Are German Shepherds Good With Cats?
[And How To Make Them Meet]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

Are you thinking of introducing a German Shepherd into your life despite having cats? Maybe your current beloved pup’ is a German Shepherd, and you are thinking of getting a cat but are worried they might not be the best of friends?

Some dog breeds are better suited to be kept around cats, which is why it is so important to do your research into the characteristics of each dog breed before making the big decision. No two dog breeds share the same personality, so it is vital not to make any pre-judgments about a particular breed of dog before reading the facts. 

In this article, you will see the background and characteristics of a German Shepherd while also answering the big question of whether they are good with cats. 

Traits of a German Shepherd

There is a reason why the German Shepherd is one of America’s most popular dog breeds, and it’s because of their intelligence and ability to work. The devotion and courage of a German Shepherd is unmatched, and their fantastic versatility makes them exceptional at almost anything they are trained to do

The German Shepherd might just embody all the best traits found in a dog, but they’re not for everyone. German Shepherds are renowned for being one of the highest-energy dogs out there, which comes with a lot of work for the owner. You must have a pretty big garden for them to exercise in, and daily walks are a necessity. If you don’t do this, they will express their boredom in annoying ways, such as barking or chewing on things, which turns into a lousy situation for dogs and owners alike. 

The personality of a German Shepherd is usually aloof but not aggressive. They are extremely reserved dogs, and although they don’t make friends immediately, they are one of the most loyal dog breeds out there. A well-socialized German Shepherd is a guaranteed best friend and will leave you as a happy dog-owner. 

German Shepherds and cats

A tale as old as time itself that possibly outweighs all hatred felt in the past: cats vs. dogs. If there were to be one dog that could rise above this battle, it would be the German Shepherd. Sure they may be big, but German Shepherds are intelligent enough to know the difference between playtime and protecting their owners. But does this gentle behavior mean German Shepherds can rise above this war that has appeared to be unstoppable for so many millennia?

The answer to this question depends on how you raise your German Shepherd and whether they are correctly socialized. The term socialization is thrown around a lot in the world of dogs. It essentially just means exposing your pup to different people and animals from a young age. However, check out the next paragraph to figure out in more detail how to properly socialize your German Shepherd and some other relevant factors that contribute towards their social awareness and ability to deal with cats.

How to get your German Shepherd to resist the instincts

While some dogs seem to prefer meeting new humans and animals more than others, all of them can be trained to respond to these situations appropriately. This training is known as ‘socializing’ and can be either an easy or difficult process depending on how you complete it.

Everyone gets scared or worried when doing new things or meeting new people, including your German Shepherd. The longer you spend completing an activity and getting used to it, is how you begin to relax when partaking in it. This is exactly what socializing is when introducing your German Shepherd to new animals, people, and settings, preferably from a young age. A German Shepherd that never goes and out sees the world certainly won’t react well to a new cat in the family, which is why you MUST successfully socialize your pup’.

To do this, you must expose your German Shepherd at a young age to the other previously mentioned things that they are not used to being around. It is important not to overwhelm your pooch, and you can make sure you don’t do this by starting slow and slowly working your way up until they are more comfortable in these new environments. It is known that German Shepherds are most open to socializing in the first three months of their life, which is why you must act quickly, so you don’t get a grumpy and confused dog later on down the line. 

You can begin to socialize your German Shepherd and cat by putting the bowls close to one another. You could also put your puppy on one side of the door and your cat on the other. If they notice each other, they may have a brief moment of panic, but after that, they will become well adjusted to one another’s scent and begin not to be so afraid of the other animal. 

The first interactions

Before you even introduce your puppy to your kitten, it is vital that your German Shepherd can follow the sit, stay, and leave it commands. These three commands are needed so that you will still control the situation when the face-to-face interaction finally happens. 

The first interaction between your German Shepherd and cat should hopefully be short and maybe even peaceful. Put your pup in a kennel, and once they are on a leash, place the cat in front of him for no more than 10 minutes. If your puppy incites any aggression towards your cat, immediately tell him/her ‘NO!’ so that they slowly begin to understand that they must live together in harmony. If the aggression is still going, then it is recommended you pick up your cat and walk away. Your puppy really enjoys your presence, so they will associate this loss of your company with them not being kind to the cat, which will hopefully alter future encounters. 

