Because you don’t want your pets to end up fighting like cats and dogs
Written by Madison Timmerman
— Medically reviewed by Dr. Erica Irish
Updated November 1, 2021
📷 by Andrew S
Table of Contents
- Cat-friendly dog breeds
- Dogs that aren't great with felines
- How to introduce your pets
- Signs they're not getting along
- Many dog breeds typically get on well with cats — These include Labradors, basset hounds, and poodles.
- There are exceptions to every rule — The breeds below are known to get along well with cats but that doesn’t mean they definitely will.
- Socialization is key when it comes to making sure your furry friends get along, regardless of breed — Be on alert for any defensive behaviors, introduce them slowly, and make sure they each have their own space.
The most cat-friendly dog breeds 🐱
It’s an old cliche that you’re either a cat person or a dog person, but some people just can’t choose when it comes to four-legged friends. Luckily, you don’t have to. In fact, most cat and dog breeds can learn to love (or at least tolerate) one another if they’re socialized together early.
Breed isn’t everything though, as you’ll need to consider the individual temperaments of both your live-in kitty and would-be pooch before taking the plunge and becoming a multi-pet household.
Still set on getting a new dog as a family pet? Here are some of the best dog breeds for cat owners.
👉 Not all cats will get along with even the friendliest of dogs. However, American shorthairs, Maine coons, and Ragdolls are cat breeds that are known for getting on great with pooches.
- Beagles. Although beagles are historically hunting dogs with a strong chasing instinct, these laidback pups tend to get on very well with cats. Rather than thinking of them as prey, beagles will typically come to see cats as one of the pack. And cats make excellent company for this breed that prefers not to be left alone for too long.
- Pugs. Small and adaptable, pugs are often the same size as most household cats which means they make for great playmates. Combine that with their friendly, loving nature and lack of hunting instinct, and this popular dog breed makes for the ideal kitty companion.
- Maltese. Like pugs, Maltese dogs are small and lack that hunting instinct that can cause problems in dog-cat households. In fact, they’re generally laid back and relaxed, although they can be territorial over their owner. And keep in mind that Maltese dogs need lots of brushing to keep their coat tidy.
- Spaniels. Most spaniel breeds — including Cavalier King Charles spaniels, sprockers, and springers — are adaptable and gentle, which makes them the ideal cat companion breed. However, given how sociable and energetic spaniels can be, it’s best to pair them with younger kitties or ‘dog-cat’ breeds, like Maine coons and Ragdolls.
- Basset hounds. Docile and easy-going, basset hounds are known for being slow-moving and patient which makes them great with kids, kittens, and older cats alike. Given their pack animal mentality and friendly disposition, they’re likely to get on with most kitties when introduced properly.
- Shetland sheepdogs. Shelties are historically hunting dogs, although they tend to get on great with cats. In fact, having a cat in the house with a sheltie — a smart, easy-to-train, and adaptable breed — can stop both animals getting bored and developing bad habits.
- Labrador retrievers. This smart and gentle dog breed is popular for a reason. Playful and energetic, labradors are great with kids and will become best friends with your cat as long as they’re socialized as pups. If you want to adopt an adult lab, be sure to look for one that grew up around or lived with cats.
- Golden retrievers. Like labs, goldens are lovable and loyal with a playful nature. This means this friendly breed will get on well with energetic kitties and even kids. Keep in mind that goldens need plenty of exercise to keep them calm and must be trained not to chase.
- Poodles. There are many different sized poodles to choose from, including toy, mini, and standard. Regardless of the size you choose, poodles tend to be affectionate, smart, and calm. If properly trained, they’ll cope well with kitties.
- Dalmatians. Smart and loyal Dalmatians typically get on well with cats, as long as they’re well-trained. However, this is an incredibly high-energy dog breed that needs lots of exercise and attention. Pairing a Dalmatian with a cat can help curb the breed’s potential destructive tendencies.
