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5 Ways to Get German Shepherds and Cats Behaving Like Family

You love your cats just as much as your dogs. Luckily, most breeds get used to each other quickly. Before you know it, you’re just one big family.

Some dogs, like the German Shepherd, may not see it that way. If you’re wondering if your cat and German Shepherd will ever be besties, we’re here to help. This post examines the relationship between the two species including ideas for first introductions.

Dog Breeds That Get Along Well With Cats

The American Kennel Club lists several dog breeds that are known to get along well with cats right off the bat. The following dogs tend to be calm and friendly with felines:

Non-Sporting Breeds

Dogs of the non-sporting breeds include:

  • bulldogs
  • pugs
  • chihuahuas
  • Yorkshire terriers
  • American Eskimo Dog
  • Bichon Frise
  • Boston Terrier
  • Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Chow Chow
  • Dalmatian
  • Finish Spitz
  • French Bulldog
  • Keeshond
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Poodle

Sporting Breeds

Dogs included in sporting breeds include:

  • Spaniels
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • American Water Spaniel
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Brittany
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Curly-Coated Retriever
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • English Setter
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Field Spaniel
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • German Wirehaired Pointer
Can German Shepherds Get Along With Cats

Small Hounds

If you’ve ever met or owned a hound, you already know how loving they are. They make great family members with or without added pets. Examples of smaller hounds that will get along with cats include:

  • Basset hounds
  • American Foxhound
  • American English Coonhound
  • Beagle
  • Otterhound
  • Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen

Herding Breeds

The job of a herding dog is to keep herds of sheep or livestock where they’re supposed to be. Members of the herding breed are highly intelligent and love to do their jobs. Yes, they may try to herd your cat around the house, but that’s just what they do.

Examples of herding breeds include:

  • Collies
  • Belgian Sheepdog
  • Border Collie
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Shetland Sheepdog

There’s No Guarantee!

In spite of this list, no individual dog of any breed is absolutely guaranteed to get along with cats. It’s possible to have one of several other breeds that has the potential to be cat-friendly.

Large sighthounds, however, are bad to keep with cats.

Are German Shepherds Aggressive to Cats?

You’ll notice that German shepherds aren’t on lists of dog breeds that get along best with cats. They’re one of the most popular dog breeds and can become cat-friendly. So why not?

The main issue is that as a shepherd dog, or herding dog, they have a high prey drive. How it manifests is different depending on the breed. If the dog has a negative prior experience with a cat, especially where he got injured, he will remember it with every other cat he meets.

For German Shepherds, their strong prey drive will make them want to chase small animals. Adult german shepherds are huge compared to the average cat and even more so with a kitten.

Fast movement in particular will trigger their urge to chase cats. A cat will be skittish and when it’s around a dog it doesn’t know, it will run as soon as it gets startled or feels threatened.

That’s why it’s so important to slowly introduce German shepherds and new animals, especially smaller animals. It is vital to do so with adult German shepherds. These intelligent dogs are famous for being police dogs because of their strong natural herding instinct, after all.

Important Factors To Consider

There are certain things you must consider when thinking about introducing a cat to a German shepherd.

Dog’s Age

Age is the biggest factor, and an adult German shepherd could be very difficult because he’s already set in his ways.

The younger the German shepherd is, the much better chance he’ll get along with a feline. A German shepherd puppy is perfect for socializing with a cat or kitten.

Dog’s Temperament

Temperament is another important factor that has a huge role in whether or not the dog will act well with a cat. Consider how your dog already behaves around other animals, such as other dogs, to gauge how he will act towards a cat.

If he is friendly and gentle when socializing with other animals, he’ll likely get along with the cat.

If your dog continues to show signs of aggression or dominant behaviors towards small animals it could mean danger for your kitty.


Spaying/neutering your dog will decrease the urge to show dominance. It’s also very helpful on you as a German shepherd owner in keeping a large dog from aggression towards others, spraying, and wanting to escape the house to mate.

A high prey drive means the dog isn’t very well socialized or trained to control the urge to chase smaller animals. Are you an experienced dog owner and cat owner?

If not, you’ll want to consult a dog trainer.

5 Ways to Make German Shepherds and Cats Get Along

Introducing new pets into the home with other pets can be tricky. In some cases, it goes really smoothly. Other times, it may take a little extra care and patience.

You absolutely never want to just let a new cat loose in the house around a German shepherd right away. Instead, you’ll want to introduce them to each other in stages.

1. Separate them

You’ll always want to begin with the first step of keeping the dog and cat separate. The best way to do so is by keeping the cat in a spare bedroom in the beginning.

Less foot traffic will mean less disturbance for the cat.

Plus, the cat will have its own space to start getting familiar with the home. Having a safe place in close proximity, such as under the bed, will help him become used to the environment. He can also smell the dog from the side of the door.

The first thing you’ll want to do is set up the room with a litter box, food, and water for the cat. Later on, he will explore the rest of the house.

If your dog hasn’t been learning basic commands from a young age or hasn’t gone to puppy school, he’ll need a dog trainer.

