“Are Labrador Retrievers good with cats?” is a common question to ask when thinking about bringing a Lab into the family. Since cats and dogs have long been regarded as natural enemies, it isn’t surprising that so many people are afraid that their cohabitation could lead to potential disaster. While Labs are generally known for their amicable nature, it may seem like they potentially could be a good fit in a cat lover’s house.
Are Labrador Retrievers good with cats? Yes because Labradors are:
- Sociable and naturally friendly;
- Not territorial (so sharing spaces isn’t a problem);
- Easily trainable making introductions a simpler process; and
- Not aggressive.
The key to a smooth friendship is understanding how to approach their co-existing living situation from their first introduction to living together full-time.
In this article, you will learn how to make the relationship between your Labrador Retriever and cat work from their first introduction. You will learn how to introduce their relationship depending at which stage of their life each of your pets are at. You will also learn some tips and tricks that can help make the process smoother and allow you to better enjoy a pet-happy household.
My Experience With Labs and Cats
I have been a Labrador Retriever owner for more than ten years and a lover of the breed for even longer.
I also was the proud cat mom to two siblings who were left to fend for themselves and in need of a good home.
With my Lab (called Bear) already established in my home, I was unsure of how introducing not one but two 4-week-old kittens would go.
To my pleasant surprise, my fears of a hostile pet household were put to rest after just a few short months. My Lab had not only accepted the two as part of the household but also took some of the mothering responsibilities onto herself.
But my experience is not only limited to introducing my middle-aged Lab to young kittens.
Being a life-long dog lover, I helped my friend who adopted a rescued Labrador Retriever and introduced him into her household, which was already dominated by her elderly male cat. While both experiences seemed to be from the opposite end of the spectrum, with different unique challenges, both ended in success.
So I am here to share with you what I had learned through my personal experience, my knowledge of Labs, and my conversations with my veterinarian to help you enjoy the same success I had when it came time for my Lab and cats to meet.
Are Labrador Retrievers Good With Cats?
When it comes to the cohabitation of cats with dogs, the situation and disposition of the animals can play a significant factor, but so can the breed of dog as well.
While there are some dogs that will naturally be aggressive towards cats, Labrador Retrievers tend to do well with all forms of smaller pets.
This does not mean that some incidents do not occur, but if the situation is approached in the right way, you will most likely be able to get your Lab and cat to form a friendly bond or peaceful toleration, at least.
Why A Labrador Can Be Good With Cats
Are Labs good with cats? While we know the answer is yes, you may now be wondering why.
The reason that Labradors can so easily cohabitate with cats largely has to do with the specific traits associated with the breed.
These characteristics can reduce the chance of problems and also help to make the transition go more smoothly.
Let’s look at some of the most common traits and characteristics associated with Labrador Retrievers that can make them a good breed to live with cats.
- They are naturally friendly
Labradors are considered one of the most friendly breeds of dogs.
They like to be social and get attention from both humans and other animals.
Most Labs will approach other animals with curiosity instead of fear.
They are happy to make a new friend whenever they can.
- They are not territorial
Another trait of Labs that can make it easier to introduce them to cats is the fact that they don’t tend to be territorial.
They don’t tend to get jealous and are happy to share the open space in the home with others.
In many cases, they are not even protective over their food, which can be good if your cat decides they want to try something new for dinner.
- They are easily trained
Labs love to please their owners, which makes training them easier than with other breeds.
Since they can be effectively trained, they can get control over their chase instinct, which can sometimes be triggered by a running cat.
Having impulse control can help to make the introduction more comfortable for the cat, which can lead to a more peaceful existence.
- They are not aggressive
While any dog can be trained to be aggressive, Labradors by nature are not.
They can sometimes be high strung depending on their mood, but rarely will attack unprovoked.
In many cases, they won’t even attack if provoked and often can distinguish the difference between play fighting and an attack.
This makes it a safer situation if you bring in a playful kitten.
The Best Time To Introduce Your Labrador To A Cat
When it comes time to properly introduce your Lab to your cat, timing is everything.
While it is possible to introduce any age cat to any age Lab, you will have greater success by introducing an older Lab to kittens or your older cat to a Lab puppy.
You may be wondering, are Lab puppies good with cats? It may seem strange if you have an older, less mobile cat and a high-strung puppy, but the truth is they can get along rather well.
Even though Lab puppies have a ton of energy that they are throwing around, and it may seem to stress the cat out at first, their young age makes it easy for them to learn and adapt to the situation.
Why are Lab puppies good with older cats?
Younger dogs are, by nature, easier to train because they have yet to be set in their ways and won’t have to unlearn bad habits.
If your older cat is dominant, a Lab puppy will pick up quite rapidly the fact that they are not at the top of the food chain in that specific household.
They can learn how to give the cat space, what it likes and dislikes, and how to coexist with them in the household.
Lab puppies will also be much more receptive to your guidance, not only through specific training but also through your actions. They will see that you love and respect the cat and will try to do the same in order to gain your favor.
