ This depends on many factors, but German Shepherds are naturally friendly and calm dogs.
This might be strange to some people since GSDs were originally bred to be herding dogs, and they are commonly used as police dogs, and some people connect this to having a bit more stubborn and feisty temper.
There are many examples of a German Shepherd and a Cat being best friends , but there are many things to consider. We are here to list all the things you should keep in mind, how to make the meeting easier, and what your role in all of this is.
Are German Shepherds Good With Cats: Dog Vs Cat
Every breed of dog is going to have different personalities, which can also be the case between dogs that are the same breed. One of the examples is that some German Shepherds have a strong prey drive while others do not.
Because of this, there will be different reactions and types of involvement when meeting new animals – in this case, a new cat . If you already own a German Shepherd, you are aware that they make amazing family pets . But, if you decide to bring a cat into the mix, you need to get them used to the fact that the cat is a new family member .
Before we answer the question, “Are German Shepherds good with cats”, we should talk about the personalities of both animals so you can get a better picture of what we are dealing with. Even in this brief, we need to emphasize that not every GSD will be the same, especially with cats.
Personality Of A German Shepherd Dog (GSD)
The first thing we need to say about this breed is that they are one of the most popular dogs in the world, and even the American Kennel Club confirms that. These dogs have a natural instinct for various things like being loyal to their owners, learning new things, and sensing someone’s emotions.
This is one of the rare dog breeds that don’t need a professional dog trainer to teach them things because they are very good at receiving and fulfilling commands, and a regular person with almost no experience can teach them many things.
Some people ask themselves if German Shepherds are aggressive . Just like any other dog breed, if you don’t take proper care of them, they can turn aggressive. But, there are no examples of them turning aggressive if every measure is done correctly.
Dog owners can sleep safely because these working dogs are amazing guards, and they will never allow anything to happen to their favorite humans. Even if they are big and have a guarding trait, these giants are gentle.
They are amazing with kids and other animals if trained properly, and sometimes, because of their lovable side, it comes to them naturally. German Shepherd puppies are mostly cautious, and they can get scared easily, but they are also curious so this is the best time to socialize them.
Personality Of A Cat
There isn’t a very specific way to describe a cat. Sometimes, they can be big cuddle bugs and will get along with every human and animal that crosses their path. When you compare them to dogs, especially bigger dogs like a GSD, they don’t look that intimidating, but don’t let that fool you.
Cats are known to showcase quite a dominant behavior, which can confuse any dog. Usually, cats don’t like to cuddle – they only do it on their terms. Mostly, they aren’t fond of being surrounded by other animals, including dogs.
Some cats are just chill. They don’t like anyone getting into their personal space, but if there is a puppy pushing their love onto them they will probably give in.
Factors That Can Affect The Socialization Process
If you have had your German Shepherd for a long time, we are sure that you have an idea of what kind of dog you own and how they might react to meeting a new family member – in this case, a cat. There are, for sure, some factors that can affect the meeting process.
We made a list of some factors that can determine how the socialization process will go.
This depends on how sociable both animals are. Cats tend to be more cautious than dogs, and they have more struggles with sharing their space and the love of their owner. They want it all to themselves. Another thing is if both animals have grown up with all the attention pointed to them.
Sometimes, they might feel left out and will have difficulty with not being the only one getting all the cuddles and kisses. Both animals can show good behavior when it comes to other animals, but when they need to share a home with one, there might be problems.
When it comes to their temperaments, cats are usually more difficult to read, and it is harder to explain to them that a new family member is coming. There is also the case where both animals are super calm and don’t mind having animals around.
This is, for sure, the best combination. They might not be best friends or showcase any affection to one another, but they will be more than willing to share their home with each other. If either of the animals loves to be the center of attention, the meeting process might be a bit more difficult to manage.
Age is usually the key factor that can determine the relationship between a dog and a cat. There are three possible options. The first one (and the most preferred one) is introducing a puppy and a kitten. When they are young, they find everything interesting.
They might be cautious, but their instinct to play is far more dominant than any fear or dominance. When animals grow up together, they are likely to become best friends . The first couple of days might be intense for the owner, but after that, you will see improvement.
The second option is when you introduce a young animal to an older one. Most of the time, the parent instinct kicks in and they accept the young one as their child. The first meeting between an older and younger animal might be intimidating because you never know how the older animal might react.
This usually goes by good, and you end up with two friends, or in their minds, a parent and a child duo. The third option is the most difficult one. This is when you meet two older animals. This can get tricky because both animals have developed personalities.
One of the animals might feel like there is an intruder entering their home. The animal that is newly brought in can also show signs of dominance and signs of insecurities, which can be a bad combination.
This is, for sure, difficult, but it can be managed depending on the personalities of both animals. It might take a long time, but eventually, they will get there.