He’ll need proper training to learn how to deal with new environments, new situations, new people, and any new pet.

You must be able to your dog’s attention with important commands for socializing with the cat to work.

Even if your dog has had basic training and proper socialization, it’s still a great thing to separate them. The cat will appreciate it, too, because cats tend to be more cautious than dogs.

As for the cat you’ll eventually introduce the gsd puppy or adult gsd to, a “volunteer cat” who is friendly with dogs is a great way to start. Alternately, you can start with another pet cat, such as your own house cat, who is already familiar with the house.

It’s better with an older cat than a kitten unless the German shepherd is a puppy. That’s because of the size difference. The adult gsd is large and heavy and can accidentally injure the kitten while being playful.

2. Introduce Their Smell Before Each Other

The next step is to let them sniff each other’s scent.

The best way to do this is to rub a clean cloth along the back of each animal. Because their scent glands release oil into their fur, the cloths will pick up their smell. It’s a safe way to get them used to each other’s scent before they actually come face-to-face.

Leave the clean cloth of one where the other can find it. Then, observe how each reacts. Do they act curious, excited, nervous, confused, or aggressive? You’ll then want to wait until both are calm around the cloth.

Remember, it isn’t only about the dog’s behavior. You are encouraging the cat to be calm around the dog as well. Otherwise, the cat might start feel threatened and lash out at the dog, and even a friendly dog can attack in self-defense.

Both cats and dogs are creatures of habit and do not like anything out of the ordinary at home. For a new cat, he has to deal with a new environment, new people, and a strange dog.

3. Have a Face Meeting

Now is the point where you can give them a face interaction.

Let one safely see the other’s face from behind a glass door. Do this for five minutes at a time each day and take notice of how they behave when they’re just able to look each other.

If the cat has access to a bed in the room you’re keeping him in, you’ll want to block it off.

Alternately, you can put the cat in a carrier and set the carrier on one side of the door so that he can face the dog but still feel safe. The dog, on the other hand, will not want to run away.

This process usually takes a couple of days but can take longer. Be patient. If you don’t have a glass door, use a baby gate or pet gate and have the dog on a leash a couple of feet away.

4. Allow Limited Interaction

This part of the slow socialization involves keeping the cat behind a pet gate, baby gate, or in a hard-sided carrier. Have your German Shepherd on a leash and bring him over to the cat.

As soon as the dog sees the cat and lunges towards him, say “no” in a firm, loud voice. Restrain him with the leash by pulling him to the side, then have him sit beside you.

Have someone else bring the cat into the room away from the dog.

Notice how the dog reacts.

If the dog starts barking or lunging towards the cat, quickly tug on the collar and sharply command, “Leave it!” If he stays calm, praise him and reward him for good behavior.

Don’t be discouraged if this part takes much time, especially if your dog hasn’t had any previous socialization with animals. You don’t want to see any aggressive behavior going on.

Gently introduce German Shepherds to Cats

5. Start Restrained Meetings

You’ve made it this far, and that’s quite an accomplishment. Congrats! You’re almost to the point of having your German shepherd and cat as family members that get along.

The final step is where you have the dog on a leash while the cat is able to move around him. By now, your dog should show calm and gentle behavior showing the dog’s ability to be around a cat.

This process is true for either dog owners and cat owners, or people who are both.

Older cats have an easier time with either puppies or older, large dogs, while cats and kittens do best with puppies. If they are introduced to each other at an early age, they are likely to become best friends.

Continue this process with positive reinforcement for the dog and sessions of a half hour each day. Never leave an adult German shepherd unsupervised or off-leash around a kitten, especially a very young kitten.

Here’s Something For You Before You Leave

After you’re finished reading this post, you might want to check out further reading. We hand-picked some posts that might be of interest to you. Take a look!

19 Ways to Survive the German Shepherd Puppy Biting Phase

Female vs Male German Shepherds: Finding Your Forever Dog

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd – How to Make an Informed Choice

The First Off-Leash Meeting

Once you’ve successfully gone through the 5 five steps, you can move on to the German shepherd and cat’s first meeting!

It will be the first time your dog will be off-leash around the cat and the first interaction where they are able to behave freely with each other.

During this time, you should notice much of the same behavior they had with each other during the other steps of their introduction. They will then socialize more and more.

You will see them sniffing at each other, pawing, or meowing/yipping at each other. This is normal and good. Head-butting or licking each other is an excellent sign.

Final Considerations

Your German Shepherd and cat won’t necessarily be best friends, and that’s okay. They might just get along enough to live fairly peacefully together.

Ultimately, the most important thing is that the dog doesn’t show aggression to the cat. Training combined with socialization or slow introduction to cats is crucial.

Getting to that point is a big deal, especially considering that dogs and cats don’t always get along with their own kind, either.

Be glad that you were able to achieve that, and enjoy what you have — pets coexisting together as part of the family.

Can German shepherds and cats get along? The short answer is Yes. But there are factors you need to consider beforehand, and then there’s a process you need to go through.

For the German shepherd owner that’s willing to put in the work with a puppy or friendly adult dog, it’s a rewarding experience that makes it possible.

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