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Cats & Tzu

Shih Tzu and Cats


There are many households that hold more than 1 dog...and there are households that have both a cat and a Shih Tzu. Most often, we receive questions when an owner already has a cat and wants to bring a Shih Tzu into the home.
Shih Tzu, cats...Can they get along? Owners wonder how to introduce a cat to a dog...and if dogs and cats living together can make for a peaceful household.

First, one must know that when people say "Dogs and cats do not get along together" is a generalization.... However, on the flip side of the coin, when you hear an owner boast about how wonderful their canine and feline get along and are best friends, this does not always happen either! Every single Shih Tzu will react different to a cat. Some will be very irritated, some will be good friends...And some will ignore each other.

Let's look at some of the aspects of what can happen when you have both a cat and a Tzu...Or if you are even thinking about adding one to your home. 
Shih Tzu and a cat being friends
Riley (Shih Tzu) & Spike (the cat)
Photo courtesy of Christine Wyman (NB, Canada)

When You Add a Cat or a Tzu to Your Family

Even if your cat or dog is very friendly, carefree and happy, it will be important to test how they will react to having a cat or dog in the house as a new member of the family before you go ahead and make any changes.

If you already have a Tzu and are thinking about getting a cat, you will want to have at least 3 visits to test how they react to each other. It is best if the last visit can be inside of your home to test how your current pet will react to a new member on their own turf. This is the same if you currently have a cat and want to bring a dog into your home.

What to Look For

While we all wish that our cat and Shih Tzu will become best friends (and some do) it is important to remember that this is not true in all cases...And it is best to prepare yourself for the most likely outcome: That they will ignore each other.

When they ignore each other and both go about their own business, this is a good sign...It means that neither sees the other as a threat.

Bad Signs

One must remember that with a small Shih Tzu, some cats can be just as large if not a larger size. If a fight breaks out, both animals can get injured...The dog will not always win in this case.

When the 2 are first introduced, it is best to have the Tzu on a harness - NOT a leash - Using a leash is not a good idea, because if you must quickly bring your Tzu back to you, a quick jerking motion on the leash can put too much strain on the dog collar and cause a collapsed trachea....So especially for times like this, you will want to use a dog harness made for small breed dogs.

Allow the 2 to sniff around and walk near each other. If your Tzu is behaving, certainly give praise. The #1 thing to look for is if they are staring at each other...This is a sign that they may be getting ready to attack each other! If the dog growls, the cat hisses or if either is crouched down and staring, removed them from each other, putting them into different rooms. This will let you know that it is not such a good idea to mix the dog and the cat.

Tips for Living in Peace

If your Shih Tzu dog and your cat get along or if they ignore each other, all should be fine. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

1. Be sure that the cat food is out of reach of your dog. Many owners complain about how their dog eats the cat food. Cat food is much too high in fat for a dog to be eating it all of the time...And the cat will not be too happy. Since cats can climb well and Tzu do not...Your best bet is to place the cat's food up high where your dog simply cannot reach it...Problem solved!

2. If you feel that they get along sometimes and at other times that they get on each other's nerves, never leave them alone in the home together! In cases like this, it is better to not have both a cat and a dog...But if you decide to go ahead and do it, it is important that they are not left alone in case a fight breaks out. You may find it helpful to keep them in separate rooms until you return home.

3. Do not allow the cat to get close to your Shih Tzu when he or she is eating. The same "feeding rules" apply here, your dog needs to be left alone when they are eating to feel secure and safe in their own home.

An Amazing Story of a Shih Tzu That Adopted a Kitten

The Sisemore family has a very incredible Tzu...She did not have puppies of her own and ended up "adopting" a kitten. The most miraculous part is that she actually began producing milk in order to nurse the kitten! Normally, only the changing hormones of pregnancy can trigger milk production...So this is truly a miracle! 

The Following is this Incredible Story Kathy’s Own Words:
Shih Tzu adopted kitten
The Kitten and the Tzu
In my neck of the woods there are quite a few feral cats. They come and they go but many come and stay. My husband tells me if I wouldn't feed them they wouldn't stay. But when those precious little faces are pressed against my back door I can't help but feed them.
I've tried to be a good steward with these ferals. To date I have brought two females into my home to live with my Siamese cat, Neeka, and female Shih Tzu, Bitsy.

Neeka, Madison and Midnight have all been spayed. I've also had three other ferals spayed or neutered. But there are still females that more often than not grace us with kittens. 
This past Easter I noticed one young female cat produced her first litter of kittens, three of them, on our back porch under the grill. 
My granddaughter, Ashton, was thrilled to have them so close so she could watch them grow. 

