Potential dog owners often wonder if they should get two animals at once. Have you debated about acquiring two dogs instead of one and whether they should be the same breeds?
It might eventually cross your mind that maybe you could get a cat and a dog. What if you have or want to get a Great Dane? Are Great Danes good with cats?
A Great Dane, although not the first choice, can be good with cats. Determining factors include the socialization of both animals and the Great Dane’s personality. Risks center around the Great Dane’s hunting background, territorial and protective instincts, size, and capacity for inflicting tremendous damage. Danes and cats that are raised together do best together. Your Great Dane’s character idiosyncrasies will help you decide whether it is worth the risk of leaving your dog with your cat or neighborhood felines.
Why Great Danes Are Bad for Cats
Great Danes can be dangerous to cats for obvious and more subtle reasons.
Great Danes are 28 to 34 inches at the shoulders or taller and weigh 100 to 200 pounds. Whether it is a dog or a cat that you want to introduce to your home, you always must be mindful of the potential size differential.
While a Rottweiler, Labrador, or even Australian Shepherd can hold its own against a Dane, Toy breeds and cats can be at tremendous risk. They are susceptible to injuries unique to confrontations between large dogs and small animals.
Crushing injuries to a cat can come in a variety of ways. The more obvious manner is your Dane accidentally steps on your cat, pounces on him, or lays on him.
If the move happens slowly, your cat might be pliable enough to wriggle out from under your dog. However, your dog can fall on your cat or pin him, in which case he can suffer broken bones or crushing injuries to his organs or muscles.
The extent of injuries from blunt force trauma is often not detectable to the naked eye. Even a veterinarian may not be able to tell the full scope of internal damage until hours or even days have passed. A cat that suffers crush-type injuries can release enzymes from the damaged muscles that will shut down the kidneys and heart.
If you have ever been bitten by a dog, you know how painful it is. A dog’s bite is also damaging, and the smaller the victim, the more catastrophic a snap is. Because of the way a dog is designed to attack prey, its bite has a few dimensions.
Danes were designed to hold their prey. If they attack, their teeth will first pierce the skin and then clamp down with crushing forces.
An animal such as a cat will try to get away and cause tearing whether he succeeds or fails. Finally, a Dane shakes its head as dogs do.
In a boar, such shaking might dislodge some flesh while it would probably tear muscles or break bones in a person. However, a Great Dane would shake a cat or other small animal in the air like a plush toy, causing devastating injuries if not immediate death.
The shaking trauma experienced in large dog-on-small-animal attacks is considered one of the most dangerous to the victim. Much of the danger lies in the fact that serious injuries are usually invisible on an initial assessment.
Depending on where the dog grabs the cat, internal injuries can range from lacerations and ruptures to the abdominal or thoracic organs, tears in the diaphragm, or dislocations along the spinal cord.
Commonly injured organs are the spleen, liver, and lungs. If a cat suffers a rent in the diaphragm, she will not be able to breathe effectively. Organ injuries can lead to internal hemorrhage.
Great Danes are historical hunting dogs
Great Danes were once the specialized boar hounds of German hunters. The dog’s job was to hold wild hogs at bay.
Although other dogs may have chased the boar into the open, Great Danes were likely involved in stages of the pursuit as well. They then had to be strong, fierce, and nimble enough to either hold the animal or corner it again. Much of those instincts have been bred out of the modern-day pet Great Danes, but you should assume every dog has residual predatory drives until proven otherwise.
A Great Dane is likely to want to pursue a cat because it is small, perhaps unfamiliar, and has an instinctual desire to run and hide. A Great Dane’s history is to attack cornered prey which bodes poorly for any cat that gets trapped or captured.
Some Great Danes are territorial and protective
While growing up with a cat will eliminate many potential problems with your Dane, what if you want to adopt a new feline?
Poorly socialized Great Danes may not take kindly to a cat if they have not regularly seen one. Certain lines of Danes can be skittish or timid and may snap at an unfamiliar small animal like a cat. However, the greatest concern with bringing a strange cat or kitten into your home is predicting how territorial your Great Dane is.
