The world is divided into dog people, and cat people – or is it? Adding a dog to a family that already has a cat is much more common than you think, but it can also cause problems, such as fighting, anxiety and chasing. Ultimately, you must do what is best for your existing animals, and this is why you need to carefully consider which breed of dog will best get along with your cat if you are thinking of expanding your family. Here is our little guide to help you!
What Should You Look For In A Dog?
First of all, let’s look at what makes for an ideal cat-friendly dog. There are many traits that you should avoid, and traits you should look for, so if you already have a cat and want to introduce a dog to your home, try and find a dog that:
- Was not historically bred to hunt or chase
- Has not been used to hunt or chase in their past
- Was bred to be a companion or lap dog
- Was bred to make friends
- Suits your cat’s personality and age as even a friendly young pup might end up accidentally terrorizing a tired, old cat
- Does not have a personal history of terrorizing small animals or cats, even in the park
- Ideally has experience living in harmony with cats
- Is either already well-trained or easy to train to help you quickly intervene in any potential problems.
There are exceptions to every rule, and you cannot rely on research and breeding alone. But, if you follow this advice, you should be off to a good start in creating a harmonious environment for both your dog and your cat.
To help you get started finding a dog that will live happily with your cat, here are some dog breeds that are often considered cat-friendly because they meet many of the criteria set out above. Be aware, however, that if you are adopting an adult dog, they may have existing training which enhanced other unhelpful, and potentially more dangerous, aspects of their breed. You need to factor this, and their natural personality, into your decision.
As dogs are descended from wolves and were primarily bred for hunting, it is very difficult to find yourself a dog with absolutely no history of hunting. However, you can find yourself a Beagle, who was bred as a pack hunting dog. This means they are likely to view you, and your cats, as members of their pack.
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Their naturally friendly nature usually extends to many other animals, particularly to those that they have grown up with. You must still be careful with a new Beagle. If you suspect that an adult Beagle has been previously trained to hunt, they will not be suitable for your cat. They are also sometimes a little difficult to train, so it may be difficult to correct any problems that do arise.
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Although they have a reputation for being aggressive and scary, Bulldogs can be complete sweethearts. If you look past their grumpy faces, they are often very kind and gentle animals who can easily become dear friends with any animal, including your cat.
It is worth remembering that not all Bulldogs will get along with cats, and, as always, you must be cautious when you introduce an adult Bulldog into your home as you do not know their previous lifestyle and training. In particular, be careful about their food. Bulldogs are famously possessive about their food, and it is best if you feed them without the presence of other animals and children.
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Toy dogs are a great option if you want a companion for you and your cat. They usually have a history of companionship and affection, rather than hunting, and are very sociable and energetic. Bichon Frise, in particular, are very trainable, which can help you enforce and encourage good, cat-friendly behavior.
One issue that may arise with a Bichon Frise, however, is their energy. While their excitement and playfulness is often an infectious joy, an older cat will not appreciate the noise. While being irritated by your new dog is not as bad as being attacked by them, you should still provide your cat with escape routes and space if you suspect they will need a break from your Bichon Frise.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
As a sporty dog, you may think that all spaniels are bad news for cats, but that isn’t the case. Many sporty dogs are not bred to also be hunters and, in fact, many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are very timid. Generally, they get on well with other animals, and their smaller size will hopefully mean that they don’t intimidate your cat.
To be honest, some King Charles Spaniels are more likely to be the victims of intimidation, rather than the cause. Although the breed is usually more shy and sweet than fearful, some particularly timid King Charles Spaniels could be intimidated by a domineering cat. Make sure to socialize them together as soon as possible and they will soon be good friends.
Retrievers are another dog associated with hunting that can be surprisingly good with cats. This is because they were mostly bred to retrieve game, often without damaging it, rather than to chase it. Golden Retrievers make great companions because they are easy to train, very friendly and playful. They are a popular family dog for a reason!
Most Golden Retrievers will treat your cat as another member of the family once they are used to one another. They may even play together. Don’t worry too much about your Golden Retriever getting too rough with your cat as they are intelligent dogs who usually know their own strength. However, it is essential to supervise them in the early days of the relationship.
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Another great retriever is the Labrador Retriever. They are sweet and friendly family dogs who are well known for their fondness for children, other animals, and even strangers! Their eagerness to please makes them very trainable, and you can rely on them to take care of anything they consider part of the family.
With many of the same benefits and issues as the Golden Retriever, it is no wonder that they are two of the most popular dogs in America. Just make sure your Labrador’s size doesn’t scare your cat too much. As always, the earlier the two are introduced, the better.
