Are Yorkies Good With Cats – Answers From An Owner

Are you wondering if Yorkies are good with cats?  Do Yorkies and cats get along? Well, I can tell you that both Yorkies and cats are remarkably similar in a few ways.  No, really, they are! And let me also say they are quite different. However, both Yorkshire Terriers and cats can co-exist peacefully.  Despite both their differences and their similarities, dogs and cats can indeed mix in a family unit.

Before I dive into the heart of whether or not Yorkies and cats can get along, or whether Yorkies are good with cats at all for that matter. I’d like to give you a little background on my cat and my Yorkie, Mel, and Kiki.

A Little History Of Melany Melicus Kittyus Cat, Or Mel for short.

Mel the Orange Tabby
This is Mel, my orange tabby neutered female cat.

I used to have a pet shop.  It was called the Fish ‘N’ Lizard.  The pet shop was located on St.Clair Ave West, in Toronto, Ontario.  One day back in … let me think now… it was 2004 I believe. Anyway, back to the point.  There I was, on my way to open up shop and I got to the door and there’s a tomato box at the front door.

The tomato box moved a little and a small, scared ‘meow’ came from inside the box.  Someone had dumped a cat at my pet shop doorstep. My pet shop sold fish, reptiles and amphibians (and of course supplies).  Now, my business partner had a shop upstairs from mine where he sold dog and cat food, but there weren’t any pets in his store, and my store was clearly marked as not containing dogs, cats or birds for that matter.  So, a cat, at the time, was a bit of an inconvenience, to say the least.

A Cat In A Box

I took the little noodle of a young cat-in-a-box inside and carefully cut open the duct tape holding the lid tightly on the box (at least it had good breathing holes in the sides).  The cat was young, maybe a year old at the most but probably more like 9 or 10 months old, and pregnant. Very pregnant. And dirty. Really dirty.

She was covered in mud, it was caked into her fur. And she had a healthy family of fleas gorging on her pregnant belly as well.  It was quite the situation. I carefully removed the feral young and very afraid little pregnant kitty from the box and managed to clean her up.  I gave her a nice can of high-quality cat food and she stuffed her face. She lived in my pet shop for a few months while I got her to agree to a litter box and not bite and claw every human that walked past her.  With a lot of love, (and string) I won over the heart of this little kitty, and she won over my heart as well…

A History Of Kiki “The Wonder Dog” Shantz – A Yorkie With A Cool Attitude

Kiki the wonder dog Yorkshire Terrier
Here is a picture of my Yorkshire Terrier, Kiki (when she was younger).

The year was 2010.  My awesome wife Christine Valitutti and I had decided to add a fur baby to our family.  Mel was chillin’ around the house, and we thought adding a dog to the mix would be good.  I, of course, wanted a large dog. However, at the time we were living in a 2 bedroom apartment and a large dog was just not feasible in such a small place.  Christine wanted a Yorkie and found a relatively local breeder.  

We traveled to the breeder’s house and were invited in.  The breeders were lovely people, and we sat with them in their living room as the puppies tore around the room.  One, in particular, a slightly more subdued little female made her way across the room and found it quite agreeable to jump up and curl up in Christine’s lap.  And drop the mic, it was over at that point. 

Skip Forward and just to fill you in, Kiki has now survived two forms of cancer and is at the time of writing this, in her very golden years dealing with Cushing’s disease like a little trooper.

Here’s a great little video I found on YouTube about Yorkshire Terriers.

Introducing The Dog To The Cat

Now, when we brought home Kiki (Yorkshire Terrier), we had already had Mel (Kitty Cat) in the home for a number of years.  It was the cat’s turf. We bring home this cute little Yorkie, who is scared and excited and I think she was a bit tired too because the drive was a bit.  We brought her in the apartment and the cat hissed and ran and hid in the closet where we kept her cat litter.