This is referred more to dogs than to cats since we all know that cats have a mind of their own. German Shepherds are known to be very trainable, but sometimes a cats’ energy can throw them off, and they can even show signs of aggression.
But, if your dog is one of those dogs that are easy to train, you can teach them to get used to the new pet. They might have the urge to chase the cat at first, but if you use positive reinforcement and be patient, they can easily learn that this is something they can not do.
If you feel like they might lunge at the cat, you need to make sure that you are present to stop it on time. When they see your reaction, they will probably figure out that this is a big no, and will never do it again.
There are two main things you should teach them, and we have made a summary of what those two things are.
Teach Your GSD To Ignore Cats
German Shepherds are good at focusing on one thing. When they are police dogs, they need to concentrate on one task and ignore their environment and surrounding noises. This is an amazing trait that can help you prepare them for the cat’s arrival.
If you think that your dog might get too excited when the cat arrives, the best you can do is teach them beforehand to ignore it. You should put the scent of the cat somewhere in the house so they can smell it. When you see that they have caught the smell, you need to call them and see whether they might get too excited.
At first, they might show more interest, but when you call them and distract them, always give them a treat. Eventually, they will learn that when they smell the cat, they will just go about their business. This doesn’t mean that they won’t be friends, but it will for sure help the meeting process.
Teach Your GSD To Respect Cats
This comes after the proper training of ignoring the cat. When teaching your dog to respect the cat, there is no other way to do it but when the cat comes into the house. The main thing is for you to stay calm.
They might ignore the scent, but they probably won’t ignore a real animal that is standing in their own space. A lot of treats will be needed as well as patience. The purpose of this is to teach your dog how to stay calm in the presence of a cat.
This is easier if your dog has some prior experience with the cat. You need to observe the dog’s behavior and go into action if needed; for example, if they try to lunge at the cat. This will be more difficult, and it will probably take time, but we are sure you will succeed and that your two pets will become friends.
It is a known fact that dogs that have been neutered or spayed tend to show less dominance. When you are looking at male vs female German Shepherds , this applies more to male German Shepherds .
This isn’t the main factor, but it can be in some cases. A lot of male GSDs tend to get calmer after being neutered . This is good because the dog won’t have much need to showcase its dominance to the cat. But, if you have a naturally born leader, not even neutering will help reduce the desire to present their dominance.
German Shepherds are a working breed, and with that comes the fact that they have a high prey drive . This means that they love to chase small objects and small, fluffy animals. When you think about it, meeting a German Shepherd might not be the best idea.
But, the level of prey drive isn’t the same with every dog. If you have a GSD that has a lower prey drive, it will be easier to introduce it to a cat, but it can also be the other way around. This is why teaching them to obtain it is an important part of dog training .
We are sure that you know your dog well enough, and that you have taught them not to showcase this part of their personality.
This depends on two things: the nature of your dog, and the work you put into proper socialization . Part of the early socialization process is that you introduce your dog to various sounds, environments, and other animals.
If your puppy is playful, curious, and goofy, then half of the job is done. These dogs usually don’t have any issues with other animals. If your dog is on the more careful and frightful side, then you need to socialize them.
The time for socialization is in the first few months because during this period, they are most open to learning new things and animals. If your dog has had prior contact with a cat, then meeting them won’t be such a big hassle.
But, even if your dog has had a cat friend, you still need to be very cautious when bringing a new cat into the home because you are actually bringing a new animal into their territory. You never know how a dog might react when they are persuaded to share their space.
There is also the case where the dog likes to be alone . These dogs might be harder to get them used to another animal being in their home.
How To Properly Introduce Them To Each Other
Now that we went through some factors that can determine how the meeting process might go, and that you are sure that your dog listens to your every command, we need to go through some steps on how to execute the meeting properly.
This is very important because even if you know that your dog is obedient, and that he or she is friendly, you never know how they might react to a face-to-face meeting . We hope that you will find this helpful.
We need to mention that there is a possibility that your German Shepherd will be more attached to you in this process. They might follow you everywhere, lay on you , lick your hands, etc. This is normal because they sense that they will probably have to share your love with another animal.
This is the first and most important step in introducing animals to each other. All you need is a clean cloth . When you find two clean cloths, you need to rub one on the cat and the other on the dog. The best parts of the bodies you should rub the towel on are where their scent glands are located.
When it comes to cats, the best area is the face – to be more precise, their cheeks, forehead, and chin. German Shepherds or any dogs’ scent glands are on their sides and armpits . When you collect the scent on the towels or cloths, you need to place them in the rooms where the animals reside.
The most important thing is to never force the towel on the animal. You can introduce it to them, but you should leave it for them to find it by themselves. When the animal locates the cloth, it is important for you to be present.
As soon as they feel the scent of the other animal, you can give them a treat. This way, you are connecting the scent with something good. They will, for sure, be curious, but you need to follow their behavior.