Sadly at two weeks of age one kitten died. Then even sadder, at three weeks, the mama cat stopped nursing her kittens. My granddaughter found the two little things stumbling around on the porch crying their little hearts out. Ashton scooped the kittens up and with tears in her eyes brought them to me, begging me to please help them before they died! I knew this was going to be a big job but on the bright side in a few weeks they would be old enough to give away.
I immediately went to the store for kitten milk, food and bottles. The little things were so weak they couldn't nurse the bottle, so I used a medicine syringe to give them their milk.
One kitten was easy to feed, calmly taking the milk I offered. This little one was so black even his eyes were black so I called him Tar Baby. The other kitten was a different story.

At each feeding she would grab the syringe, hiss, howl and scratch until she drained every drop from it. As Ashton was watching her behavior one day she said, "Grandmother, she's pitching a hissy fit!" I told her "Hissy Fit" would be a good name for her.
My other helper with the kittens was our precious Shih Tzu, Bitsy. She was very curious about the kittens so I would hold her and the kittens on my lap so Bitsy could get use to them. 
After a few days of just sniffing them my Shih Tzu began to give them baths. Sometimes the baths lasted so long I thought she would lick their fur off. She also began to handle their bathroom duty. Kittens have to be stimulated by their mother to urinate and produce feces. It is a natural process for the mother to also eat what is produced. Bitsy began taking care of this as if she were the kitten’s actual mother! Because she did this she had to have her face washed numerous times a day to get rid of her " kitty butt" smell!

Life was good, the kittens were growing, Ashton was happy and Bitsy was helping. All seemed right with the world until at six weeks Tar Baby developed pneumonia and sadly passed away very quickly. It was such a heartbreaking time. Hissy Fit was lonely and missed her playmate and brother.
kitten nursing on Shih Tzu
Then one day as I was straightening up my living room I heard a smacking sound. When I found the source of the smacks I was shocked to see Bitsy and Hissy Fit in my favorite chair. The fact they were in my chair wasn't the shocker. The shocker was...the kitten was nursing on my Shih Tzu!
Now, my Shih Tzu is two years old and has never had puppies. She's never been pregnant, so I knew she couldn't have milk...could she? I rationalized that in Hissy's grief she was using Bitsy for a pacifier.

But when the nursing didn't stop I took both of them to the vet. The veterinarian thought it was so funny but confirmed that my Shih Tzu did have milk and was nourishing the kitten. She also said mother and baby are doing fine!
Mother and baby? A dog and a cat? I don't know what you call this but I call it a "God sighting". My kitten needed a mother and my Shih Tzu wanted to be one. God did the rest by supplying Bitsy with milk so she could really take care of her "baby".
Hissy will be 4 months old August 4th and Bitsy is still letting her nurse. They will run and play till they can't play anymore then lay down to cuddle. Hissy will then snuggle up for a drink of "mother's milk" before they both fall fast asleep.
This has been the most amazing experience I have ever witnessed. I share this story with everyone I meet. Everyone is totally amazed that a dog would suckle a kitten...especially since the dog had never had pups.
There are also some really funny sides to this story. Since Bitsy the Tzu is raised with cats she prefers cat food over dog food.

(Note from AllShihTzu – Cat food is higher in fat than dog food & it appears that Bitsy instinctively knows this & prefers to eat the higher fat diet that is needed to produce quality milk!). 

In fact she turns her nose up at dog food and refuses to eat it. She also sits on the back of the couch so she can look out the window like a cat would. And what about Hissy? Hissy refuses to use a litter box! She goes on paper just like a dog!! She even "whimpers" when Bitsy is out of her sight instead of meowing!
Bitsy the Shih Tzu
Raising a dog/cat and a cat/dog has been a blessing in disguise. You can't help but smile when you look at this unusual family. An additional sidebar to this story will happen in about two weeks. We are getting another Shih Tzu. A little chocolate and white male. My granddaughter, Ashton, has already named him, Ollivander Godric Gryffendor...Olli for short. I have questions. Will Bitsy,Hissy and the other inside cats like Olli? Will my Shih TZu nurse Olli? Will Hissy be jealous?
This will be an ongoing story. I know it's an adventure I will never forget.

~ Kathy Sisemore – LaFayette, Georgia
We want to thank Kathy and her family for sharing this incredible story with all of us. Obviously, they raised their Shih Tzu with so much love and caring, that the dog passed on that love & caring to her adopted kitten. Kathy, Tom, Ashton, Bitsy and Hissy Fit…You are all marvelous!

Don't forget to become an AllShihTzu Member, so that you may receive reminders when we add new pages to the site & also be able to suggest a subject for us to discuss.
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Shih Tzu Mixes - Though we do not condone nor endorse the breeding of two different purebreds, there are many Shih Tzu hybrids that are waiting for or have been adopted. See a list of all possible pairings. 
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