Flight or Fight or Fun? Are Australian Shepherds Good with Cats?

🔄 Updated on November 18th, 2022

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As a lover of any furry living creature, I was dying to pair my Australian Shepherd with as many friends as possible. I wanted to transform my home into a domestic zoo, and that’s when I thought, should I get a cat as well?

It’s a cliché by now, but I thought, what if it’s just a rumor that cats and dogs don’t get along? I couldn’t risk my Australian Shepherd and the crew fighting for territory in my own house, I also couldn’t risk not trying my best to have them both. 

For that very reason, I had to dive deep into the dark corners of the internet and my cellphone to call all the experts possible and find out if Australian Shepherds are good with cats.

Do Australian Shepherds Get Along with Cats?

With an action plan and knowledge, it can be possible to make your Australian shepherd good with cats.

Among all dogs, Australian shepherds are easy to train in adopting a living space with cats. 

It may be harder to discipline your dog based on its breeding. Dogs focused on herding will show more aggressive behavior.

All you need is patience and giving both animals time to adapt to their new furry roommates.

The optimal time to introduce your dog to cats is when they are young, the process will be easier and faster. Older dogs will still learn to be friendly with cats but may require more time and attention.

The steps required to help your pets get along are easy to follow and will lay the foundations for a long friendship between your pets.

Are Australian Shepherds Good with Cats?

Australian shepherds and cats can get along and be good with one another, but they require careful introductions. 

To prepare the dog for the introduction, you must train them on a minimum level of obedience. Having them follow simple orders should be enough. You also must ensure your dog is comfortable with a leash, as it will be an essential component in the introduction.

The right way to introduce your dog to your cat involves creating a safe space for your cat. 

Look for the largest room you can use for a safe space for your cat. 

The safe space must include food, water, a litter box, and everything else your cat will need. Your dog must not be allowed near the safe zone. 

Build A Tranquil Relationship

The safe zone will help your cat adjust to its new environment and the new dog.

During this time, your cat will settle into the new room while getting used to having a dog in the house. They will familiarize themselves with all the scents and noises your dog will make. 

Aim to keep your cat in this state for a couple of days. The cat should meet every human member of your family while it is in the safe zone. 

Familiarizing them with all human members of the family will help your cat dedicate its focus to the dog in the later stages of its introduction.

Once you feel your cat has grown comfortable in their new environment, it may be time to move on to the next step.

Australian Shepherd and Cats Introduction

This step will be the first time both pets meet directly without a barrier. 

Pick a time when both pets are calm. Have your dog on a leash and have them stand in front of the door where the cat is.

Open the door and order your dog to sit. Your cat might hide under an object and have no desire to interact. Hiding is not a bad sign; it means your cat is observing your dog from a safe distance.

Your cat might not choose to interact with your dog on their first introduction, but with time, they may do so.

After a few minutes, you should isolate both pets and reward them individually. Praise your dog for acting calm near the cat.

You can do this step more than once, as every time you do it, your cat will grow more comfortable around your dog.

Once your cat is used to your dog, you still need to focus on your dog.

Your dog should be on a leash around your cat because they might play or charge at them.

You also need to ensure that your cat has an exit path whenever near the dog. Without an exit cats feel trapped, resulting in aggressive behavior.

Aim to keep your dog leashed near your cat until you notice that your dog no longer bothers your cat. Another sign to look out for is when your cat no longer hides from your dog.

During all interactions, be sure to reward both pets for behaving. Always reward your pets during this time, as it is critical to help them destress and feel comfortable.

The time it takes for your dog to skip the leash near your cat can vary depending on your dog. Over time it should not be an issue, as additional time to acclimate may be required.

Tips to Help Your Australian Shepherd with Cats

One of the signs you need to look out for is forced play with the cat. Dogs might choose to play with cats but maybe a little rough. 

With time and discipline, your dog will start respecting your cat. If left unchecked, this aggressive form of play may turn into biting. 

Obedience training will help your dog divert its energy and become less territorial.

Some Australian shepherds tend to nip because of their herding instinct. 

How to Manage Nipping

If your dog nips, there is a chance it may nip your cat due to its herding behavior. Removing this behavior will take lots of time and effort, but it will also eliminate them from nipping humans and pets.

Teaching your dog the “come” command is an integral part of this training, so it is best to teach them the command beforehand.

To begin training your dog out of nipping, you first need to narrow down the reasons they do it. See if they focus on animals or only when a person is running. Knowing what triggers their herding behavior is the first step.

Next, you need to look out for telltale signs your dog is about to begin its herding behavior. This depends on the dog, some will stare at their intended target, while others will lower their head and get ready to charge.

Creating and Maintaining a Safe Environment

Once you understand the warning signs and what triggers them, you can move on to the next step.

Create a safe environment with your dog on a leash and have another person act out the action that causes your dog to herd.

The goal is to step in when your dog is portraying their warning signs before they charge. During the warning state, use the “come” command.

The goal is to redirect their attention toward you. If that fails, you can slightly nudge the leash to get their attention. 

This training may take a long while, but it will help your dog manage its herding instincts to a large degree. 

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Try to use this training for less than 30 minutes daily for the best results. You will know when the training is complete when you no longer need to use the leash and that your dog solely focuses on you.

Are Australian Shepherds Territorial?

Australian Shepherds can be territorial as a way to protect their owners. Since the breed forms strong bonds with its owners, it can become restrictive regarding its family.

They are also an energetic breed, which can be an issue if you are not directing their excess energy into physical activities.

Training an Australian shepherd is simple due to their intelligence and loyalty.

It is best to train your shepherd young, as this is the best time for them to learn quickly.

Are Cats Territorial?