In addition to the ability to better learn and adapt to the situation, an older cat may be less intimidated by the smaller size of the puppy than they would of a full-grown Lab.
Why are older Labs good with kittens?
You can also find that introductions can go easier on the opposite end of the spectrum as well, by introducing an older resident Lab to young kittens.
As mentioned before, Labs are not territorial animals when it comes to other pets, so even though they are established in the household already, they will not see the addition as much of a threat.
Also, the size of kittens compared to the size of a full-grown Lab will definitely take any anxiety out of the situation on the part of the Lab.
Another reason Labs are good with young kittens is that they are playful even when they are older.
Kittens are balls of energy, and the Lab will likely respond to that energy by becoming energetic as well instead of being startled.
Female Labs especially will take on mothering roles with young pets and may see young kittens as no different than a puppy that would pull at their ears and jump on their back.
As for the kitten, they likely have not learned to fear dogs by this point, so the size of a full-grown dog will not intimidate them.
They are also likely to respond to the Lab’s friendly nature as well since cats tend to be most social when they are kittens.
How To Introduce A Labrador To Cats
Knowing how to introduce a Lab to cats is half the battle.
If you start with a successful introduction, you will have a better foundation for a solid and mutually respectful relationship.
There are different ways to introduce your Lab to your cat, and the method you choose will probably be dictated by the age of the pets that are meeting.
The crate and leash method
If you are wondering how to introduce a Lab puppy to cats, then the crate and leash method will likely work best.
With this method, your cat can still exert its dominance while slowly getting used to the new addition in its living environment.
Start with your Labrador in its crate, and then bring your cat into the room.
Place the cat on the table so that they are higher than the puppy in the crate but can still see them.
By being elevated, they are likely to feel less intimidated and more in command.
After trying this a few times, you can move on to the leash portion.
Have your cat in the room on the table.
Have your puppy in the adjacent room on a leash. Give them treats to calm down. Once the puppy is calm, bring them into the room on the leash and have them sit.
Keep both of them calm and reward them with a treat.
Proceed with this exercise getting the two closer together each time until they are within a few feet of each other.
If they have shown success with this, now is the time to let them meet without the leash.
Stay in the room so you can control the situation. Always make sure your cat has an escape route if they become too uncomfortable.
Once they can both be loose and stay calm in the same room with each other, they should be OK to be with each other unsupervised.
The dinner method
If you are introducing an older Lab to young kittens, the dinner method may give you the best success.
Growing kittens have large appetites, and Labs are always a fan of food, so you can use this food reliance to help them get used to each other’s presence.
Start by keeping your kittens and Lab separate when eating but place their food on the opposite side of one door. This will allow each of them to associate the sounds and smell of their new roommates while engaging in a pleasant activity: eating.
If your dog begins whining or scratching at the door, correct them and redirect them to continue to eat.
Then it is time for their face to face.
Bring the kitten in the room in a crate and the dog on the leash.
Have your dog lie down a few feet from the crate so they can now make a visual association with what they were hearing and smelling.
Reward them with treats.
Start with short sessions to start with and work your way up.
For the next stage, let the kitten loose in the room and keep control of your Lab on the leash, allowing the kitten to investigate without feeling threatened.
If your dog acts aggressively or agitated, verbally correct them, but if they stay calm, reward them with treats. After several calm interactions, they will be ready to both be loose when supervised and eventually unsupervised.
What Precautions To Take When Introducing
Remember, even the sweetest pets may act aggressively when they feel threatened, and it can be hard to determine what they might consider a threatening act. Because of this, it is important to always take precautions when introducing your Lab to a cat.
Always start with having one of the pets contained and have the ability to restrain at least one of them if the need arises until they have had sufficient time to get to know one another.
Make sure your cat is always comfortable
It is also important that your cat always has an escape route.
Even the slightest discomfort can make a cat skittish, and they can attempt to flee.
If they do so, don’t chase them down and bring them back. Instead, wait for them to calm down to try another session.
If your cat wants to leave and can’t, it may go on the defensive and begin to attack.
Don’t be fooled by their small size. A cat can easily claw at your Lab’s eyes, leaving them permanently damaged.
Avoid introductions around children
Another precaution to take is to never perform the introduction process with young kids around. Children can add to the anxiety of the situation and make it uncomfortable for the pets. There is also the chance that one of the pets could take out their aggression on the child, possibly leading to an injury.
Labrador Retrievers are the ideal breed if you plan to have a cat as well. Their disposition and traits make them good companions for other pets, and their social nature makes them want to seek out new friends. Always remember to start slow, and don’t give up. While some Labs and cats will become fast friends, for others, it can take longer. Be patient and take the proper steps to ensure a successful and happy household.
Gotta Love Labradors
Labradors make great companions when enjoying the outdoors. That’s why we’ve published a number of articles about this friendly breed. You may find these articles an interesting read:
- Walking long distances with your Lab: can they do it?
- Can you breed a Labrador and a Chihuahua?
- Introducing the Jackador, another Labrador designer dog
- Are Labradors more suited to living inside or outside your home?
- Labradors and swimming: a match made in heaven?