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Are you thinking about bringing a German Shepherd into your cat’s home, or vice versa? Then you might be wondering whether or not they will get along. The short answer is yes, they can. But it’s more complicated than that.
The rivalry between cats and dogs is well known and is a concern for many pet owners, especially ones looking to own large breeds such as German Shepherds. Luckily for you, it is possible for your German Shepherd and your cat to be best friends. However, they must be introduced and socialized correctly for this to happen.
This article will cover everything you need to know about socializing your German Shepherd with your cat such as how to introduce them, as well as potential problems you might come across and how you might fix them.
Are German Shepherds Good with Cats?
According to the American Kennel Club, puppies of all breeds have a critical socialization window that closes between weeks 12 and 16 of their life and this can be even more critical when it comes to German Shepherds.
By Nature, German Shepherds are protective creatures and willing guardians. This means that initial socialization is of extra importance so that your puppy can learn which strangers are friendly and do not pose a genuine threat.
Whilst it is true that dogs and cats are very different species and both view each other as potential prey, if this can be dispelled within the critical socialization window your German Shepherd and your cat will get along just fine.
Luckily for you, German Shepherds are an intelligent breed and can be very observant. Your puppy will easily pick up on your cues and reactions in new situations. During this critical period, exposing your puppy to many different non-threatening situations will help your puppy to be confident in new situations as opposed to fearful and aggressive. This will help when introducing them to a cat.
How to Introduce Your German Shepherd to Your Cat or Vice Versa
Now that your puppy has built up some self-confidence around strange people and strange surroundings, it is an appropriate time to gradually introduce your German Shepherd to your cat. This can be done by following these stages of introduction:
- Setting up Sanctuaries
- Keeping Pets Separate
- Separated Feeding
- Beginning face-to-face meetings
- Allowing pets to be loose together
I’m going to go over these steps in further detail below.
Setting up Sanctuaries
Whether it is the German Shepherd or the cat that is being brought into the house, before bringing them in you will want to prepare a dog-free sanctuary for the cat to access at all times. Here is what these sanctuary rooms should look like:
- The room can be any size but must have a secure door, windows, and ceiling.
- The Sanctuary should include a litter box, a food bowl, water, a scratching post, and toys.
- Ensure the space is cat-proof by removing any poisonous plants, medicines, and cords.
- Ideally, the chosen room with have multiple high areas such as shelves or furniture that you can allow your cats on so that the cat can easily escape the dog if needed and feel safe.
Be prepared to manage your pets’ interactions for the next few weeks or more; this is a slow process and may require a lot of patience and proper management of the living situation between the two pets.
Keeping Pets Separated at First
For the first 3-4 days at least, you are going to want to keep the pets completely separate from each other.
The goal here is to allow the pets to get used to each other’s presence in the household without actually having any face-to-face contact. Prevent any contact by keeping the pets in completely separate rooms or even on a different floor of your house.
Even if they can’t see each other, they can certainly smell and hear each other, getting them used to the idea that they are not alone and familiarising themselves with each other scent. Blue cross recognizes this as one of the most important steps in the entire process with the familiarisation of scent being of particular importance.
Feeding Your Pets on Opposite Sides of a Closed Door
The idea for this step is to make the pets associate the presence of the other pet with pleasant things, such as food.
Set up two food bowls on either side of a closed door. With each feeding, gradually move their food bowls a little closer each day to the closed door. This may require a little patience as it might not work right away. You may need to repeat to process several times until the two pets can both eat calmly right next to the closed door.
Just a quick side note, if your new pet is the German Shepherd, during this feeding period you should be starting to teach your dog basic obedience cues. Begin with simple instructions such as ‘down’, ‘sit’ or ‘come here’ which make up the basic commands. Make sure to keep training sessions short so that it is pleasant and rewarding for the dog.
Begin Face-to-Face Meetings
Now that your pets are comfortable eating their food right next to the door, it is time for the two to meet face-to-face. You will want to make sure this is in a common area of the house so don’t use either animal’s sanctuary area. Start by making the initial few meetings short and calm. Keep the dog on a leash and allow the cat to roam free, coming and going as they please.
Begin by asking the dog to follow some of the basic obedience cues discussed above. If your dog sits on command, give them a treat to reward them for their calm behavior. Give your cat a treat at the same time so they do not feel left out.
If either pet shows any aggression try to calmly redirect them away. Lure the cat into another room by tossing a toy or calling the dog’s name and rewarding them for their attention. Then, safely return the pets back into their confined sanctuary areas.
Repeat these face-to-face sessions daily. It’s a good idea to save your pets’ favorite treat for when they are together to further associate each other’s presence with enjoyment. If the cat decides to leave the room, allow them to do so but do not let the dog follow them. Gradually make each session longer but try to end each session before either pet shows any stress or aggression.
Allowing Pets to be Loose Together
Assuming that these face-to-face meetings have been going well, you can now allow them to be loose in the same room as each other. However, make sure the dog’s leash is still attached but dragging along the floor so that you would be able to step on it and prevent your German Shepherd from chasing the cat if it gets too excited.
If any tension or aggression erupts, go back to the earlier introduction steps and repeat the process. Make sure the cat has access to a dog-free sanctuary the entire time. Continue to separate the pets when you are not there to supervise them.
Potential Problems and How to Fix Them
Even if you have taken every step to ensure your pets have been properly socialized, problems can still occur. Pre-existing behavioral problems like aggression, fear, or a number of other factors could be the cause and it is simply out of your control.
Don’t give up, however, continue to be patient and diligent, the steps you take towards properly introducing your cat and German Shepherd will pay off in the long run, even if it becomes a slow and repetitive process. Remember that your pets can sense your energy, if you stay patient and positive, it is likely that your animals will emulate that.
Remember that you can’t force the process. Keeping the dog and cat’s personalities in mind is important if you want your German Shepherd and cat to get along. Cats can be shy and reserved by nature and it is important to allow them to naturally express themselves in a way they want.
If these methods are failing, don’t give up, instead, you may wish to seek the help of an animal trainer or behaviorist. However, do ensure that you choose a professional who uses positive, not punitive methods. This can cause your pet stress in the long term even if it does appear to be working initially.
German Shepherds are good with cats, but only if you as an owner take the necessary steps to ensure the two pets are properly introduced to one another. Patience is of utmost importance when attempting to socialize a German Shepherd with a cat as it can prove to be a difficult process if you are unlucky. If the steps taken are not working, do not hesitate to seek the help of a professional.