If they start to get fussy, nervous, or even angry, you need to find a way to calm them down and turn it into something positive. The scent should be constant. For this to be possible, you should rub the towel on the animals once a day.
Even behaviorists say that swapping scents will make both animals used to the other one’s scent, and when the meeting time comes, they might take it more calmly.
The other way to exchange scents is by exchanging their litter boxes . This is more complicated, and it hasn’t been proven to be as sufficient as the cloth swipe.
The next step is making both animals aware of the existence of the other one. This can be done in a couple of ways, but it is important that this step is controlled, not rushed, and that you follow all the behavioral signs that both animals may give you.
Unfortunately, we can’t give you the exact time period as to when you should cross from this step to the next one. But, we can say that you should prepare the best treats and use a lot of positive reinforcement .
For the first day or two, this shouldn’t last more than 10 to 15 minutes.. If you see both animals being calm, you can prolong it. Every other day, you can have this type of meeting for an extra five or 10 minutes.
This should last for at least a week unless you see your animals reacting well to each other. But, never get too comfortable and think that if the first meeting went well, the second one also will. People tend to meet them face to face with no barrier sooner than it should be done. This can end up catastrophically, and can only prolong the whole process.
Meeting With A Barrier
Meeting through closed doors is the main key to separate awareness. There are a couple of things you can use for this process. The best option is to meet through glass doors. This gives them close proximity, but the animals can’t get to each other.
You can also use a pet gate, but you need to make sure that it is firm, that your dog can’t jump over it, and that your cat can’t get through it. If you have a baby gate, you can use it as well. You can also use new environments, a.k.a., different areas of the house.
This can be good for getting them used to seeing each other – not just in one room, but throughout the whole house.
Leashed Face To Face
This is the third step. This step comes when you are sure that your animals have calmed down and started behaving calmly around each other from the previous step. In this one, you need to be fully present.
You are in control of how close they get to each other, and you need to be prepared if they show some signs of anger or confusion. You should put a leash on both animals. But, keep in mind that the cat probably won’t be so thrilled with a leash on.
Praises and treats should be given in this step as well. The tricky part is that they should (and probably will) insist on smelling each other. They might calm down when they smell the familiar scent that you introduced them to previously.
But, as we already said, you need to be prepared for any type of reaction that might erupt.
This is the final stage, and this stage comes when you are 100% sure that your animals have completely calmed down and are starting to like each other. This step is the step where they officially become friends.
They might not be best friends just jet, but they are, for sure, close to that. Make sure not to let them be unsupervised for the first couple of interactions without barriers. Try to leave them alone, but you should always have an eye on them.
If you see that there weren’t any down hills, you can leave them to hang out by themselves. Your hard work has finally paid off, and we can say that we are proud of every owner who has managed to get to this point.
What Not To Forget During The Meeting
There are always some things you can do to help the process go faster. Some of these things are fundamental for the meeting to go well. We made a short list to help you with the process. We know it isn’t going to be easy, but we know you can do it.
This is the most important thing. Animals can sense our energy. If you get frustrated or annoyed, the animals will, for sure, pick up that energy and even mimic it. This can affect dogs more than cats.
Keep yourself collected, and make sure to give positive reinforcement. It can get frustrating, and you may even think at some point that this will never work out in any positive way. But, have faith, and whatever setbacks may occur, stay calm and positive.
This is also very important. If you get aggravated when things are not going in a positive direction, punishing an animal is never a good option. It can cause the animal to get even more confused and angry. They will not know what they are doing wrong.
Speaking to them in a nice and soft tone is always better than yelling and punishing them. They will stay calm, and by this, you can make the process even faster. Treats are always a good option so try to keep them flowing throughout this process.
Never Force It
There will be times when both animals, or at least one of them, doesn’t feel like spending time being introduced to another animal. When you sense this, try not to force it. By forcing them to spend time together when they are feeling angry, you will make the experience even worse for them.
Nobody likes to be forced to do anything, and this is also the case with animals. There is always a time and a place for everything, and if you see that they don’t want to do it, stop it and try it again later or the next day.
Not a second of this process should go without you being present and keeping an eye on them. Even in the final steps, you still can not be sure how the animals might behave. Only when you are certain that they are getting along in the final stage can you let them be.
Not only do you need to be supervising, but you also need to be prepared to react in any possible situation, and quickly.
Introducing two animals is never an easy task, especially if they are very different from each other, both in size and in temper. In the case of introducing a dog to a cat, it is always nerve-wracking.
When you think about a Golden Retriever meeting a cat, it may not sound that intimidating.
But, when you think about a German Shepherd, a lot of people ask the question, “Are German Shepherds good with cats?” We hope we have explained all you need to know about this duo, and that we have made the process a bit easier.
We are sure that you will go through this and end up with two best friends . It can get difficult, and your boundaries will be tested, but we know that you love both animals, and that you will do anything that is needed for this to be a success. You got this!