The West Highland Terrier, like all terriers, was bred to hunt, chase, and kill vermin. This means that they are naturally predatory towards small furry animals.
Westies are more tolerant of cats than most terrier breeds, especially cats that are part of the family. However, many Westies can be dominant and aggressive towards strange cats.
Every West Highland Terrier is an individual and with socialization and training, the majority of Westies can learn to be good with cats
Ultimately, it comes down to how you go about introducing and conditioning the Westie and cat. Even though Westies have a predatory prey drive towards small animals they are also a friendly and gentle dog. They are also highly intelligent and respond well to the right training.
The chances of a Westie and a cat living in harmony are greatly improved if they are brought up together from a young age. Alternatively, a Westie puppy coming into a home with an existing calm adult cat is usually successful also.
This article looks mainly at having a Westie and a cat in the same household. If the problem you have is your Westie chasing other people’s cats see here.
Do West Highland Terriers do well with cats
For the most part, Westies are good with cats in the same household. They have a loving and affectionate temperament. This makes them an good family dog even in homes with other pets.
Most terriers are not ideal with cats. The Westie is more so than most Terriers. Every dog is an individual, but the majority of Westies are fine with cats when introduced correctly and often become good friends.
Can a Westie kill a cat
The West Highland Terrier was originally bred to hunt and kill vermin. This instinct is still there but less so in the modern-day pet Westie than the original ratting dog.
Physically a Westie is capable of killing a cat, but this is reasonably unlikely.
Things to consider – Westies and cats
There are many considerations to take into account before committing to introducing a Westie and a cat.
The first thing to take into account is the situation and why you are wanting to have a Westie and a cat in the same household. Variations may include;
- Westie puppy and kitten entering the home at the same time.
- Westie puppy entering the home of an existing cat.
- Kitten or adult cat entering the home of an existing Westie dog.
- Another scenario.
Each of these scenarios will need to be considered to determine how successful the situation will be.
The individual Westie history and nature
Does your Westie display chase and prey drive behavior? Most Westies are friendly but they are innately predatory. Without early intervention, your dog’s instincts will kick in. If this is the case, forcing a cat into your home is an accident waiting to happen.
The cat’s history and nature
If you have an existing cat and are considering getting a Westie you will know the personality and nature of your cat. If you are considering a rescue cat try to get some background about the cat.
If possible, ask the shelter about the cat’s previous living conditions and socialization to other pets, particularly dogs. The cat may show aggression towards your dog even if he is the friendliest dog in town. Take note that feral cats are often mistaken as strays and stray cats can adopt feral behaviors over time.
How many Westies or dogs you have
If you have more than one Westie or dog it is probably not a good idea to get a cat. Westies, like most dog breeds, will form a pack. When they do, they become territorial and chase away any potential threat.
The age of the Westie or cat
In many cases, adopting a full-grown cat would be best if you have an adult Westie. It may be better if it is a large cat breed. It would be risky to have a fragile kitten inside the house.
If you have or are getting a Westie puppy, we suggest you take in a kitten. Although a puppy is less threatening to an adult cat, it is best to see your pup and kitten grow together and become playmates.
Your Westies obedience
It is important that your Westie be reasonably obedient. This way you can tell them to leave the cat alone or come when you call. A Westie that does whatever it wants will be difficult to control around a cat.
How do Westies react to cats
There are several possibilities when introducing your West Highland Terrier to a cat for the first time.
The Westie becomes excited
Your Westie may treat the cat just as he would treat other dogs. You can expect your dog to lunge at the cat or sniff at them like there is no tomorrow. This is simply because of curiosity. They may also chase the cat or play rough without the intention to harm.
If your Westie wags their tail and looks relaxed while then they simply want to bond with his new whiskered friend. However, cats can be apprehensive of dogs and become defensive.
The Westie becomes anxious
Some Westies may not be sure about the cat. This is generally not the case as Westies are confident and friendly. In this situation, they are likely to keep their distance. Don’t force them to interact. Simply take things slowly.
The West Highland Terrier and cat are fine together
In a lot of cases, the Westie and cat will accept each other in a short time. It is still important to still take things slowly. Supervise their interactions until you are 100% confident there will be no problems. If the cat was to swipe at the Westie, it may set things back.
How do you introduce a cat and a West Highland Terrier
For more tips on introducing a dog and cat see here.
Make your pets familiarize with each other’s scent
Dogs can remember more than 50 distinct smells. So, why shouldn’t you make use of this impressive ability?