Follow these steps for a couple of weeks daily, and gradually increase the interaction time between them, so it slowly becomes more and more familiar. When each pet can comfortably spend at least a half-hour with one-another, then it is time to repeat the process without a leash on your dog. You must keep a very close eye on your dog in this stage to avoid any injures to your cat. German Shepherds are incredibly territorial, so it’s probably a good idea to give him/her their own space that the cat cannot enter. If you have tried all this but still can’t get your German Shepherd to stop their aggression towards your cat, consider sending them to a puppy school where they can learn to calm down and get ‘professionally’ socialized. 

Other helpful tips to strengthen their relationship

  • German Shepherds are one of the most energetic dog breeds and love to run around and just generally go crazy. If your pup gets plenty of exercises, then there is less of a chance of them irritating or possibly harming your cat. 
  • If you are adopting, make sure to ask the shelter if your German Shepherd was raised around cats. If he/she was, then it is much more likely for them to act calm and collected around your other pet. 
  • It is vital to either spray or neuter your German Shepherd before hitting puberty at around six months. It will enormously decrease the ‘dominant’ behavior they attempt to show around your cat. 
  • German Shepherds respond well to positive reinforcement through things like pats and dog treats due to their intelligence. Don’t stop showering your dog in praise when you get a cat, especially when they begin to treat the cat well. They need to know when they are doing good. 

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have any remaining questions about German Shepherds and cats in general, feel free to consult below.

Can a German Shepherd harm my cat?

If you do not follow the steps mentioned above, then yes, a grown German Shepherd could undoubtedly harm your cat as they might see them as a threat. If your pup is well socialized, they will have formed a healthy relationship with your cat, and you will have nothing to worry about. 
My German Shepherd is now old, and I am thinking of purchasing a cat?

Although it is tough to socialize an adult or senior dog, it is still possible. To undergo this, it is recommended that you take your dogs to a school instead of attempting to teach them this at home as it is too risky to put a kitten in the environment of an un-socialized German Shepherd. If the trainer deems your German Shepherd as a lost cause regarding socialization, then it is advised that you do not purchase a cat for the sake of its safety. 

What to do if my cat is causing the issues and not my German Shepherd?

This is extremely unlikely as cats tend to be more laid back and relaxed, meaning that they won’t be bothered to provoke a dog or other animal. However, if this is the case, you can simply follow the previous steps but replacing your dog with your cat. Your cat might not show it, but they do love your presence! Use these same tactics to get your cat to understand that they must become best friends with your new puppy. 

I have tried all your steps, and nothing is working. What should I do?

If you have gone through with all these steps and your cat and dog still can’t break the mold and just won’t stop attacking each other, it is now time to contact a professional. It is better to do this sooner rather than later so that your pets are socialized from a young age when it is easiest to learn new skills. The only set-back of this is the price, as this challenging job can often set you back a fair amount of money.

Are German Shepherds good with cats? - The conclusion

Introducing two completely different animals that instinctively despise one-another can be a difficult job, which is exactly why you should not be discouraged or just give up if your two pets don’t immediately like each other. If you’re lucky, there might be no assistance needed on your part; however, this is extremely unlikely to occur. Animals can also sense your energy, so if you stay positive and forward-thinking, so too will your German Shepherd and cat in their first few meetings. Relaxed humans usually mean relaxed animals. 

Your German Shepherd and cat’s relationship entirely depends on how well you socialized them to deal with other animals and settings. You can imagine if you introduce a cat to your large German Shepherd that has never even seen another animal before, it will not be a fun meeting. But if your German Shepherd is well-equipped and has dealt with cats and other animals before then, they are bound to become best friends. It just depends on you and how you follow the previous steps when socializing them. Similarly, if your cat has never seen a dog before, they are bound to be cautious and afraid, which is why you must expose them to all these things from a young age. 

Finally, for the safety of your cat and dog alike, if your pup has grown too old and can no longer be socialized, it is a wise decision not to purchase a cat. No matter how much you want an adorable furball crawling around your house, it is likely that an unsocialized German Shepherd will react terribly to this and will put your cat in danger. Remember always to put the animals’ safety as the priority when introducing them to one another and always staying resilient!