Do Shih Tzus Get Along With Cats?

Can Shih Tzus and Cats be taught to get along?

Shih Tzus are beautiful, loving companions, but if you have a cat as well, you may be concerned about how well they might get along. While with many dogs and cats, the main threat of damage is due to their bigger size, but Shih Tzus are so small, could the cat hurt them?

Shih Tzus were bred to be companion animals. They are the perfect charmer meant to melt anyone’s heart. From the Shih Tzus side, they will try to win the cat over just like they do with people. But most cats will be bigger than them, so there is some danger. With proper training and preparation, cats and Shih Tzus will be able to get along just fine.

Some dogs can have a large prey drive, that combined with their size can make a friendship with a cat edgy at best. This isn’t a problem with a small pure companion animal like the Shih Tzu, though.

There will still be some problems, especially the early phase, when their first getting introduced to each other, but with the right techniques, these hurdles can be overcome and hopefully lead to a beautiful friendship.

Shih Tzu History

The Shih Tzu was originally referred to as lion dogs, due to their beautiful majestic mane. There also might be a certain amount of irony with their tiny teacup size. They are considered one of the 14 oldest breeds of dog, with bones suggesting they may go back in time as far as 8000 b.c.

No one is quite sure if the breed was developed in China or Tibet. But they have been present in China for at least a thousand years. The first Shih Tzus were a pair of male and female taken to England being believed to be the first time that Shih Tzus were brought to the west.

The Instincts of the Shih Tzu

With many dogs living with a cat, you have to be worried about a hunter/prey drive. This is where the dog instinctually will chase small animals like cats when they run. They often can’t help it’s just in their genes.

Shih Tzus do not have this problem. They are probably one of a few number of dogs that have been bred for hundreds of years just to be pets. So any hunting instinct has been almost entirely driven from them.

This bodes very well for the family house cat. So you won’t have to worry about your lovable dog chasing and attacking your cat. But you will still need to be concerned about your dog annoying and wanting to play with your cat when they don’t want to be played with. This could mean trouble for the Shih Tzu as the cat might lash out and scratch if they feel harassed.


At only 9-16 pounds Shih Tzus are one of the smallest of dogs. Most dogs will tower over them in both height and weight.

Compared to cats they will either be the same size roughly as a cat, but some very large cats will actually be bigger than this particular breed of dog. But with most cats, they should be about evenly matched on weight, though the cat will probably be taller.

That might actually be a good thing cause then the cat might feel safer and will be less likely to lash out due to feeling threatened.

Helpful Tips to Keep the Peace

There are several tips and tricks that you can do to help ensure that your dog and cat get along the best they can.

  • Establish a safe space for your cat.
  • Separate their food at feeding time
  • Keep a close eye on their interactions and understand their dynamic.
  • Give lots of attention to your cat.

Establish a Cat Safe Space

Your cat will generally only be hostile to your Shih Tzu if they feel threatened and harassed. To help keep the tensions low and your cat relaxed you need to give them a nice place to retreat to.

This could be a room where only your cat is allowed and not your dog. Some people won’t let their dog on the carpeted part of the house while their cat is.

You could also provide your cat with a nice tall cat tree, that way if your cat needs some alone chill time they can just climb up into their cat tree to chill.

Another way is to get some child-gates and put them up in certain hallways or other parts of the house. This way, the dog mostly can’t get past them, but the cat can just jump or climb over. Allowing them to get out of the situation that’s upsetting them.

Feed Your Cat and Dog Separately

Both dogs and cats can get really protective over their food. It’s a crucial part of their animal instincts and not something they can control. People, too, can get protective over food sometimes. Food protection is a nearly universal biological trait.

Because of this, the feeding area can be a real source of conflict if not managed correctly. To fix this, feed your cat separately from your dog. It doesn’t have to be at a different time; you can still feed them at the same time, just a different location.

The particular location doesn’t matter so long as they leave each other alone. But putting your cat’s food bowl up high where only they can get to it can make it easier for you.

Make Sure You Give Attention to Your Cat

Cats can get jealous and will lash out if they feel snubbed. With a Shih Tzu and cat pairing generally, the risk of harm will probably come from the cat. So you have to make sure the cat is happy.

This is especially true if the cat is the older pet, and the Shih Tzu is the newer member of the family. Give your cat as much attention as they want and maybe think about having some of their favorite treats on hand to give them when their getting stressed.

Train Your Cat

While with many breeds of dogs, one would usually advocate for the cat’s safety, but with Shih Tzus being so small, one has to worry about the cat harming your dog as well.

Cats have long sharp claws that could easily injure a dog, especially if there are any paw strike to sensitive areas like the eyes.

However, cats are generally much harder to train than dogs. So a lot of the focus is upon the dog’s training.

You’re not powerless in controlling your cat, though. Besides giving your cat a safe space to retreat to, you can also sometimes stop a cat in their tracks with loud noises to ward them off a specific behavior.

A can of coins that you shake whenever your cat is being aggressive with your dog can be very useful. Never throw or hit your cat with anything but a sharp annoying noise can get their attention and make them stop.

Introducing Your Cat and Dog to Each Other

  • Expose them to each other’s scent. Have them in separate rooms in the house, close enough that they can smell each other but not see each other or interact. This will help them get used to the idea of the other one existing in their space prior to meeting.
  • Alternate their rooms. Try switching the room their in after a while, both cats and dogs rely upon their nose to tell them once going on. By switching the rooms they’re in, they can get a somewhat closer look at each other using their noses.
  • Once you’ve done that step, then introduce them through some kind of barrier. This way, they can see each other but not directly interact, allowing you more time and space to discover their social dynamic with each other.
  • Finally, with the final step, you can have them interact in the same room with each other directly. If you’re introducing a puppy Shih Tzu to your cat, then tiring them out a little beforehand so that their youthful energy doesn’t overwhelm and stress out your cat.

Look out for Any Signs of Aggression or Stress

Whenever they interact early on in their relationship, make sure to observe their body language. You can tell a lot about your animals just by paying attention to their bodies since they can’t talk like people can. This is their only real way of communicating.

Signs of aggression:

  • A stiffened body posture
  • Growling or hissing
  • Erect ears or tail
  • Any showing of teeth


While nothing is guaranteed, following these steps should help your Shih Tzu to get along with your cat. Doing your best as their owner will be your first step to success. Keep a close eye on both of them until you feel confident, and nothing too bad should go wrong.

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