The dog ran all over the place, of course, not understanding what a cat was, or caring for that matter.  Not until she got too close or ran up too quick, then got a swat. Now, I have to say that my cat Mel is a phenomenal creature.   She was very motherly back in those days and I don’t recall her ever actually clawing the dog. She gave her a lot of warning swats, but I don’t think she ever really laid into the dog.  Again, just to point out, we’re talking about a female cat and a female dog here.

General Rules For Dogs And Cats

Most of the time, you basically just have to let the two work out their own introductions.  I like to think of myself as the referee. I’ll step in if things start to get rough, otherwise, I’ll just watch over the game. 

Now, if you’re introducing a dog that is larger than the cat, it’s best to initially keep the dog on a tight leash.  This way you can judge the dog’s reactions to the cat before letting the dog free with the cat.  

Some breeds of dogs tend to be more aggressive than others.  If your dog tends to go hard after squirrels, or other dogs, then you definitely want to make sure you have a good leash and harness.  Anytime there is aggression from a dog, you should definitely maintain full control of the introductions.

Pack And Dependence

Cats and dogs share two common features.  Both Canines and Felines are known to be both pack and independent animals, depending on which cousin of which we are speaking.

Dogs Ancestory

Common dogs descend mostly from pack oriented ancestors.  The common house cats, in my opinion, seem to have characteristics of singular dependence.  That is to say, they choose a member of the family to bond with and although they may show affection to others, they bond the most with one in particular.  Dogs, on the other hand, follow more of a pack dominance hierarchy. Sometimes they bond with a single member of the family more than others. However, dogs will follow the dominant male of the family. As this would typically be the leader of a pack of wild dogs.  Or even further on the cousin side of things, with wolves again it is the dominant male of the pack which is typically the leader.

This difference in how a dog responds to a family or group as compared to a cat makes a big difference in the way we need to treat the introductions.  A dog, for example, will welcome a new member of the family. As long as they feel their position in the hierarchy of the ‘pack’ is not threatened.

Cats And Their Behaviors

A cat, on the other hand, will look at a new member of the household as more of a threat to their territory.  However, cats also pay a lot of attention to who and where attention is being placed. For example, I’ve noticed in my last 4 cats, that all would have certain almost jealous reactions to me paying attention to another animal in their ‘space’.  But, it really depends upon their mood at the time.

I’ve witnessed strange behavior in cats.  And both cats and dogs seem to display slightly different behaviors, both in terms of males and females acting slightly differently, but also on an individual level.

The strange behavior I’ve witnessed is a male siamese befriending a dog.  The dog was about 30% larger than the cat. A mixed-breed terrier with a lot of spunk.  The cat, a male siamese. Both were ‘fixed’, so to speak.

The siamese not only befriended the dog but would play with it.  They would chase each other across the house, tearing around after each other.  They would take turns being the chaser or the chased. Then when one was tired, they would sit together, and sometimes wrestle.  Always clean playing, no scratching or hurting each other. They were good friends.

Males And Females And Differences In Personalities

In my experience in terms of dog and cat behavior, there are differences between the sexes. Just as there are differences between individuals.  I’ve also found that there are distinct differences between a male who has been neutered and one who has not. Likewise, I’ve found the same to be true when dealing with a female who has been spayed and one who has not. 

Aside from the obvious personality and behavioral differences, there are distinct personality differences between dogs and cats who have been spayed or neutered. 

Differences In Female And Male Cat Personalities Post-Neutering

I found a study done that I’ll share something interesting from.  The study was to observe aggression in indoor neutered cats and report the findings.  In all cases, it was either two males, or two females, or one of each. In all cases, all animals were cats in these pairings and all cats neutered.  Here’s a couple of lines from the abstract that are interesting.

“There were no significant differences in affiliative or aggressive behavior based on cat gender. However, females were never observed to allorub other females.”