If your Dane is protective of you or feels a certain area of the house or the entire property belongs to her, she may attack the stranger. Territorial Great Danes may also harbor jealousy over you and will display aggression towards “invaders” such as a new cat.
Great Danes can also attack your cat over toys, bedding, and food.
Play can be rough on your home
If your Dane and cat get along and become good friends, it still may not be easy sailing for you. Puppies, especially, can get quite playful with a young cat. Your kitten or cat might like chase games which can have your huge dog bounding through the rooms, perhaps knocking over furniture and other fixtures.
How are Great Danes good with cats?
Great Danes can be good with cats if you can meet several conditions. The key is to know your dog and the respective cat. Recognize the circumstances that would affect whether your Dane will get along with one cat over another.
One of the most important things you can do to help your Dane do well with cats is socialization.
Socializing your dog not only exposes her to a lot of unfamiliar items but also helps her cope with the unexpected things that can occur in her environment. A well-socialized Dane is fearless and self-assured and not prone to becoming overreactive with a strange animal or person.
You should begin socialization immediately. The critical socialization window is between six and sixteen weeks for dogs. During this time, puppies are most open and curious about strange things.
Hopefully, your breeder has started the socialization process before you even acquire your pup, but your task is to expose your dogs to everything. Your puppy should frequently see different types of people as well as various animals like ducks, chickens, horses, ponies, goats, donkeys, cats, and other dogs.
Also, take your pup to numerous locales and expose her to loud noises and differences in lighting.
Perform socialization within parameters that are reasonable for you. Your dog may not be able to go to the dog park before three or four months of age because of vaccination protocols, but you can possibly take her to puppy classes or daycare.
Make sure your dog gets an introduction to various cats, especially if you think you may someday have one as a pet. Teach her that cats are neither prey nor enemies to be feared or attacked.
If you already have a cat, it is easy from your pup’s standpoint. However, if your cat is not socialized, it could be the feline that torments your puppy.
Eventually, you should be able to establish peace because your Great Dane will soon be way bigger than your cat. The cat will likely try to keep to himself, and your Dane will learn to leave him alone. If you are unsure of how well your dog and cat get along, you should never leave them alone unsupervised.
An ideal scenario is where a kitten and puppy grow up together. Despite the size difference, these two pets are likely to remain lifelong friends. There is a dangerous period when your Great Dane is an adolescent and can injure your cat accidentally. Luckily, cats are quicker than most dogs and can avoid the clumsiness of your puppy.
Great Danes are typically good with cats because of their disposition. The Dane is a regal dog that does not normally experience fear or distrust. The breed is also sociable and likely to get along with other dogs and cats.
As of the late 1800s, systematic breeding has ensured the Great Dane has a lower prey drive than the average dog. Combined with a moderate activity level and laidback attitude, this low predatory instinct makes Great Danes a possibly good fit for living with cats. A Dane has a gentle nature and can learn to be careful around his small friend.
Helping Your Great Dane and Cat Get Along
You can help any developing relationship between your Dane and cat go smoothly.
- Introduce animals slowly – can keep in the same home but in different rooms for some time, place the dog in a crate where he can see the cat for longer and longer periods
- Toys can encourage less physical contact between dog and cat
- Avoid buying cats that have a high tendency to flee and act nervous
- Halt your plans to acquire a cat if your Great Dane shows predatory tendencies – extreme interest in squirrels and birds
- Avoid feral or aggressive cats that can eventually provoke a fight out of a Great Dane
- Train your Dane about your cat’s importance and status in the household
This video illustrates a positive interaction between a Great Dane and a cat. The Dane is a pup, and the cat also seems young.
Notice how the cat is a little uncertain and watchful but not prone to flight. A toy is distracting and keeps the dog from becoming extremely physical with the cat. This type of interaction should be repeated numerous times before these two are ever left unsupervised.
Note, however, that this Great Dane shows no aggressive tendencies towards the cat, and the cat exhibits a willingness to accept the dog.