Updated: Dec 30, 2020
We often get cat owners who want a doodle puppy but are also concerned for their cat’s wellbeing. Of all the doodle breeds, which ones are the best with felines?
Fortunately, most poodles - and therefore doodles - have fairly manageable prey drives, which is another way to describe a dog’s hunting instincts. Both how a pup is raised as well as his breed heritage are important factors in how his prey drive will play out around the family cat.
How To Warm Your New Doodle Up to Your Cat or Kitten
For the most part, early exposure is key. Doodle puppies are likely to be highly inquisitive around a smaller animal but do not yet have a fully developed prey drive so your cat is likely not in any real danger. So getting a young puppy (most breeders send their pups home at 8 weeks) is likely the best course of action if you already have a cat.
Some breeders will actually expose their pups to a resident cat at a young age which can be helpful for their development when it comes to having a future feline roommate. Even if not exposed directly to cats, a puppy should be extremely well-socialized.
At JLDD, we use a socialization enrichment program known as Puppy Culture. (You can learn more about our training programs here.)
Other breeders may also use Puppy Culture or similar methods that involve presenting puppies with a variety of new experiences as early as three days old!
Having been presented with a wide variety of sounds from vacuum cleaners to monkey noises, and also having learned to problem-solve different challenges such as climbing barriers or other obstacles, a pup raised with these methods is likely to be highly adaptable.
He will neither be overly fearful or obsessed with his new friend, the cat, but should be politely curious and taught boundaries fairly easily. Oftentimes, canine aggression is linked to fear so ensuring your young pup is well-socialized and confident can help reduce fear-related aggression issues down the road when it comes to your cat.
Still, even with a young, well-socialized pup, some breeds are best avoided when it comes to sharing a home with a cat! Let’s explore some of the more popular doodle breeds and their average cat-friendliness levels!
Doodles Have The Right Genes to Get Along with Cats & Kittens
Doodles as a whole tend to be energetic, intelligent and highly trainable. All doodles share the common heritage of the Poodle. The Standard Poodle was originally bred as a retrieving dog (specifically for the water!). So Standard Poodles are quite athletic, moderately active and extremely intelligent. (Read more about the calmest doodle breeds.)
Retrieving is a skill that requires dutiful obedience on the part of the dog, and the Standard Poodle is no exception. Retrieving dogs had to possess a strong enough prey drive to be interested in chasing and retrieving the hunter’s prey such as a duck, but not so much prey drive that they were unable to follow commands on the hunt and/or mis-handle the game. A dog lacking self-control would make a poor retriever as he would likely destroy the game instead of returning it to his handler.
So when it comes to retrieving breeds, most are highly trainable, obedient, and have a moderate prey drive but can generally be taught to control it with consistent training. So in addition to the poodle, the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever are two other retrieving breeds that make up the highly popular Labradoodle and Goldendoodle.
These retrieving doodle breeds are often good choices for cat-owners. While the Labradoodle and Goldendoodle will likely be curious - perhaps a bit too curious at first - with a cat, they are some of the most highly trainable and eager-to-please breeds out there. As a result, they are generally able to be trained relatively easily to have boundaries around the cat.
Working breed doodles are another excellent choice for cat owners. Most working breeds were bred for a specific job such as guarding livestock or pulling carts for farmers. Many were originally used on farms in various capacities which meant they could not have an overly-active prey drive or they would risk hurting the farmer’s other animals.
So when it comes to prey drive, many working breeds have a relatively low drive. Bernedoodles, Pyredoodles, and Newfypoos are all examples of popular working breed doodles as their non-poodle parent is representing in the working breed group (Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees and Newfoundland).
These affectionate, gentle giants are likely to be playful and goofy—perhaps sometimes a little too affectionate for the cat’s liking but are overall known to be easy-going and non-aggressive around other animals.
We have named several good doodle breed choices for families with cats, but what are some doodle breeds to avoid? In general, herding breeds are likely to have too high of a prey drive to be a good, low-key cat roommate.
Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Old English Sheepdogs are all examples of popular herding breeds that have been crossed to poodles for some of the more common herding breed doodles (Bordoodle, Aussiedoodle, and Sheepadoodle).
The Herding Breed Personalities
Herding breeds were bred for their chasing abilities. They have to be very fast, and tireless (sometimes to the point of obsession) to do the job of herding a flock of sheep. Herding breeds are known for being smart, very energetic, and excitable around smaller animals. They possess a strong urge to chase and herd anything that is moving fast—this can include sheep as well as young children and cats!
Most herding breeds are not animal-aggressive per se, but their high drive can lead to an obsession with stalking the family cat. So while early exposure and training may be able to curb your herding breed doodle’s instincts, a Goldendoodle, Bernedoodle or other previously mentioned breed is often a safer choice.
Also, while they are not common poodle crosses, it is worth mentioning that dogs with strong hunting instincts should also be avoided when it comes to cats. Terriers often have strong hunting instincts as well as certain members of the hound group, particularly sight hounds such as greyhounds and whippets.
Terriers are known for their fearless hunting abilities- willing to dive down a badger hole and courageously confront animals that are sometimes larger than themselves!
They are also known for having a stubborn streak. So Whoodles (soft-coated wheaten terrier/poodle) and other terrier/poodle crosses should generally be avoided as they are a little too close to their originally hunting roots for comfort when it comes to cats. Similarly, sight hounds are very fast and often possess a strong need to chase anything that moves.
In conclusion, nature and nurture are both highly important when it comes to having a peaceful dog and cat household! A young, highly-socialized puppy will likely be able to be easily “nurtured” or trained into being respectful of the family cat. But nature is another key piece to the puzzle as breed history and genetics play a role in how strong of a prey drive a dog has.
Doodles as a whole are a very trainable, eager-to-please breed so a retrieving breed doodle such as a Goldendoodle or a working breed doodle such as a Bernedoodle are often excellent, safe choices for families with cats!
Jenna and the JLDD Team