Poodles are cute and seem dainty, which is deceptive. For those who don’t know, they were originally bred as hunting dogs. Their long legs made them ideal for country terrain, waterways, and prey retrieval. So poodles and cats – can they get along?
The short answer is… possibly. There are some interesting aspects of a Poodle that suggest they might not. On the other hand, other characteristics seem to indicate that they might be one of the best dogs to co-habit in a home with a cat.
On that note, the misconception that dogs hate cats is somewhat annoying and disruptive when considering that the two species are not typically at odds in the wild. That is to say, they may compete for food at times, but seldom interact beyond that.
The key to making cats and dogs work in a domestic setting is understanding how a dog’s personality matches with a typical cat’s personality (if there is such a thing). There are some considerations, of course, when it comes to different breeds. Here’s what to know about Poodles and cats and how they can work together.
Image by Åsa K from Pixabay
Poodles: Background & History
Bred as hunting dogs in Germany, Poodles were taught to retrieve, developing a strong prey drive in the process. This makes them prone to chasing things, especially animals that are smaller than themselves.
They were also sometimes used as herding dogs. This means they enjoy gathering other animals together and feel most comfortable when they can see everything and everyone). As a result, they can be somewhat all-present, insisting that the environment is somewhat in their control.
They have lots of energy, which can be a problem if it gets out of hand and becomes uncontrollable. Some say this means they are high-strung, nervous, or aggressive compared to other breeds. However, they can also be very calm and relaxed when the mood takes them.
Whatever the case, know that Poodles are hyper-aware of any other animals that are in the vicinity. While they are generally friendly, a situation may easily arise when their high activity level is misinterpreted as aggression by another pet, especially a cat.
I have a series of articles on how different dog breeds get along with cats: Can Poodles and Cats Get Along?, Labradoodles and Cats, French Bulldogs and Cats, Shih Tzus and Cats, Corgis and Cats, Golden Retrievers and Cats Goldendoodles and Cats and German Shepherds and Cats.
Personalities & Temperaments: A Brief Assessment
It’s worth saying at the outset that Poodles generally get along well with cats, assuming they are well-introduced. Poodles are affectionate and accept others into their packs easily. They will even start protecting a cat it sees as family.
If properly socialized, Poodles can also be extremely calm, which suits a cat well. Cats rarely appreciate loud noises and rambunctious behavior. A calm dog is a welcome addition to a cat home. They also tend to be rather warm snuggle buddies in winter.
Potential Problem Areas
The problem is that cats and dogs have very different ways of exhibiting their body language. They do not have a common way of acting. Cats are generally wary of other animals as a standard. A dog that immediately runs up to it or chases it will likely not be received warmly.
You can see where this is going. A Poodle with a strong prey drive and poor socialization will create a situation. Similarly, a cat that is also poorly socialized or has a traumatic past with dogs may react aggressively, fearfully, or both.
More than that, it’s slightly problematic to assume a general rule in this regard. Remember that every animal is different and may therefore react differently in any situation.
So the real area in which we can influence this relationship is in socialization and introduction. A Poodle and a cat that does not get to know each other properly at the outset may become life-long enemies. In this regard, keep the following in mind as influential factors:
The Age of the Animals
If you are introducing a Poodle (or any dog) to your home, it is best to introduce it as young as possible. Older dogs bring more history to the situation, which you cannot always account for. Older animals, in general, maybe more territorial as a matter of course. Puppies and kittens, on the other hand, adapt a lot easier to each other.
It’s not always possible to know, but if your cat or dog has had a bad experience with their opposite before, it will be that much tougher to help them bond. Cats and dogs retain strong memories of trauma, and it may play a part in keeping them at each others’ throats, so to speak.
Image by Tanya from Pixabay
Considerations About Types of Poodles
It may be useful to take a deeper look into Poodle types and whether that plays a role in suitability. There are three general types of Poodles: Standard, Miniature, and Toy. They are differentiated by size in that order, with Standard being the largest.
As the largest of the breeds, they are also the closest to the original breed and its personality. Therefore, they will have the strongest prey instincts and likely be the most energetic in terms of chasing things.
If there is a barker among these three variations, it’s the miniature. If your miniature Poodle is not trained to live in the home properly, it will likely cause some chaos. Your cat will likely not be its friend. On the other hand, they are smaller, which gives the cat a better chance of defending itself. Miniature Poodles are also less likely to chase cats as prey.
Ironically, your cat may see the toy poodle as prey, resulting in a potentially weird situation of your cat chasing the dog. You will need to be extra vigilant, especially when the dog is still a puppy.
