Thinking of getting a canine companion for your cat? How about the Samoyed? Loyal, intelligent, and people-friendly, it is not hard to see why many people are charmed by the Samoyed. But if you already have a cat in your home, will the addition of this large working dog work?
Samoyeds have a high prey drive which can make keeping them with cats an immense challenge. Samoyeds can live with cats but it will not be an easy task for you.
Are Samoyeds good with cats?
Yes Samoyeds can be good with cats but his will depend largely on you and how you prepare your pets. Without your active supervision and guidance during your pets’ initial days together, a Samoyed can be a bad fit for your cat. And conversely, if you invest time and effort in training your dog, your pets can live together in harmony.
If you are planning to keep a cat and a dog, one of the first things that you need to consider is if the partnership will work. For both dogs and cats, it is worthwhile to look at the personalities and temperaments of the animals you would like to adopt. While an animal’s personality is not necessarily set in stone, it can give you an idea of what to expect. That is the nature side of things.
On the converse side of the coin, training is critical and can offset and minimize potential problems like your dog’s tendency to chase smaller animals like cats. Establishing yourself as the leader of the pack and training your dog during puppyhood can make it easier for all the members of your household, including the four-legged members.
Essentially, that means finding the balance between nature and nurture.
Understanding the Samoyed personality
The Samoyed is one of the oldest dog breeds, developed a thousand years ago by the Samoyede people of Siberia. The dog was bred to help in hunting, herding, and hauling heavy loads.
Although the Samoyed is a working dog, this hulking beast is a sweetie deep inside. After a hard day’s work of hunting or hauling heavy loads, it slept beside humans to keep them warm. This has made the Samoyed an affectionate member of the household. The dog is even great with kids. The Samoyed is a pack animal and thrives when he is in the middle of family activities where both his mind and body can be stimulated.
One important thing to consider before adopting a Samoyed is that it is a working breed with a high prey drive. This can be traced back to the breed’s roots as a hunting companion. Simply put, Samoyeds have the propensity to run after and chase small animals like cats, rabbits, and even smaller dogs.
What is prey drive?
But what exactly is prey drive and how will this affect the relationship between a cat and a dog?
Although dogs have long been domesticated, they still retain some of the instincts and qualities of their wild ancestors, including their hunting instincts.
Prey drive refers to behaviors that are useful as hunting animals. These include stalking, searching, chasing, and biting prey. Prey drive can manifest in different forms, depending on the breed. For example, in herding dogs, prey drive can come in the form of chasing after other animals.
The level of prey drive is not the same for all dogs. Some dogs have a low prey drive and are content with playing with their humans. Dogs with high prey drive, on the other hand, need productive outlets to curb the negative aspects of their behaviors.
It should be noted that prey drive is completely different from aggression. Prey drive emanates from a dog’s instincts while aggression is largely driven by instincts.
The good news is that if you are planning on keeping a cat and a dog with a high prey drive like the Samoyed, it is possible to control your dog’s behavior.
There are two sides to prey drive that you should be aware of. On one hand, it can be a positive asset that you can use in training and motivating your dog. Experts like military and police K-9 units harness prey drive in teaching dogs specific tasks.
But on the converse side of the coin, prey drive can cause behavioral issues and put your pets at risk. For example, when a dog is fixated with his prey, he can ignore his human’s commands. He may also engage in dangerous actions, like chasing cars.
Fortunately, prey drive can be managed to the point where bad behaviors can be avoided. Playing and engaging in physical activities can help dogs with high prey drive like the Samoyed redirect their instincts toward productive things while preventing bad behaviors.
How a Samoyed’s prey drive impacts his relationship with cats?
If you choose to adopt a Samoyed, it is reasonable to expect that he will have a high prey drive simply because that is embedded in his nature after countless years of breeding.
That prey drive can manifest in the form of chasing the cat or other small animals you have as a pet.
The great thing about Samoyeds is that although they have high prey drives, they are not aggressive. Rather, their prey drives typically come as an offshoot of their inquisitive nature. They can be driven by their curiosity about a particular sound or scent.
Can a Samoyed live with a cat? Yes. But it will take a large amount of investment in time and effort toward training the dog and socializing both animals. Although there is no real way to eliminate a Samoyed’s high prey drive, you can train yours to the point that his prey drive will not be much of a concern where the family cat is in the picture.
When is the best time to adopt a cat and a Samoyed?
If you have the option to choose which animal to adopt first, the Samoyed or the cat, you will find great success when you adopt the two animals at the same time when they are still young.
Compared to adults, kittens and puppies can be trained and socialized easier because their personalities and instincts are not yet fully developed. Both of your pets can grow together and recognize each other as members of the same family.