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The second toy dog on the list, the Maltese’s size makes them a very approachable companion for you and your cat. As they were bred as a luxury companion, rather than a working dog, they are not used to chasing other animals. They are even often depicted on their own little luxurious cushions.
A Maltese puppy and kitten that are brought up together will often have a very sweet friendship, but a particular benefit of the Maltese is that even if not brought up together, their relationship with cats will not be antagonistic. If you want a dog companion and have an older cat, a Maltese is a great fit as they are quite likely just to ignore your cat altogether, which is probably all your cat really wants.
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Another dog that may even be smaller than your cat is the Papillion. They are very adaptable, which can make them great companions for all kinds of animals when trained and introduced properly, and, as they enjoy joining in on any family activity, they won’t mind who else is there, as long as they get plenty of attention and cuddles.
Having a lap dog and a lap cat can create a very affectionate environment, but don’t favor one over the other. You can make sure none of your pets ever feel neglected or jealous by ensuring that, if you’re cuddling up to one of your animals, another family member’s lap is free for the other.
Last, but not least, is the adorable Pug. These sweet little guys want attention and love, so it can be hard for them to spend hours without their owners. As companion dogs, they were bred to enjoy the company of others, and this includes any feline brothers or sisters they might have. In fact, having a cat in the house may help your Pug to feel less alone when you can’t be around to play.
You must be careful about the time they spend together, however, because the flat face of the Pug puts them more at risk from serious injury if your cat lashes out with their claws. Make sure you are confident that they won’t hurt each other before you ever leave them alone together, and keep on top of your cat’s grooming routine.
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Dogs That Don’t Like Cats
While those eight dog breeds are the most commonly listed cat-friendly dogs, as you probably know, there are hundreds and hundreds of dog breeds out there. It is perfectly possible that a dog of another breed may also be a good fit for your cat, but they also may not. To guide you when considering other breeds, here are three breed groups that you should avoid adding to a home with cats:
As you may know, the terrier was bred to not only kill small vermin, but to hunt it down and chase it as well. They do this quickly and instinctively, and are prone to sudden and unexpected bursts of movement, particularly in response to seeing something they consider prey. You may not be able to react quickly enough to stop a terrier who gets it in their mind to chase another animal, or worse, so they make terrible companions for cats. Jack Russell Terriers are a particularly bad choice.
Hounds, particularly sighthounds, have a similar biological directive. They have been bred over centuries to shoot off after small animals and kill them, and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to train this urge out of them. Greyhounds and Whippets are particular concerns.
However, there are exceptions to every rule and many owners attest that a good relationship can develop between Basset Hounds and cats due to their docile and friendly nature. This particular breed is, however, difficult to train due to its stubbornness, so may not be an absolutely ideal pet for a cat-lover.
Herding dogs are also a huge problem for cats. While they are less likely to do physical damage to the cat, their urge to herd and bother your cat will make them a nuisance. At best, this can cause fearfulness and anxiety in many kittens and cats, and, at worse, this can cause a fearful cat to lash out in self-defense.
Some people list Collies as good companions for cats because they are so friendly and good with children, but this may not be the case if they are going to badger and annoy your cat. If you are thinking about putting a Collie and a cat together in the same house, you should be an experienced and confident dog and cat owner so you can firmly train them both, and know how to intervene if problems arise.
The truth is that the best thing if you want a dog and a cat is to raise them together from a very young age. Many aggressive breeds of dog that are not considered good for cats, such as the Alaskan Malamute, can become protective of cats that they view as being part of their pack.
You must be aware, however, that a dog who has grown up with a cat will not necessarily then be friendly to all cats, just his cat. There is also no guarantee that one day something won’t set off your dog’s hunting instincts and they may suddenly chase your cat.
All cat-dog relationships, even naturally docile siblings from birth, have the potential to turn nasty, so you may want to put in some safeguards for when they are home alone, such as creating a safe area by ensuring your cat sleeps in a space where your dog can’t enter. If your cat ever needs a break from your dog, or somewhere to hide, they can flea to their bed.
As well as starting from a young age, further quick tips about introducing a dog to a cat include:
- Ask about the dog’s previous history with cats and other small animals before you buy or adopt.
- Consider bringing a recording of a cat and testing their reaction to the sound.
- For adult dogs, do not leave them unsupervised with your cat for the early introductions and interactions.
- Try using a dog gate for the first interactions as they can investigate each other through sight and smell without being able to run at or attack one another.