Grab a cloth or a towel and wipe it down your cat. Let your Westie sniff it. Better yet, tuck the cloth underneath your dog’s bed so he can get accustomed to your cat’s scent. Do the same for your cat.
Separate your cat at first
Avoid face-to-face confrontations for the first few days. Confine your cat in a room with her bed, food, water, and toys. Ideally, install a cat tree scratcher or a multi-level cat condominium. Having multiple high areas to hide can help your cat feel more secure. Cats are just as territorial as dogs. Hence, you need to give her enough time to adjust to her new environment.
Feed your pets on opposite sides of a closed-door
Feed your pets on either side of the door. Continue this process until your whiskered newcomer and the resident pet can eat calmly directly on each opposite side of the door. This will help prevent fear and aggression from developing.
Conduct short face-to-face meetings
Do this in a common area of your house, not your cat’s little retreat or your dog’s domain. Be sure that you have already set an escape route for your cat just in case things could go haywire.
Keep your Westie on a leash and ask them to sit down.
Next, allow your cat to come and go as they wish. Let them explore the room at her own pace. Just keep rewarding your dog for good behavior. It would be better if your dog acts as though the cat does not exist and is more interested in the treats.
Repeat this process several times daily, but keep it short. Having frequent short visits are better than dragging it out so long that either pet becomes stressed or agitated.
If your cat leaves the room, let them do so. There may be times when your Westie tries to see how you would react if he gets too close with the cat in an aggressive way. If this happens, give the “Stay” command and immediately reward your dog if they obey.
See to it that your pets eat simultaneously
Let your pets eat together, so they can create a close bond. At first, you need to supervise all interactions between the two. To stay on the safe side, place your cat’s food on the counter. Over time, this will establish the idea that they belong in the same pack.
Proceed with caution
After multiple introductions and simultaneous feedings, set your pets loose inside a room and observe how they would react towards each other. If your Westie shows tolerance with your cat’s presence even without your intervention, then you can finally have peace of mind knowing that your pets can hang out together and eventually, become snuggle buddies.
For more tips on getting a dog to get along with a cat see here.
Dog signs of aggression towards the cat
It is also important to be aware of signs of tension, dominance, and aggression in dog body language. This is not a full list of aggression dog body language but it can include:-
Hackles are up – Hackles are patches of hair between the shoulder blades or near the rear end of the dog. if they are standing up it is a sign of aggression.
Ears and tail are erect – if the ears or tail are standing straight up it is a sign of aggression. It is also thought that if the tail is wagging the dog is happy. This is not always true. If the tail is wagging in a stiff motion while being held high it is a sign of aggression.
Bearing teeth – Showing teeth by raising their lips is a warning sign. It is often followed by a snap or bite. Most dogs will do an air snap rather than a full-on bite. This is a further warning to let the other dog know the next one is for real.
Growling – a deep growl or snarl usually with eye conduct focused on the other dog. All growling is not necessarily aggressive and many dogs use a play growl when playing, especially Terriers. This has a completely different tone. Continuous barking without gaps is a similar sign of aggression.
Stiff body posture –
A dog will become noticeably rigid and stiff in their body when they’re becoming agitated. They may stand in a wider stance than normal or try to raise the height of their head and body. They will have their eyes focused on their target.
Signs of cat aggression towards the dog
It is equally important to be aware of the body language of the cat for any signs of aggression and fear. The only concern is not the Westie harming the cat. Cats are capable of doing harm to a dog.
Many cats could take the approach that the best defense is an offense. There are countless stories of dogs losing an eye from a cat swipe.
Signs of fear and aggression in cats include:-
- ears flattened sideways
- tail tucked under their body
- crouching, and leaning away
- fluffed fur
- showing teeth
- hissing or growling
- swatting or swiping
- biting, and scratching
- pupils of their eyes dilate wide
If the cat is showing a combination of these behaviors allow them some space from the dog. Always make sure that the cat has an escape route. This will prevent them from resorting to a fight response.
Summary – Are Westies good with cats
Most terriers are not ideal with cats. The Westie is more tolerant than most terrier breeds. Every dog is an individual, but the majority of West Highland Terriers are fine with cats and often become good friends. This is especially true if they are raised together from a young age.
Some Westies may want to chase a cat, but this is often about a bit of fun rather than a prey drive.
Take the introduction of the West Highland Terrier and cat slowly even if they seem fine together. If there was an incident, like the cat having a swipe at the dog, it may set the process back.
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