german shepherd and cats

Can German Shepherds and Cats be Besties? Step-By-Step Guide

Do German shepherds and cats get along? It all depends on the German shepherd and cat in question.

Some hit it off right away and go together like Rocky and Bullwinkle. For others, it takes time to get used to one another.

But with a bit of training and know-how, the two animals can peacefully coexist and even build loving relationships.

German Shepherd Personalities: The Basics

Generally speaking, German shepherds are loyal, confident, curious, alert, and, as a native Bostonian might say, “wicked smart.”

They’re also, by nature, herding canines. When they’re around other animals, their instinct is to circle everyone up and protect their flock.

But just as there are different types of humans, the same stands for German shepherds. Perhaps even more so since breeders engineer different “lines” of dogs.

In fact, some are purposefully and genetically predisposed towards aggression. Others are docile show dogs who behave like pacifist hermits.

Cat Personalities: The Basics

Cats are often accused of being loner jerks who want nothing to do with nothing — except food. But any cat person will set you straight: felines are a lot more affectionate than their reputations concede.

If a cat likes a person or another animal, it can behave like a lovesick puppy, following them around and cuddling up at nap time.

But if a cat doesn’t like you, watch out. If you’re lucky, unamused cats will simply set their mode to ignore and get on with life. If not, they’re not opposed to hissing and clawing.

Animal Age Considerations

Puppies and kittens typically have an easier time making friends with other animals than older dogs and cats. It’s a matter of familiarity.

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However, just because it may be easier for young ones doesn’t mean that grown German shepherds and cats can’t be taught and learn to get along.

Past Experience Considerations

Experience also has a lot to do with whether or not your German shepherd will get along with a cat. Did the dog have a previous traumatic experience that makes him or her skittish around other animals?

If yes, that may be a factor when introducing it to a new cat. The same goes for cats who’ve had past interactions with dogs that went poorly.

If you’re unsure about your dog or cat’s past experiences, talk to your vet about it. They have the expertise to determine if the animal exhibits signs of past abuse or trauma.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Introducing German Shepherds and Cats

According to AnythingGermanShepherd, in some instances, a German shepherd and cat will hit it off immediately with no need for human interference or training. Regardless, it’s wise to follow a few simple steps to ensure everything goes smoothly.

If the pair get along right away, taking precautions won’t hurt. And if the two aren’t feeling each other at the first meeting, the precautions could prove to be vital to everyone’s safety. Remember, both animals’ mental health is on the line!

Setting Up

The first thing to consider is who was there first. If the German shepherd already lives with you and you’re bringing home a new cat, make sure you have a special room set up for the cat that has everything it needs, including a litter box, water, and food bowls.

It doesn’t need to be a large space, just well equipped with everything kitty needs. Don’t forget that enrichment is part of a healthy lifestyle for cats, so toys qualify as essential.

If the cat was there first, then the new German shepherd will need a designated space. While you can get away with setting up shop in a small bathroom for a cat, a German shepherd will need a bit more space.

If you don’t have a spare bedroom, invest in a set of indoor pet gates, and then cordon off a makeshift room. But keep in mind that cats have an impressive vertical jump.

Basic Training

It’s best to get your German shepherd some training before introducing him or her to a new cat. They don’t need to be Westminster-ready, but they should be able to follow basic commands, like sitting when told. Moreover, the dog should be able to stay calm when faced with another animal.

Scent Swapping

Scent swapping is the most crucial step when introducing a German Shepherd and cat. Thankfully, it’s easy.

First, get two clean pieces of cloth, meaning they don’t have any other animal smells on them.

It may be best to buy two new pieces of fabric because washing an item doesn’t always get rid of scents. Remember, dogs and cats have better smell senses than us humans.

Second, rub the cloths on the scent glands of each animal. Cats’ scent glands are on their cheeks, chin, and forehead. German shepherd’s scent glands are in their armpits and along the sides of their bodies.

Third, place the scented fabric pieces in each of the animals’ areas. The cloth with the dog smell should go in the cat’s area, and the fabric with the cat’s scent should go in the dog’s area.

Don’t force them to interact with their respective fabric swatches. In other words, don’t shove it in their noses while saying things like, “good smell” or “this is what your new best friend smells like.”

Simply place the fabric in the animal’s domain and let him or her seek it out. Try to observe how each of them reacts to the other’s scent.

If the mere smell of the other elicits an outsized response, you should strongly consider bringing in a professional to help with the introductions.

Window Barrier Introductions

The next step is arranging face time between the two animals. No, we’re not suggesting you set up a video play date. Instead, let the German shepherd and cat see each other through a glass door or window.

People usually accomplish this by bringing the German shepherd outside on a leash. Then, let the pair view each other from opposite sides of a patio door or window. Again, don’t force either one to interact. If they don’t want to participate, try again at another time.

Continue to do this until the German shepherd and cat have successfully seen each other through the glass five days in a row without overreacting. Each session should last about five minutes.

In-house Introductions

Once the German shepherd and cat are used to seeing each other through a glass barrier, it’s time to let them meet inside the house. However, the initial meetings should maintain a degree of formality and distance.

The best way to conduct in-house introductions is with a pet or baby gate. Put each animal on either side and let them communicate across the barrier.

Once you’ve had several successful in-house interactions with a barrier, take it away. However, at this step, make sure the German shepherd is on a leash! This way, it allows the pair more contact, but you can also maintain control in the event something goes awry.

At this point in the process, start giving each of the four-paws treats for non-aggressive interactions with each other to reinforce good behavior.

Eureka! It’s Time for an Unleashed Interaction Between German Shepherd and Cat

You’ve completed all the steps, and now it’s time for your German shepherd and cat to interact, face to face, without a leash or barrier.

By this point, the two should be familiar with each other, and there shouldn’t be any problems. However, it’s wise to monitor the first few free form meetings to ensure nothing goes wrong.

Remember that cats aren’t as animated as dogs. So before you move forward with this step, assess your feline’s comfort level.

If he or she runs away every time the dog barks or appears, it’s not yet ready. If the dog cows or acts are overly aggressive, then it may not be ready.

The Importance of Patience

Introducing a German shepherd and cat can take time. By exercising patience, you’re doing your furry babies a favor. So when frustration rears its ugly head, do your best to tamp it down.

Please Don’t Punish

Would you punish a human kid for not immediately getting along with someone? Hopefully not. And the same logic applies to animals.

Interacting with different species can be stressful! If either one is not enthusiastic about the prospect, don’t get mad. They can read your mood, and exasperation on your part could make things more difficult.

According to RealClearScience, Even light taps aren’t acceptable. The best way to get a German shepherd or cat to behave the way you want is to reward good behavior, not punish undesirable actions.

And remember, if, after a few weeks, things are not working out, you can always call in a professional animal trainer.

They have the experience and tactical knowledge needed to get things moving on the right track.

German shepherds and cats can get along — some are even the best of friends — it may just take a bit of time and patience.

Good luck getting your two four-paws together! We hope that a beautiful relationship for the pair is just around the corner.

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