Cats Living With Large Dogs

A few days ago I wrote an article about cats living with small dogs. In this article, I’d like to tell you what’s it’s like to have cats living with large dogs. There are a lot more precautions and it’s a totally different experience.

Cat Living With Large dog
Cat Living With Large dog. Mandy and Dreyfuss. Photo by Elisa Black-Taylor.
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First of all I’d like to caution everyone that what we had in my home for the past six years isn’t typical. Dreyfuss was a very special dog and highly trained. There are many dogs out there who will kill a cat on sight. Or seriously injure a cat. I don’t believe the breed of large dog is as important as disposition. Forming a safe relationship between large dogs and cats takes time and effort. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

  • Do NOT allow cats to eat out of the dogs bowl. Many friendly dogs can turn aggressive over food.
  • It’s best to have male dogs neutered as a female dog in the neighborhood in heat can change the personality of a male dog, even if the dog lives inside.
  • Be sure to praise your large dog for being kind to your cat.
  • Allow dogs and cats together under strict supervision until you see how they react to each other. Yes, cats have claws to defend themselves, but large dogs have BIG teeth.
  • Use caution when giving toys or treats to a large dog. Many dogs are possessive with these and may lash out and injure a cat that comes too close.

Dreyfuss had lived around cats from the time he was a puppy. At this time he was an indoor/outdoor dog and so were the cats we had. It wasn’t until our cat Salem slapped him that he finally developed a healthy respect for cats that stayed with him until the day he died.

Furby was our first kitten to really fall in love with Dreyfuss. I’ve noticed over the past few years that kittens didn’t seem to fear him. Even though Dreyfuss weighed over 100 pounds, our kittens loved to sleep curled up to him, near him and even on top of him. As they grew older, the kittens never outgrew their love for this dog. I have many photos of the cats and Dreyfuss laying side by side. Our cat Mandy even gave him daily head bumps under the chin.

Most of our kitten rescues were sleeping on Dreyfuss from the day they arrived. I don’t know what the attraction was. Possibly warmth or comfort. He would lay in the floor most evenings and the kittens would use him as a launching pad to get from the floor to the couch. He never seemed to mind this.

We also had our Husky mix Cody, who has gone to a family of her own now. We were more worried about how she would handle cats because Cody was abandoned and left to starve as a puppy. The man who rescued her with a collar grown into her neck was told she would die. Cody had feeding issues, meaning she couldn’t be fed in the same place as another animal. We were able to convince the cats to stay away from the dog food bowl and never had any bad experiences. That universal word “aannnkkk” was used a lot when a new cat arrived. The cats quickly learned that aannnkkk meant stay away. I also have many photos of Cody curled up with the cats. I imagine the cats also miss Cody, as she had thick soft fur that made a wonderful kitty pillow.

Here’s a short two minute video I made of the dogs and cats together.

The beginning shows Dreyfuss snoring while our tortie Mandy sleeps beside his head. Pay close attention at the clip showing the dogs jumping up and down. That’s how Dreyfuss would let us know he and Cody needed to go outside for a potty break. Cody wasn’t intelligent enough to ask to go out, so she would tell Dreyfuss, then he’d come over and tell us. I’m not saying Cody was stupid. She could keep up with her two favorite toys better than I can keep up with my car keys. She would even go back into the living room to retrieve a toy should she forget to bring it to bed with her.

Notice the cats laying around in that scene. Even though the dogs are jumping around barking, the cats weren’t afraid and stayed in their lounging places. If they were afraid of the dogs, the barking would have sent them into hiding.

I hope this article and video will show the readers here that cats and large dogs can learn to live together. It’s not the ideal situation for everyone, but we’ve enjoyed loving both. Do any of you have large dogs and cats who have become friends?


6 thoughts on “Cats Living With Large Dogs”

  1. my grandpuppy Helios is great dane/st bernard he is only a year old and already 140# but his best friend is their 7# black shorthair cat. they get along just fine, and it’s pretty funny when they play, even sweeter to see them sleeping together.

  2. Nice tips Elisa. Whenever I see pictures of your cats and dogs I see harmony. It always impresses me. There is, though, a lot experience and common sense behind it all to make sure things stay harmonious.

  3. We really miss Dreyfuss. The only thing keeping me sane is watching the nightly game of Ambush played by Cujo and the cats. I won’t have any more large dogs. Dreyfuss was one of a kind and I don’t have it in me to provide the necessary training.

  4. RIP Dreyfuss. When I was a kid and again when I lived in Alaska, we had large dogs and cats living together all the time. It helps if a dog and a kitten have grown up together or if the dog is a pup and the cat lets him know that cats rule, dogs drool. Once when my cat was killed (and dad said we’d never get another kitten, ever, because I “carried on” so much) a neighbor brought us a kitten for Christmas. Tippy sat up and begged for the kitten so we were careful with them being together unsupervised for a little bit. But the first time we went on vacation, the neighbor who fed our critters said when we were gone, here came Tippy across the lot that separated our houses, leading the kitten to her house too.


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