Poodle mix dogs have become very popular in recent years. Owners will need to consider the temperaments of both breeds. Some of the most common mixes are the whoodle, bernese mountain doodle mix, golden mountain doodle, pomapoo, cavapoochon, Labradoodle, Goldendoodle and mini Goldendoodle.
Image by Satoshi Kawaguchi from Pixabay
Introducing Poodles and Cats
There is a general consensus on the best way to introduce cats and dogs into homes where the other exists (or will exist). We’ve already mentioned that introducing them as puppies and kittens is the best possible scenario.
When these animals are young, they are more likely to see each other as playmates and bond that much easier. However, we can’t always be assured of such a scenario, so what do we do when the animals are already adults? Here are some basic guidelines to follow.
Be Patient, and Introduce Them Slowly
It may take some time to introduce a Poodle (or any dog) and a cat. Some recommend taking the dog to visit the cat before it even arrives at the home. That’s not to say they will interact but merely see or smell each other. This isn’t always possible but might work for a dog that is used to being outdoors in parks with other animals.
Normally, when bringing a new animal into the home, do not introduce them immediately. Keep them in separate areas or rooms, but allow them to smell each other. You can do this by introducing garments or toys that the other has used if they can be set on opposite sides of a door, even better. Scent is important for animals when it comes to familiarity.
The next stage should be a gate. This enables them to see each other but still not interact directly.
Leashing and Control
If all is going well, you may want to start letting them be in the same room. However, there are rules. For one thing, keep the dog under your control with a dog harness and leash. Under no circumstances allow your dog to try to chase or attack the cat.
On that note, provide an escape route for your cat. Cats may need to bolt out of there, and it will be better to let it take that opportunity if it does. Another option is to provide a high cat tree or elevated space to which your cat can retreat. This does not negate the need to keep the dog under control on a leash. Never hold either animal in hand, as this might cause injury to either of you.
You should also practice commanding your dog to calm down. You may want to employ a positive reinforcement technique for training it. As time goes on, let someone else hold the leash and pet your cat so your dog can see it.
Side note: Training for dogs can commence really early, from about 6-8 weeks. The earlier a dog is trained, the easier it will be to get it to understand its behavior limitations.
Image by sharkolot from Pixabay
Gradually Ease Into The Desired Situation
When you feel that the cat and dog are no longer reacting negatively to each other, you can start to experiment with letting the pup off the leash. However, keep those escape routes open.
You should only do this if you are confident your dog will respond to your command. If, for some reason, it does decide to chase the cat suddenly, you should respond immediately.
Monitor this situation closely, and do not leave them unsupervised until you are absolutely certain that they have acclimatized to each other. If, after some time, you feel this isn’t working, consult a behaviorist for advice. Worst case scenario, you may need to consider the possibility that the two are not compatible.
It’s not a good idea to feed cats and dogs together in the same area of the home. Food is one of those things that all animals naturally compete for. Consider putting the cat food and dog food down in separate areas, and if necessary, at different times.
At first, you may need to restrict access to the areas in question when one of the others is feeding.
Learning to Live in Peace
The upside to Poodles is that they are smart and will pick up pretty quickly what you want from them in terms of behavior. If you continue to reinforce good behavior, you should be able to develop a harmonious home with a Poodle and cat.
In addition to the above socialization rules, try to apply the following ideas to your household:
Provide Safe Spaces
As mentioned, your cat likes escape routes. It will also appreciate a few safe hiding spaces. This may be access to a crawlspace or a high, enclosed area where it does not need to see the dog.
In a similar vein, place its litterbox in an area the dog is unlikely to frequent — cats like privacy to poop in peace, much like we do.
Exercise Your Poodle
Your energetic Poodle will benefit from lots of exercise. It will burn off that excess energy for a peaceful home and contribute to their healthy mind. They will also be less likely to expend that energy on the cat.
Whether a Poodle and a cat can co-exist in your home depends on the usual factors. First and foremost, it’s about socialization. Then it’s about whether the individual animal has any particular traits that need to be taken into account.
Then there’s the approach you take to introducing them. All things being equal, there’s no reason why a Poodle and cat cannot get along. In the rare case where it simply does not work, you may sadly need to reconsider the pairing.
Most cats will either ignore or avoid any dog (or anyone) they don’t like. In most cases, they are also fairly amenable, provided they feel they can get away from any threat or annoyance when needed.
For further reading, check out this article on Golden Retrievers and cats.