Are German Shepherds good With cats?

by McKenny Joshua | Last Updated: June 21, 2019

Are German Shepherds good with cats? You may ask.

It totally depends on the animal’s temperament and their home environment. Just like people some folks simply do not get along with each other because of different personalities.

A German Shepherd is going to chase that strange cat that has ventured into your backyard, because it just does not belong on the dog’s property, whether it is a German Shepherd or not.

The likely hood of the dog catching the cat is unlikely, unless the cat is cornered, then depending on the dog’s temperament and mood at the time, to what the end result would be.

The first meeting

German Shepherds who have had no interaction with a cat, when they do encounter one, either on a walk or in the backyard their natural instinct is to chase it and discover what it is.

Not necessarily wanting to kill it. Therefore when walking your dog make sure you are prepared for the unexpected.

There are also the Shepherds who are trained to be guard dogs, who would have a different mindset and are trained to chase intruders off or worse.

A little Shepherd history

German Shepherds are a strong, dominant, intelligent and energetic dog who were bred in the late 1800’s to herd sheep in Germany. 

They were also introduced to the German Military in World War 1, and were trained to carry ammunition, used as scout dogs and they were also used to help injured soldiers back to safety.

They were eventually introduced to the UK, where they were used in WW11 and later as working dogs e.g. police dogs, search and rescue.

Their names were changed to Alsatians, but eventually it was changed back to German Shepherd in 1977. German Shepherds are still used today in different war zones throughout the world.

There is said to be around 3.5 million German Shepherds in the USA, which would make them the 2nd most popular breed of dog, therefore imagine how many Shepherds are living with cats. Shepherds are also said to rank the 3rd highest intelligent breed of dog.

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Did you know?

German Shepherds were also trained in Switzerland to be guide dogs for the sight impaired.

They are a very dominate dog, so you need to be the leader to them, otherwise they will take over the house, and possibly develop behavioural issues.

Therefore training is very important as they are such a large strong dog and they need to understand commands to able to control them.

How to Train German Shepherds not to Chase Cats: How to Introduce a German Shepherd to a Cat

What if you want to bring a new cat into your home and your dog is not used to cats, or you have a new dog that has to meet the cat, how do you introduce them together.

It is better to do this after your dog has had his/her exercise routine, and maybe extend the routine a little more so they will be a little less excitable.

Firstly make sure your dog is contained either behind a gate or secured on a leash.

I personally find that if you cage a dog whilst an introduction the dog feels confined and vulnerable.

Depending on the reaction of the two animals, allow them to sniff and observe each other, there will be a high level of excitement, if the dog starts to bark or whine just take the cat away.

Keep doing this until the excitement decreases and there is less interest in each other. You can use treats and toys as distractions and rewards for both animals.

Keep in mind once they are used to each other inside their home environment, it can be a completely different scenario when they are outside.

The hunting, herding instinct may kick in, and a chase will undoubtedly occur, so be prepared, and make sure the cat has some kind of escape route back inside and not over the fence and straight into another dog’s garden.

Once their relationship is established, you will find that the chasing will soon just become a friendly game of hide and seek, all a bit of good fun, and exercise physically and mentally for both.

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Know who belongs where

Another good tip to keep the peace is keep the food bowls in separate areas, some dogs can be very food aggressive, so if they find the cat poking around in their food bowl, there could be a scuffle.

The same applies to the cat’s bowl, the cat may react to the dog being in their food bowl and we would not want a cat boxing match.

From personal experience, I introduced our Shepherd to a kitten whom we were going to adopt.

We had a choice of 2 kittens, one was really timid and the other was as bold as brass.

Hence we picked the bold kitten. Our German shepherd was a female around 3 years old at the time, she had a very placid personality and had never lived with a cat before.

During the first encounter she was highly excited and barking and whining, the kitten was nervous and spitting and unsure.

If there is too much excitement you should then remove them from the room, or if the behaviour is correct then give them a treat.

But after a few introductions and we knew she was not going to injure the cat, although she was still very curious.

The Escape Route

We allowed the kitten to roam free, in areas where he could escape the dog if needed.

Which was generally under the couch or window ledge hiding behind the curtain, with the dog watching intently, unable to get to the kitten.

Which was generally under the couch or window ledge hiding behind the curtain, with the dog watching intently, unable to get to the kitten.

Eventually a relationship developed, and they would play and sleep and eat together, they became the best of buddies.

The cat (Tigger), would come inside and lay himself down in front of the dog, and the dog would start to clean and flea him until they fell asleep together.

When introducing your dog to the cat always make sure it is in a neutral area, do not bring them together where the dog or cat, sleeps, eats or where the animal feels it is in their safe haven.

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Personality clashes

As I said before personalities are a big factor, what if you cat hates the dog, what then?

Especially if your Shepherd is a puppy, it is most definitely going to annoy your cat at any given time, generally the cat will swipe at the pup until the dog gets the message, but some cats are just best kept away from the overzealous young dog at first.

There are some dogs that just cannot be trusted around the cat/cats, if this is the case, make sure the cat has its own space where they can escape and feel safe and it is totally inaccessible to the dog, either by barriers or separate rooms or cages.

This behavior can be generally fixed over time. Or worst case scenario you may have to rehome one of them for peace of mind.

There can also be issues with jealousy, you could be just petting the cat and your dog will come and push their way in, some will nip at the cat or try to push them away, even try to sit on your lap, (sometimes they forget they are not a lap dog) or the cat may in turn end up scratching the dog.

Either way it could erupt into chaos, or just plain funny watching them interacting competing for your attention.

In other cases the cat can be the culprit, it can be aggressive towards the dog. Cats can be very particular about their space for example, food bowls, sleeping areas or toys, which can in turn cause the cat to react and attack the dog.

I have seen Shepherds cower in fear from the cat who has now assumed the boss role.

Having a German Shepherd and your cat living in harmony is a wonderful thing, it can be very entertaining watching them play and try to outdo each other.

Also observing them interact and build a close bond is very rewarding. Not so much though when they take over your bed.