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Do German Shepherds Get Along With Cats? Everything You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

cat and german shepherd in grass

If you have a cat at home and are thinking about getting a German Shepherd, you’re probably wondering how German Shepherds and cats will get along. After all, the German Shepherd is a relatively large dog with a high prey drive; if it takes an interest in your cat, your kitty may be spending the rest of its days hiding in small corners where your dog can’t reach it.

Despite obvious challenges, it is possible for German Shepherds to get along with cats. Because it may prove difficult for your German Shepherd to overcome its prey instincts, there is no guarantee that your pets will be friends. In this article, we will discuss some of the best strategies for socializing your German Shepherd with your cat.

Do German Shepherds Have a High Prey Drive?

german shepherd running
Image Credit: Vilve Roosioks, Pixabay

German Shepherds are very popular family dogs, but due to their powerful bite and sheer size, they can be dangerous to other pets and humans alike if they become aggressive. However, this breed is not necessarily naturally aggressive. They were bred as herding dogs, not hunting dogs. However, a high level of athleticism and a tendency to be territorial and protective of their owners makes them excellent guard dogs and even police and military dogs.

Unfortunately, these traits together with their high prey drive mean that these dogs are unlikely to form natural friendships with your house cat. Luckily, German Shepherds are also highly intelligent and highly trainable dogs. Next, we will discuss some important commands to teach your dog, as well as some tips for introducing your pets to one another.

Important Commands for Your German Shepherd to Know

Before introducing your cat and your German Shepherd, make sure your dog is trained in some basic commands. At a minimum, your dog should be very comfortable with “sit” and “stay.” That way, you can have control over the situation when you introduce your dog and cat for the first time. You should also teach your dog the command “leave it” in the event that he becomes overly interested in your cat.

dog training
Image Credit: Yama Zsuzsanna Márkus, Pixabay

How To Introduce a German Shepherd to Your Cat

1. Swapping Scents

If you’ve ever interacted with a dog or a cat, you probably know that an animal’s sense of smell helps it navigate the world. Dogs can learn a lot about their surroundings just by sniffing; they have over 100 million sensory receptors in their nasal cavities (compared to just 6 million in humans). It only makes sense that you would first introduce your animals by having them get used to one another’s scents. To facilitate this, keep your animals in separate rooms at first. Using two unused cloths, gather your dog and cat’s respective scents by rubbing the cloth against their scent glands. For your cat, this means its face and forehead. For your dog, you’ll want to rub its sides and under its armpits. Then, you can swap the cloths and place them in the opposite animal’s environment, giving them each an opportunity to sniff at their leisure. Keep an eye on both animals to see how they react to the scent. You can do this several times before actually facilitating any face-to-face interaction.

2. Face-to-Face Interaction With a Barrier

The next thing you can do is have your animals see one another from behind a glass door. This way, they can start to get used to each other without the danger of your dog trying to chase your cat. A glass patio door could work well, with your dog outside and your cat inside. Give your pets space and allow them to approach one another from behind the glass if they wish, but don’t force them to do so. You can keep this interaction short, about five minutes total, but like the scent swapping, you can do it for several days to continue getting the animals accustomed to each other. Eventually, you can transition these short interactions to the house, using a different barrier such as a baby gate.

3. Face-to-Face Interaction With No Barrier

a german shepherd dog lunging at the orange cat
Image Credit: Mike2479, Shutterstock

Once your animals seem reasonably comfortable with a barrier between them, it’s time to remove the barrier. You should keep your dog on a leash at first for these interactions. When your dog has a positive interaction with your cat, positively reinforce the behavior by verbally praising him and offering him a treat. Once you are sure your dog is capable of interacting with your cat without endangering your feline friend, you can let him off the leash. If your cat still seems nervous, it is probably best to keep the dog on the leash.

If you notice that your German Shepherd seems to be showing signs of aggression, you can tell him “no.” If it continues, you should take your cat and leave the room.

Final Thoughts

If you have a cat, you should consider whether you have the time and energy to properly introduce your cat to a German Shepherd. If you are set on getting a German Shepherd, look for a puppy as it is easiest to socialize dogs when they are young. Even once your cat and dog get to know one another, you will need to keep an eye on their interactions. Remember that instinct can still override even the most well-trained dogs, and even if your German Shepherd is only playing with your cat, the disparity in size can put your cat at serious risk for injury.

Looking for advice on other dog breed interactions? Try:

Featured Image Credit: Ines Nepo, Shutterstock

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