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Home > Dogs > Are Australian Shepherds Good With Cats? Vet-Approved Facts & Tips

Are Australian Shepherds Good With Cats? Vet-Approved Facts & Tips

Small cat / Kitten with australian shepherd

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

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Australian Shepherds are a herding breed that’s popular in the US. Their high energy and friendly temperaments make them a firm favorite for families, but are they suitable for homes with cats? Most Aussie owners seem to think so. Surveys suggest that Australian Shepherds are indeed good with cats and that the ones who aren’t as readily accepting will at least tolerate them1.

Despite this, some will actively dislike cats or be cat-reactive. Dogs that have been rescued and not observed around cats, or dogs that don’t have any experience with cats, should be supervised around them at all times and introduced slowly. This can help prevent a potentially deadly incident for the cat.

If an Aussie Shepherd is socialized correctly at a young age and is exposed to cats, they’re more likely to be okay with them and know how to act around them. Because the Australian Shepherd is a herding dog, their prey drive is modified (as in all herding dogs), meaning that they may chase smaller animals like cats but are less likely to attack.

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How Can I Stop My Australian Shepherd From Chasing My Cat?

To help your Australian Shepherd stop chasing your cat, you must separate them to keep them both safe.

The need to chase prey can sometimes be extreme for a dog. This behavior can be difficult to manage and cause stress to you and your dog. Separating your dog and cat is the fastest and easiest way to stop this from happening, even if they have to be confined to different areas of the home.

The next steps are to begin slow introductions, which can be challenging. If your Aussie hasn’t been socialized with cats before or has already had the pleasure of chasing them, breaking this behavior can be very difficult.

Once they’ve been separated, calm and gentle reintroductions can be the best way to go, closely monitoring your Australian Shepherd and cat to catch any signs of stress.

Providing your cat with areas they can hide away that aren’t too far for them to reach is also a positive step. Then, should they get anxious, your cat can get away calmly without running (which will likely trigger your Aussie’s chasing instinct).

A young woman teaching australian shepherd puppy to stay
Image Credit: Suzanna Bunch, Shutterstock

Teaching them to “Leave” or “Stay” is another excellent tool to use when intervening since Australian Shepherds are very intelligent and will likely want to commit to the command (for a reward, of course) more than ignore it to chase. Pairing this with rewarding calm and collected behavior around your cat can also help your Aussie realize that chasing the cat only ends up in disappointment.

Distraction is also helpful. Using a durable, long-lasting toy or game can teach your Australian Shepherd to ignore the cat in favor of a toy.

Are Australian Shepherds Aggressive With Cats?

Australian Shepherds are not normally aggressive and will more likely harass your cat by chasing them or trying to herd them than being outright aggressive. They are good-natured dogs known for being bossy but gentle and will most likely want to socialize with and corral any cats they live with, but only if they’re familiar with them.

It’s vital to never leave your Aussie alone with an unfamiliar cat. Australian Shepherds have a good prey drive, and as well-behaved, as they may appear to be, they’re known as “Blue Heelers” for a reason. They instinctively nip at the heels of the animal they’re herding if they’re out of line.

While this would be nothing for a farm animal, a cat is much smaller, which might translate into a bite that may harm them. Keeping them both supervised is the best way to avoid such accidents and keep your dog and cat safe.

Australian Shepherd with black cat
Image Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

What Breeds of Dog Get Along Best With Cats?

Some breeds are known to get along better with cats than others. While every dog is different, some breeds are more inclined to get along better with smaller, furry family members.

The top five dog breeds that are known to get along with cats are:

Most dogs socialized with cats at a young age are well-behaved and even live in harmony with cats, so early socialization is vital if you want to enjoy a multi-pet household without issue.


Final Thoughts

Australian Shepherds can be very tolerant and live well with cats. Their herding drive usually leads to herding cats around instead of intentionally harming them. Certain dogs may fare worse with them, such as Aussies that haven’t had prior experience with cats or have actively chased them before. Still, the majority of Australian Shepherds can live well with cats, provided they are supervised and properly trained.

Featured Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

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