Australian Shepherds can be good with cats, but this does depend on several factors. To get the full lowdown on whether you can get a cat with an Australian Shepherd or vice versa, keep reading. Here is everything that you need to know on the topic.
Australian Shepherds and Prey Drive
The first thing you should be aware of is that Australian Shepherds have moderate to high prey drives. Now, what does this mean?
A prey drive is a particular breed’s desire to pursue and catch prey. In many cases, this is a genetic predisposition that has been passed down from one generation to another. As such, this is going to be a natural instinct for your pup and can be hard to resist.
Of course, in this day and age, your dog has no real need to hunt. However, whenever they see small animals such as cats running, this instinct may kick in and your dog may feel obliged to chase them.
The good news about Australian Shepherds is that they have been bred to herd, so they may be less inclined to hunt down their “prey”. Therefore, they may chase your cats but there is less of a chance that your dog will actually hurt them.
Needless to say, though, your cat may not be too thrilled about being chased in any capacity.
Can Australian Shepherds Get Along With Cats?
This is a generalized question and so, you can only get a general answer. In reality, every Australian Shepherd is different. Not only do they have individual personalities, but their upbringing and experiences can vary quite a bit.
Due to this, it can be tricky to know whether all Australian Shepherds will be equally good with cats.
In many instances, though, owners of these pups have reported a good relationship between their Australian Shepherds and cats. The pets seem to get along with many of the humans saying that a close bond often forms between the animals.
Some people also mention while their Australian Shepherds and cats aren’t exactly bosom buddies, they do manage to get long. In such situations, they may ignore each other or stick to their own territories.
A lower percentage of owners do report that their dogs and cats don’t get along at all. The Australian Shepherds may be afraid of the cats or the cats may be disgruntled by the presence of the dog.
The Key to Getting Your Australian Shepherd to Like Cats
How do you increase the chances of your Australian Shepherd getting along with cats?
Well, this is all down to early socialization. Your dog will be far more welcoming of cats if they are introduced to them when they are just a few weeks old. Continuous exposure to felines will show your pup how to behave around cats and what boundaries they will need to keep.
So, if you are bringing an Australian Shepherd into a household with a cat, it is important for your pooch to be around the cat from a fairly early stage. Your cat will also be more likely to respond better to a puppy as they are closer in size to them.
Even if you don’t have a cat, it is important to socialize your Australian Shepherds towards felines. This way, you will have fewer issues if you ever do decide to adopt a cat. This early socialization will also ensure that your pup won’t run after the neighborhood cats as well.
Keep in mind that you have to continue to expose your Australian Shepherd to cats so that they will be comfortable with them throughout their life.
Can You Introduce a Cat to an Adult Australian Shepherd?
Yes, it is possible to introduce a cat to your dog when they are older. However, be aware that the “results” will vary quite a bit from one dog to another. If your Australian Shepherd is mild-mannered and gets along with most animals, this may not be an issue.
On the other hand, if your dog is hyper likes to play and chase or is mildly aggressive towards other animals, the introduction may not be as easy. It can also take much longer for your dog to get used to your cat.
Bear in mind that it is possible your dog will never get along with cats if they are introduced much later in life. As such, you may need to create a backup plan if you are planning on adopting a cat.
How Do I Introduce an Australian Shepherd to a Cat?
Here is what you can do to make the introduction process go as smoothly as possible:
Teach/Strengthen Basic Commands
First things first, it is important for your pooch to be able to understand and respond to important commands. This includes “Stay”, “Sit”, etc. In particular, they should respond to the commands that will prevent them from running after or chasing the cat.
Even if your dog has already been taught these commands, you may want to go through another training session, just to make sure.
Put this theory into action as well. Use these commands on your pooch when you are out and about, especially around small animals or critters. This will give you an idea of just how well your dog can listen to you even when they are excited or their prey drive is activated.
Allow Them to Get Used to Sounds and Scents
You should never introduce a cat and dog together immediately. Instead, it is important for them to first get used to the presence of each other.
If you are bringing a cat into the house, keep it locked in a bathroom or spare room. Make sure that the kitty has food, litter, a bed, etc. They will need to stay there until the cat and the dog get used to each other’s scent and sounds.
Let your dog get close to the door so that they can smell the cat and vice versa.
If you are bringing a new Australian Shepherd into the house, you can’t keep your cat locked up. In this case, it would be useful to set up a baby gate or some kind of barrier in your home.
Make sure that the bars are close enough together so that your cat can’t slip through – remember, they are really flexible! The gate should also be high enough so that your cat can’t jump over it.
This way, your pets will only be able to sniff and see each other through the bars and won’t actually be able to hurt each other in any way.
Reduce Your Dog’s Fixation on the Cat
You may notice that your dog is becoming a little too fixated with your cat. They may end up staring at the door behind where the cat is or following their progress at all times.
This isn’t a good thing and you might need to curb this behavior. Your goal is to show your pup that the cat should be left alone as much as possible.
It is important to do this through positive reinforcement. Begin by guiding your dog’s gaze away from the door or the cat. Use a sweet gentle voice, a treat, or a toy. When they look at you, reward this behavior.
Continue to do this until your dog learns to move away from the door or the cat. Eventually, they will realize that they are being rewarded when they ignore the cat.
Keep on Leash
If you feel like it is time for the two to meet, make sure to keep your dog on a leash for the entire interaction. Hold onto that leash tight and don’t let your guard down – you can never tell when you need to tug on it.
Don’t pull on the leash immediately, but rather let the two sniff out each other. Of course, only you will know how you need to react based on your dog and cat seem around each other.
Use the sit or lie down command in the beginning. Make sure that your dog continues with this position for the entire interaction. This may make the cat feel greater at ease as the dog will not be towering over them.
Begin the Introductions Slowly
If you want to let your dog off the leash, it is a good idea to erect a baby gate between the cat and dog. It doesn’t matter how calm your pup may seem, you can never tell how they will react when you don’t have them on a leash.
Even if the cat and dog seem to be getting along fine, don’t leave them alone for the first few weeks. Always make sure that their interactions are constantly supervised. This way, you can intercede instantly if there are any unexpected movements or reactions.
When you leave the house, it is important to keep the cat in a separate room behind a closed door or to set up a barrier between them.
Follow the Cat’s and Dog’s Cues
It can be difficult to know exactly how this introduction process will go. As such, you should always take your cues from your cat and dog.
Watch their body language, how they react to one another as well as how they interact. This will let you know if you need to take a step back, proceed, or adjust the methods that you are using.
Australian Shepherds will be good with cats, for the most part. You can increase the chances of them getting along if they are introduced to cats at an early age and in the right way. Fortunately, you now know exactly how to manage this.