But be warned, kittens and puppies can be a handful, especially when you are house training both. Puppies, in particular, require much attention compared to kittens which are generally more self-sufficient. Additionally, puppies are more energetic compared to kittens who typically prefer to layback, save for short bursts of frenetic activity.
As such, you should provide ample space and distance between your two pets. This will help them become more comfortable with one another. Furthermore, it is critical to train your cat to stay still in the presence of the puppy. Otherwise, if he runs, it can trigger your puppy’s propensity for chasing.
Although adopting a puppy and a kitten is your best option for success, be aware that a Samoyed’s prey drive can still rear its head. Without training and constant monitoring, this can cause issues over the short and long term.
Training your Samoyed to live with a cat
But how exactly do you train your Samoyed to curb his high prey drive and enable him to live in harmony with your cat?
One key area that you need to put much time and effort into is socialization. The goal of socialization is providing your dog with confidence, especially in his interactions with your pet cat.
Dogs can seem to be brimming with confidence. But the reality is that certain situations can cause anxiety and nervousness. And when fear is added to any situation, the dog can react with aggression.
Socializing a Samoyed, or any other dog for that matter is about exposing your pet to different animals, people, and situations. Over time, when your dog becomes familiar with these things, he gains confidence and can relax.
To socialize your Samoyed with your cat, you will need to create a safe space for both of your pets. Initially, the two need to be separated from each other. A baby gate is a useful tool for initial interactions between your cat and dog. This allows them to see and smell each other without having them physically interact.
Before initiating a physical interaction between your pets, it is a good idea to teach your Samoyed a few basic commands. This will help you stay on top of the initial interaction between your pets. These basic commands include sit, stay, and leave it.
When your dog has mastered these basic commands, you can initiate a face to face meetup between your pets. At the start, you should keep these sessions short, gradually increasing the duration in later interactions. During each interaction, observe both of your pets. Ideally, there should be no sign of aggression or overexcitement between the two.
It is also a good idea to keep your Samoyed on a leash just until you are confident that he is comfortable with the cat. As for your cat, be sure that he has multiple exit points that he can use.
If your Samoyed does not respond positively to the cat, you might want to consider enlisting the help of a professional trainer for some assistance.
Adding a second pet
Sometimes, it is impossible to get a Samoyed and a cat simultaneously. Probably, you have either one at your home.
Although that poses a unique set of challenges different from introducing a puppy to a kitten, it is still possible to make things work. However, you will need to put in more time and effort toward socialization. And it does not help that cats tend to be resistant to changes, including the addition of a new pet to a home.
Before introducing your pets to one another, you should set up an individual space for each of them to keep them separate. Each space should be inaccessible to one another. This space will act as your pets’ private space and retreat.
Start introducing your pets to one another by bringing them together in the same room. Make sure that this room has many points of exit for your cat should he feel uncomfortable.
Bring the cat first inside the room and then your Samoyed. Allow your cat to roam freely inside the room so that he can become familiar with the dog’s scent. As for your Samoyed, keep him on a leash.
Next, observe the behavior of the two animals. Between the two, your Samoyed is the one who is likely to be more active in investigating the cat, due in large part to his prey drive. Watch for unwanted behavior like overexcitement and aggression. It is okay if the two seem aloof to one another.
Continue these steps for several weeks. Afterward, you can put the two pets in the same room but they should be separated by a barrier. Again, observe your two pets.
If neither of the two acts aggressively, you can remove the barrier. However, the Samoyed should be kept on a leash, at least for a couple of sessions.
Throughout all these sessions, you should praise and reward your pets with treats. This will allow them to associate each other with something positive.
You can leave your pets unsupervised if they are not fixated with one another and can respect each other’s space. When properly socialized, your pets can eat and sleep in the same room.
But before you actually leave your pets together in the same room, set up a few practice sessions. Start by leaving them in the same room. If all goes well, you will not hear them fighting.
If you hear the two acting negatively toward one another, act fast to stop them. Perhaps your Samoyed becomes overeager or too rough in playing with the cat.
Or perhaps your cat is acting aggressively. To stop unwanted behavior, you can startle them both by making a loud noise or spraying water. From there, focus your attention on the troublemaker and put in more training time.
You might also want to consider asking for the help of an experienced trainer for one or both of your pets.
Training and socialization are essential
Cats and dogs can live peacefully with one another if you invest enough time socializing and training them. Both are critical if you are planning to adopt a dog with a high prey drive, like a Samoyed. Remember, your Sammy can grow quite large. Even if he has no ill intent, he can inadvertently hurt your cat due to his overeagerness and large size.
Image: istockphoto.com / Calinat