Changes in Dogs Behavior After CastrationHeidenberger E, Unshelm J

I have also noticed that, in my experience, male cats who are neutered are, in general, more social and friendlier, than neutered female cats.  I have observed this with my own eyes on multiple occasions. However, I would like to note that I have also observed female cats being extraordinarily affectionate to a single member of a household.  

Female Neutered Cats Bonding

The female neutered cat tends to bond with a single individual in a family unit.  Compared to a male cat, which is more likely to be more outwardly social. And spread their affection more freely amongst multiple members of the family unit.

Here’s a great little video I found on YouTube about the domestic house cat:

Differences In Female And Male Dog Personalities Post-Neutering

This is where I really get interested.  I found a very interesting study of canine temperament. The study characterized and defined a behavioral factor we’ll call “trainability” (Hsu and Serpell 2003).  For reference, the following is a basic definition of how they define trainability.

Trainability Defined

Trainability – A dog’s willingness to follow commands, attend to its owner and not disobey.  The dog will have a low rate of distraction and will not have significant resistance to correction.4

The study included over 1500 dogs, of 11 breeds.  The results of the study found that there were significant differences in trainability between dog breeds.  Interestingly, one of the findings in two breeds where the dogs were of dog show-bred bloodlines, the trainability was actually found to be quite low.

With regard to sex, it only appeared that it played a role in 18% of the breeds studied.  The two breeds that did show a difference were Dachshunds and West Highland White Terriers.  The males of these breeds were shown to be significantly more trainable than females.

Effects Of Neutering On Behavior

Neutering had zero effect on the apparent trainability of females of any breed.  However, neutering did show an increase in trainability in male dogs of the Shetland sheepdog breed in particular.

A chart shows the results of 40 years of experience from Jeremy Shantz.  This chart is a summation of his experience pertaining to the trainability and general friendliness of male and female terriers and cats.
Ratings based upon over 40 years of experience with terriers and cats.

The above chart shows my personal findings. This is with regard to trainability and introducing a dog to a cat or introducing a cat to a dog.  The cat breeds I studied were those I have had for many years in my life. This is including both the common orange tabby as well as the Himalayan and Siamese pure breeds.  With regard to the dog breeds, these include a mixed breed of terrier origins, a purebred Jack Russel terrier and a purebred Yorkshire Terrier.

How Behavior Affects Dog And Cat Introductions

So, we have seen that some dog breeds have different trainability, based upon breed, sex, neutering and of course, individuality.  Likewise, we have also witnessed differences in the behavior of male and female cats. Based on sex, neutering and again, individual personalities, that is. When it comes to asking ‘Are Yorkies good with cats?’, it will ultimately depend on the individual animals involved more than anything else.

The consensus here I believe is that we can make some fairly gross generalizations. But at the end of the day, it will be individual personalities of the animals involved that will determine the final outcome of the introductions.

We can make some assumptions. A male neutered dog or cat has a better chance. That is, of having a positive first, second and possible subsequent encounters with another of the ‘opposite’ species. But there are always going to be exceptions to the rule.  The individual behavior of the dog or cat will inevitably be the deciding factor in how the two animals will interact.

Special thanks to my cats past and present, and my dogs past and present.  For their unknowing participation in my study, observing their behavior over the last 40 years.

Bibliography

  1. The Experiences Of Farmer Jer – Jeremy Shantz (the author of this article)
  2. https://pets.webmd.com/cats/cat-pregnancy-gestation
  3. Changes in Dogs Behavior After Castration – Heidenberger E, Unshelm J; Tierärztliche Praxis, 31 Jan                          1990, 18(1):69-75Language:ger; PMID: 2326799 
  4. Gender differences in the social behavior of the neutered indoor-only domestic catApplied Animal Behaviour ScienceVolume 64, Issue 3, July 1999, Pages 193-211
  5. James A. Serpell & Yuying A. Hsu (2005) Effects of breed, sex, and neuter status on trainability in dogs, Anthrozoös, 18:3, 196-207, DOI: 10.2752/089279305785594135

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