Shih Tzus are on the rise in popularity, and it’s no surprise because these little lion dogs are adorable, hypoallergenic, and have royal ancestry. But how will they fit in with your precious feline friend? Are Shih Tzus and cats a good match?
It’s somewhat of a truth universally acknowledged that dogs hate cats, although it’s not always the case. Some of these seemingly incompatible four-legged friends fare just fine, while others can have grievances they simply can’t overcome.
Are Shih Tzus one of these compatible breeds? Let’s take a look!
The temperament of Shih Tzus
Shih Tzus tend to be perky, happy dogs that are friendly to a fault. They are somewhat of a lapdog, after all. But they still have plenty of energy to expend and will follow you loyally from room to room just to bask in your presence.
They tend to get along well with cats, thanks to their sweet nature. There is the odd exception where you’ll find a snippy Shih Tzu — but it’s typically from bad socialization when they were young and not a genetic fault. Otherwise, Shih Tzus and cats can be a purrfect match.
Is A Puppy Better Than An Adult Shih Tzu?
An adult dog is completely different in mood and energy than a pup. They’re also less malleable, meaning they’re less adaptable to change and are pretty set in their ways. If you start out with a puppy, you have a pristine little soul to mold into the perfect furry friend, but this will take time.
A lot of time, patience, and treats. So you’ll have to make sure you have room in your life to dedicate to their training and socializing. Otherwise, even the most potentially sweet pup might become an anxious or aggressive adult dog.
Don’t let this put you off from getting a puppy, though! It’s the best age to introduce them to your cat, after all. It’s when they’ll most easily learn the pet hierarchy in their new household and respect your cat’s boundaries. If you have a senior cat, however, a puppy’s energy might be too much for it, and they’ll find the little pupper’s enthusiasm and curiosity annoying.
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, Rottweilers and Cats, Corgis and Cats, Golden Retrievers and Cats and German Shepherds and Cats.
This might result in lots of swipes at Fido’s nose and the beginning of a grudge that may last into adulthood. Older dogs introduced to your household might have a tougher time adjusting to a feline presence, but that’s not to say it’s impossible — it just takes more time. So it very much depends on your lifestyle and your cat as to whether a younger or older Shih Tzu will work for you.
How To Introduce A Shih Tzu To Your Cat – 5 Steps
The introduction will affect your cat’s relationship with your new Shih Tzu the most. Take your time and do it the right way — slowly. It’s important not to leave them alone during this meeting phase so you can monitor for signs of stress or aggression and stop something before it starts.
1. Create Safe Spaces For Your Cat
Section off a room or portion of the room with gates or fencing for your cuddly kitty and move their belongings there. Their bed, their food and water bowls, their scratching post, and litter tray — all of it.
At this point, they will need their own safe space to be while the pup explores the new smells, sounds, and spaces your house has to offer them. Not only will your cat feel relieved, but it’ll also prevent the pup from getting into its food and litter. Ideally, every room in the house should have at least one safe space for your kitty to retreat. Whether it’s a cat tree or a bookshelf, in case they want to get away from the new dog.
If your cat is particularly nervous to begin with, something like a cat pheromone diffuser will help calm its nerves while adjusting to the new addition to its furry family.
2. First Introduction
This might sound counterintuitive, but keep your new Shih Tzu and your cat separate at first. Preferably restrict your pupper to one room in the very beginning, so they have time to acclimate to their new surroundings, smells, and objects.
It also helps you keep an eye on them and help calm them. This serves the secondary purpose of allowing your pets to smell and hear each other in the house without actually meeting. If you can, put some of your cat’s bedding in the pup’s room and a blanket from the pup in with the cat.
Image by Jaclou DL from Pixabay
This helps them get used to the idea of the other pet and getting comfortable with them. The next step is to put your cat in a room and let your new Shih Tzu explore the rest of the house. They’ll smell your cat’s scent strongly, further aiding their acceptance of this mysterious animal in their new lives.
Then do a swap and let your cat go about the house to smell your new dog’s scent. This transitory period should take a few days at least, but it will help ensure a good first meeting.
3. First Interaction
It’s time for the first official meeting. This is best done when your cat is in a safe space, with a barrier between them and the new pup. It gives you more control over everything while allowing them to see each other for the first time.
Don’t force closeness between the animals at this point, as this might make them panic. Offer some tasty treats to reinforce that this new addition is a good thing that they should like. If the Shih Tzu gets too excited and starts to bark, take them away for a little and then try again. The idea is for every pet to be calm and comfortable.
Reward both animals for desired behavior. Don’t stretch this interaction out too long – intervals of 5 – 10 minutes are long enough at first.
4. Close Encounters
Once your cat shows confidence and the novelty has worn off for your pupper, it’s time to bring them to a neutral space where they can meet without a barrier. Keep your Shih Tzu on a leash, though, just in case. Keep this very short and watch both pets carefully for signs of stress or fear such as purring.
If either seems likely to pounce, separate them and return to barrier meetings for a while until they’re more ready. During this time, focus on training your Shih Tzu, reinforcing good behavior with treats and praise and redirecting them when they display undesirable behavior.
Continue with this, and you should start to see more positive signs of them accepting each other and beginning to interact. You can then increase their time together and give them more freedom.
5. Peaceful Co-Living
Once you’re completely confident your cat and Shih Tzu are on good terms, you can leave them alone together for periods of time. It’s important to maintain your cat’s private space without the pup, so that they have a place to go if they feel harassed by playful puppy energy. If you notice your new dog becoming aggressive, though, call in a behaviorist immediately to nip it in the bud.
Final Thoughts On Shih Tzus and Cats
All animals are different, and they will take their own unique time to get to know one another. There’s no reason in the world why your cat shouldn’t get on with your Shih Tzu as long as you put in the hard work to ease them into friendship. But don’t ever be shy to ask for help if you find yourself floundering.
Dogs and cats both seem to love sleeping on the bed, so it might be tough getting them to share. Here are some interesting reasons why cats love to sleep on your head.