- Bernese mountain dogs. The very definition of ‘gentle giants’, Bernese mountain dogs are calm and laid back but need to be well-socialized to ensure they don’t accidentally hurt your kitty. Large cat breeds, like Maine coons and Siberians, may be best for these massive mountain dogs.
- Newfoundlands. Considering how big they are, Newfoundlands are relatively low-energy when grown although still need long daily walks. Generally calm and quiet, newfies are protective and don’t like being left alone, so they tend to respond well to feline friends.
The least cat-friendly dog breeds
As well as the most cat-friendly dog breeds, you may also have heard about the so-called ‘least cat-friendly breeds of dog’. Breeds like Shiba Inus, terriers, greyhounds, and border collies often come up in discussions about dog breeds that don’t get on well with kitties. This lack of feline friendliness is often attributed to dog breeds that were commonly bred for hunting and herding and have strong ‘built in’ prey drives. It makes sense that herding groups have a natural instinct for chasing/herding other animals.
However, it’s unfair to assume that Weimaraners, German shepherds, boxers, and Samoyeds won’t get along with cats if socialized together properly and early. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. So, if you’re set on getting a dog breed that’s commonly considered anti-feline, consider rescuing one that has experience of living with other animals, including cats.
📷 by Danae Callister
How to introduce your new dog to your cats
Getting your animals used to one another may take time, but you need to make sure your pets get along before you leave them unaccompanied. Whether you’re a cat owner considering adopting a new dog or you’re just struggling with cats and dogs that won’t get along, here are some tips for introducing your animals. And remember that cats form stronger, longer-lasting first impressions so try not to spook them from the get-go.
👉 It can be a good idea to consult with your vet or a trainer before adopting a new dog, as they can give you advice tailored to your personal situation.
Keep them in separate rooms for a while — Cats and dogs that haven’t grown up together can’t be around each other right away, especially unsupervised. Keep them in separate rooms at first, and then swap their bedding after a few days. Stroking them both without washing your hand in between can also be a good way to get them used to each other’s scent. Using Feliway products and dog-appeasing pheromones can also help keep both animals calm during the introduction process.
Introduce them slowly — After they’re familiar with each other’s scent, let them come face-to-face in a controlled environment where they’ll both be safe. Start out by introducing them through a closed door or a child-safe gate before letting them meet in the same room. Throughout each introduction, keep your pooch leashed and provide your kitty with high perches and escape routes to safe places, just in case things get hairy. And make sure to reward them both with treats throughout.
Look out for warning behaviors — Keep your eyes peeled when introducing your cat and dog for any signs of aggression or distress (see below). Noticing these early is crucial so you can address and correct them before leaving your pets together unsupervised.
Consider puppy training classes — Dogs tend to be more aggressive than cats, but they can also be trained more easily. You need to make sure your dog listens and obeys basic commands before leaving them alone with your cat.
Don’t leave them unsupervised until you’re certain they get along — Once you’re certain your pets get along well, you can consider leaving them alone together. Start with small time increments and work up, until they’re okay together for an entire day. You could also consider crate-training your pooch, so you know your cat will be safe when you’re away from home.
Make sure they have their own space — Even though they get along great, both your cat and dog need their own space. Keep their food bowls separate and make sure they have their own beds. If your home isn’t big enough for the both of them, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.
👉 Lengthy dog and cat introductions may be time-consuming, but necessary for a harmonious household.
Behavior to watch out for when introducing cats and dogs
There are many things you need to keep an eye on when introducing your cats and dogs, including defensive or fearful body language and behavior. Here are some warning signs that things aren’t going well between your four-legged family members. If you notice any of them, slow down the introduction process and give them more time to get acquainted.
Look for these warning signs in your dog 🐶
- Stiff posture
- Chasing or growling at the cat
- Excessive whining or barking
- Staring, hyper-alert behavior
🚨 Try to distract your dog if you notice these behaviors when they’re around your cat.
Look for these warning signs in your cat 😾
- Dilated pupils and flat ears
- Excessive tail wagging (unlike in dogs, tail wagging signifies fear or discomfort)
- Hissing, growling, and swatting