If you’re considering welcoming a Shih Tzu into your world but already have a cat, you’re no doubt wondering how the two would get along. Shih Tzus can certainly get along with or at least tolerate cats, especially if they’re introduced to them from an early age, but every dog and cat is different, so it’s hard to predict just how well they’ll get along or how long it will take to get them used to each other.
In this post, we’ll share some tips on introducing your new Shih Tzu to your cat to help things go as smoothly as possible.
Do Shih Tzus Get Along with Cats?
In some cases, yes, and in others, no. The truth is that there are never any guarantees as to how well two personalities will “gel”, as each animal is unique. Shih Tzus are well-known for their placid temperaments and for getting along very well with children and other dogs in general, so these traits may help them ease into life with a cat, but each dog reacts differently to cats and vice versa.
Your best chance at making sure your Shih Tzu and cat get along or are able to tolerate one another is to introduce them gradually and in a manner that’s as calm and stress-free as possible.
Top 3 Tips to Introduce a Shih Tzu to a Cat
When you bring your Shih Tzu home for the first time, the last thing you’ll want to do is thrust them in front of your cat like an unwanted early Christmas gift—they won’t thank you for it. Instead, you’ll need to take some time to prepare the environment so both animals have as much of a stress-free experience as possible. Here are some basic steps as a guideline.
1. Arrange Separate Spaces
Before you bring your Shih Tzu home, arrange separate rooms—one for your cat and one for your Shih Tzu—containing everything they need like food, water bowls, beds, and litter. These spaces will act as retreats while each gets used to the other’s scent.
2. Let Your Shih Tzu Explore
When your Shih Tzu comes home, make sure your cat is in their “happy place” and cannot be bothered by the Shih Tzu. Allow your Shih Tzu to explore your home a little, then place them in their own room. When your cat is ready to come out, let them explore and sniff around so they can get used to the new dog’s scent. Continue letting each take turns exploring without seeing one another for the next few days.
3. Gradually Introduce Your Shih Tzu
When it’s time to introduce your Shih Tzu and cat face to face, it would be ideal if your Shih Tzu could be in their crate for the initial introductions. If they’re not crate-trained, put them on a leash and harness for better control and keep them at a distance.
Introduce the two in an open area in which the cat won’t feel trapped. Make sure your cat has an “escape route” like a cat tree, shelf, or stairs if they feel afraid. Give both animals plenty of fuss and/or treats to help them feel secure when spending time together and always reward them when they’re calm. You might want to get someone in to help you with these introductions—one to watch the dog, and one to watch the cat.
These initial introductions should be kept short at first to avoid overwhelming either your Shih Tzu or your cat. You can do this a few times every day and when they seem more relaxed with one another, you can try taking your Shih Tzu’s leash off or removing them from their crate. Always be around to supervise both on-leash and off-leash encounters.
How Long Will It Take for My Shih Tzu and Cat to Be Friends?
This really depends on the individual Shih Tzu and cat. If you pair a super laid-back, friendly cat with a Shih Tzu of a similar personality, they may start getting along within just a few days or short weeks. In some cases, though, it may take months before a dog and a cat will learn to live together.
Some may never be friends but may be able to tolerate each other. If this is the case, they’ll simply ignore one another’s presence. This is perfectly fine—as long as neither is acting aggressively toward one another, it’s a win. You can make things easier for your cat and your Shih Tzu by making sure they each have their own personal spots to retreat to while they get used to each other.
So, Shih Tzus are very capable of getting along with cats, but there will always be an introductory process that new housemates have to go through—a process that can be quite stressful for some cats and dogs, especially the resident cat or dog.
Take things slowly and avoid forcing your Shih Tzu and cat to interact if they don’t want to. Offer plenty of positive reinforcement and be consistent and encouraging and, with time, your Shih Tzu and cat will either be getting on like a house on fire or at least grudgingly tolerating each other! If you have any issues introducing your Shih Tzu to your cat, a professional behaviorist can help.
Featured Image Credit: Andrew Kozeko, Shutterstock