Are German Shepherds good with cats?
Despite it being unlikely due to their strong prey drive, German Shepherds can actually be good with cats. But it varies from dog to dog. Some naturally get along well with cats, while some may be a bit more reserved and even aggressive towards them. Either way, a properly trained and socialized German Shepherd will generally get along with cats well.
That said, it also depends on the cat as they are typically more cautious and reserved. So they too will need proper socialization for a harmonious relationship to exist.
Factors To Consider
Before you can introduce your cat and German Shepherd to each other, you first have to learn about the different factors that affect a German Shepherd’s and a cat’s relationship. That way, you’d be more prepared and know what to expect when they finally get to meet.
Difference In Personalities
Cats and dogs generally don’t get along because of differences in their personalities. For instance, what comes off as playful behavior from a dog, like running around and sniffing to greet, may seem threatening to a cat that prefers a more subtle and calm approach to greetings.
This is true for German Shepherds as well and their herding instincts that primarily aim to protect, may be seen as something else in the eyes of a cat.
German Shepherd Personality
As herding dogs, a German Shepherd’s prey drive will naturally lead it to herd or give chase to animals that make sudden movements. And so realistically, your German Shepherd’s natural reaction to seeing a cat would be to immediately run after it.
Don’t get it wrong though. This act isn’t driven by intent to kill but more so to herd. Still however, it is pretty threatening for the animal being chased.
A Cat’s Personality
Cats are generally more cautious, reserved, and generally uncomfortable around other species. So they may take exception to a big and unfamiliar German Shepherd chasing them. In fact when pushed to its limits, a cat may even turn aggressive and start to attack.
The younger a German Shepherd, the easier it will be to introduce it to a cat. This is as younger dogs are yet to develop their habitual set of responses when interacting with their environment. Meaning, a younger dog may still be developing its habitual reaction to a cat, whereas an older one would have already developed the tendency to chase.
The same goes for a cat as well. A younger cat will generally be more curious yet playful at the same time. So it will be more open to interacting with a dog since it has yet developed the habitual response of being scared or indifferent.
A socialized German Shepherd and will be more likely to get along with a cat than one that’s not. This is as a German Shepherd that has been exposed to cats has most likely developed a familiarity with them and thus would be less likely to react reserved or aggressively.
Likewise, a socialized cat will be more understanding of a dog’s playfulness and will be able to better differentiate threatening actions from those that aren’t.
A trained German Shepherd will also have a higher chance of getting along with a cat, simply because you would be able to control its actions. With it, you can prevent your German Shepherd from losing control and giving in to its prey drive.
How To Introduce A German Shepherd To A Cat
At this point you may already have an idea of how well your German Shepherd would react to your cat. If you’re confident that it will react well enough, it’s time to proceed with the introductions.
Step 1: Separation And Scent Swapping
Scent swapping is a slow process that will allow both your dog and cat to develop familiarity with each other without the risk of any trouble associated with immediate face-to-face introductions.
There are two methods of scent swapping you can try.
First, you could make use of 2 towels, one of which you rub on your cat and the other on your German Shepherd. After rubbing, place the cat towel where your German Shepherd is, and the dog towel to where your cat is staying.
Another way would be to allow them to smell and interact with each other through a door. For example, let your cat stay in a room and then try to feed your dog on the other side of the door so that it can smell the cat and associate the cat’s scent to something positive.
Either way, observe both your pets and check if they exhibit any aggression or nervousness when swapping scents. If you notice that they’re able to remain calm, it may be time to move on to the next step of the process.
Step 2: Face-To-Face Interaction
After you’ve ascertained that both pets can keep calm when interacting with each other’s scent, it’s time to move on to face-to-face interaction.
This step can also be done in two ways.
For one, you can let your German Shepherd and your cat see each other through a barrier. Or you could try to have your German Shepherd on a leash as you let your cat approach it freely.
Either way, the key to face-to-face interaction is keeping your German Shepherd under control and preventing it from getting overly excited,
Here’s how a guide on how to do the second approach:
To prepare, gather a lot of treats that you’ll use both as a distraction and as a positive reinforcement tool for your German Shepherd. Also, if you can, exercise and tire your German Shepherd out before the face-to-face interaction to try to keep it mellow.
Once everything is prepared, have your German Shepherd on a leash and let it sit at a distance from your cat.
From then, simply allow your cat to approach your dog on its own volition and without force. So all you need to do is keep your German Shepherd under control. Try your best to prevent your German Shepherd from staring at your cat too long or getting overly excited by distracting it with treats. Also, should it keep calm and behave, be sure to reward it.
Try to keep these initial interactions short and positive.
Also, should either your dog or cat appear threatened or frightened, keep them apart then go back to scent swapping before trying face-to-face interaction again.
As you repeat the process over and over, your German Shepherd should eventually learn how to behave around your cat and by then you can move on to the next step.
Step 3: Off-Leash Interaction And Physical Contact
Finally, once you’re confident that your German Shepherd can stay calm and will not pose a threat to your cat, you can then try to let them interact off-leash and with physical contact.
Like, the second step, your job here would be to keep your dog calm and behaved as you let your cat approach at its own pace. So be sure never to leave your German Shepherd and your cat unsupervised.
If you notice any tension between both your pets, don’t hesitate to take a step back and repeat the process.
Keep in mind that introducing your German Shepherd to your cat is a process and thus takes both time and effort. It is highly unlikely that your pets would get along immediately, and so as the owner and supervisor of the introductions, you must always remain patient.
Don’t force either your German Shepherd or your cat into uncomfortable situations, and allow them to get to know each other at their own pace. If your cat, for example, finds it necessary to escape, let it do so.
You must also avoid punishing your cat or German Shepherd for unintended behavior. Note that punishment or negative reinforcement generally doesn’t correct behavior, but will instead lead to mistrust, fear, and even aggressive tendencies.
So, don’t punish your German Shepherd for getting overexcited, but correct it and reward it instead if it exhibits proper behavior. Likewise, don’t punish your cat for taking its time.
Are German Shepherds Good With Cats?
German Shepherds can be good with cats, but it would depend from dog to dog. As herding dogs, it may be difficult for untrained and unsocialized German Shepherds to curb their prey drive, leading them to chase cats and leaving a bad impression. However, with proper training and socialization, a German Shepherd can learn to act appropriately towards cats and this eventually leads to a harmonious relationship.