Cats tend to be territorial over other cats, though they can still exhibit territorial tendencies towards dogs and other humans. 

Signs your cat is disapproving of a guest include hissing and urinating outside their litter box.

Cats will only become territorial once they reach sexual maturity or are introduced suddenly to a new cat or someone moving in.

Unneutered cats will exhibit more territorial aggression and will be more aggressive. 

There are a few other activities that can calm your cat and keep them from being territorial. 

Keeping a clean litter box, setting a play schedule, and sticking to a feeding routine will all help your cat in lowering its anxiety.

Do Australian Shepherds Get Along with Cats Alone?

Sooner or later, your pets might start to play together. Their play sessions should be supervised, in case things escalate.

It is recommended that you have one person supervise each pet and save them from harm as a precaution. 

You also need to keep your Australian shepherd leashed during this play time which will help in keeping your cat safe.

While dogs may not intend to injure your cat, they may accidentally do so due to their size difference.

Once you feel that supervised playtime and interactions are smooth, you can take the next step. 

Let Them Play Together

For the next step, let your pets play together unsupervised while you are in the house. Be sure to keep an ear on your pets and step in if you hear loud noises indicating fear or aggression.

Stick to keeping them unsupervised for a month while you are in the house. After the month, you can test leaving both your pets alone for short test durations.

Make sure your cat has an easy escape route from your dog, this can include high surfaces or a safe space your dog is not allowed to enter.

You can gradually increase the amount of time you leave your pets alone, assuming there are no signs of fighting.

There are a few signs you can keep an eye on that revolve around anxiety in your pets. If you notice a lack of play, eating, or increased aggression in one of your pets, you may need to go back to supervised play.

Forcing your pets to play will have them both outside their comfort zone and will result in them possibly attacking each other.

Patience is also the key to creating a stable relationship between your pets.

Tips to Help Australian Shepherds and Cats Get Along

There are a few tips relating to the social hierarchy of animals and general reinforcement that might influence your dog to respect your cat.

Your dog may see itself as superior to your cat due to their size difference.

During interactions between your cat and your dog, allow your cat to be on a higher surface if possible. This indicates to your Australian shepherd that the cat is relevant and important. 

Being on top of a couch or countertop will work perfectly, as long as the cat is looking down. This will cause your dog to respect your cat, which might cause the dog to accept them as a member of the family.

The goal of these steps is to show that your cat is a member of the family and help your dog accept them.

Authority and Affection

Your dog also respects you and sees you as their authority figure. Showing that you accept the cat as a member of the family will cause your dog to do the same. To do this, you need to play and interact with the cat with your dog in the room.

Play and snuggle your cat, the longer you do it the better. Showing lots of affection while your dog watches will show you consider the cat a valued member of your family.

You need to frequently perform this task as repetition will help.

Another method is to feed your cat first, then your dog. By feeding your cat first, your dog will see them as an important figure in the household.

Reinforcing positive interactions between your pets will help create a good reward system. Do this for them to spend time around each other.

What Can I do if My Aussie Doesn’t Get Along with my Cats

If your dog refuses to get along with your cat, you might need to partition them both to different sides of the house and remove access when you leave.

This might be a common consequence if your dog is older, as they have not gotten used to the presence of a cat when they were younger. 

You might also notice that your pets get along fine but your dog is prone to chasing your cat when they are on the run. 

Australian shepherds have a strong prey drive that will cause them to chase the cat.

You can also engage in bonding activities between the two, such as playing with them both. This requires them to already have a decent relationship but it will strengthen the bond.

How Do Mini Australian Shepherds and Cats Get Along?

Mini Australian shepherds and cats have better odds of getting along. This is especially the case if they are introduced to cats at a young age.

Due to their smaller size, they are less prone to chasing your cats and are more likely to get along with them.

They are also likely to befriend other pets easier, as friendliness is a common trait among mini Australian shepherds. 

There are a few areas you need to focus on, as you still need to take care of introduction and rewarding positive behavior.

Taking Things Slow

Your introduction should be handled in the same manner as you would between an Australian shepherd and a cat. Rushing an introduction could result in both pets feeling stressed and could include symptoms of anxiety.

Taking it slow and mastering patience will ensure that your pets have established a healthy start to their future relationship.

The most important task to help your mini Australian shepherd and your cat get along is physical activity. Mini Australian shepherds are very energetic and need a set play schedule as an outlet for their high energy levels.

Playtime is essential in dogs and especially puppies. This will also prevent them from annoying your cats if they have excess energy.

Tips from Other Owners

If your pets seem to get along well but your Australian shepherd keeps chasing your cat, they might be too energetic. Your dog might need more play time to tire them out.

Cats love to be higher up and modifying your house to allow a few higher cat perches can give your cat a break from the dog when they want to rest.

Getting cat perches can be a great idea as it also reinforces their position and could cause your dog to view them as equals. 

The easiest way is to have both animals as kittens or puppies, otherwise, the training process might be longer and not guaranteed success.

Summary

Introducing your Australian Shepherd to cats can be a difficult process requiring lots of training and time. The introduction process is vital in ensuring that you create a healthy foundation for future interactions between your pets.

Showing your dog that the cat is a respected member of the family will cause them to view your cat as an equal. 

Your Australian Shepherd might still decide to chase your cat occasionally, however, we can fix this with training or more play time between them.

Jennifer Grucci | Dog Breeds Expert
Jennifer Grucci | Dog Breeds Expert
Our talented copy editor Jennifer ensures all doggie info published on our site is accurate, clear, and perfectly suited for pet parents of all experience levels. When not reading and writing about dogs, Jennifer enjoys playing with her own pets at home.