We Asked A Vet: Are Huskies Good With Cats?

husky and cat in car

We recently go this question from a Not A Bully Dog Training reader:

I have a two year old huskie and she’s great! I’m about to move in with my boyfriend and he has two cats. My huskie (Bella) has met them a few times and done great but the cats mostly just hide. What do you think? Can this work and do huskies typically get along okay with cats?

I’ve seen plenty of happy husky and feline households over my training career but I also reached out to Not A Bully’s Advising Veterinarian Nita Patel to come up with the complete answer:

Huskies can have a harder time getting along with cats due to their high prey drive, which is a trait inherited from their sled-pulling, hunting ancestors. This instinct often compels huskies to chase smaller animals like cats or small dogs. Huskies are also very independent dogs which can make training a bit more difficult than with some other breeds. 

However, under it can still work! It will just be a bit more difficult than with some others breeds. In the best case scenario, try to raise a husky around cats from a young age. If that’s not an option (and in this case it clearly isn’t) try using controlled meetings, careful introductions ,creating safe zones for the cat and training to redirect your husky’s energy away from the cats and to something more appropriate. 

That’s the quick answer and of course every day is an individual so this won’t be true for all huskies. But let’s take a closer look at how we came up with this answer in the first place.

Why Huskies Might NOT Be Good With Cats

Let’s talk about some of the reasons why huskies by nature are not the best dogs to put with a cat.

They Have A High Prey Drive

The number one reason why huskies are not considered to be good with cats is their high prey drive.

Huskies are known to have a strong prey drive because they were bred for it. It is a trade inherited from their ancestors who were bred to pull sleds across the snowy tundra and hunt reindeer. The pattern of prey drive response in huskies looks something like this: orient – eye – stalk – chase – grab – kill – dissect – consume. While it’s pretty graphic to imagine, these dogs still have instincts telling them to at least pursue small animals.

It’s hard to determine how strong a husky’s prey drive is without seeing it for yourself. Prey drive instincts, vary amongst individuals and it’s definitely possible to find huskies with a lower prey drive.

They’re High Energy

On a less serious note, huskies may not be the best cat companion, because of their incredibly high energy levels.

Huskies are known for their incredible energy levels. If not properly exercised, they can become restless and engage in behaviors that would definitely be unsettling for a cat. These behaviors are the same reasons why many apartments have banned huskies. If left unattended, the high energy levels of a husky can cause them to bark, hell, destroy furniture, and make desperate escape attempts.

This dog isn’t the type to lounge around all day. They need constant physical, and mental stimulation. You can see how this sort of energy just wouldn’t match well with most cats.

They Have a Strong Bite

The husky bite force is one of the riskier reasons why keeping huskies and cats together is not a good idea.

Huskies have a relatively strong bite force. On our list of 68 dogs and their bite forces, huskies come in at number 23. That’s just below the force of a Rottweiler’s bite. A huskies bite can exert somewhere around 320 pounds per square inch of pressure.

320 psi is about the optimal pressure you would use to power wash the exterior of your home. You would never want to spray a small animal, like a cat with a power washer of this strength.

The problem with having such a strong bite force is that if your husky decides to Chase and grab your cat, the damage will be devastating. They are not a dog known for their soft mouth.

They’re Independent

The last thing that makes it difficult for huskies to cohabitate with cats is that they are incredibly independent.

Huskies have an independent streak and may not always exhibit the same social behaviors as other dog breeds. This independence can make it challenging for them to adjust to a cat’s presence.

Furthermore, their independence can sometimes translate into stubbornness. Your husky may be too smart for their own good and may choose to ignore your commands when they decide they want to do something.

Even if your husky is well trained, their independence can make them dangerous around cats.

Why Huskies Might Be Okay With Cats

There are a lot of reasons why huskies probably aren’t the best dogs to pair with cats but let’s look at what they have going for them!

They’re Smart

Siberian Huskies are a dog breed known for their intelligence.

As a matter of fact, many husky owners complain that their dogs are too smart for their own good. Huskies are intelligent because of their breeding. These dogs were true working dogs and needed to be able to perform many tasks throughout the day.

Huskies had to pull sleds and be able to track down reindeer. Huskies often work in packs and need to be able to communicate with each other. These dogs are natural problem solvers.

Because of this, huskies are highly trainable (but difficult to discipline). Their good communication skills translate very well into training! Huskies can be easily trained to perform plenty of commands. Since they are natural problem solvers, they will be up for the task of learning something new.

Despite their trainability, there are still certain things huskies can’t be trained to do. Being off-leash is one thing that’s nearly impossible to train a husky to do. That goes back to their high prey drive, and need to chase down small animals. Coexisting with a cat is also something that would be very difficult to train a husky to do.

They’ve Lived With Cats Their Whole Life

Another thing that would make a husky a good candidate for a cat household is if they’re already used to the animals.

Huskies who have been raised with cats for their entire lives seem to have no problem accepting them as family members. These dogs know that the cats aren’t prey animals, and are instead companions.

If you adopt a husky as a puppy, and you already have a cat, it should be pretty easy to teach them not to chase the cat. Or, if you find a husky that’s lived in a house with cats before, it’s likely that they’ll be fine with a new cat.

There really aren’t too many things that predispose huskies to being good with cats.

Steps To Train Your Husky To Be Okay With Cats

If you’re set on bringing a husky into your cat household, there are many steps to take in order to ensure the safety of your feline friend. Even dogs like Rottweilers can be trained to live with and accept cats, it just takes time, work, and a little bit of luck.

Here are the steps you’ll need to take when bringing a husky into a house with a cat.

1. Raise Them With Cats From a Young Age

The number one best thing you can do to ensure your cat and husky get along is to get your husky as a puppy. Puppies are a lot less menacing than adult dogs. They are playful and don’t have a serious prey drive yet. Your puppy will learn that the cat is not just a plaything. By giving them warnings at a young age, your cat sets the precedent for your husky that they are not prey.

2. Make Sure Your Cat Has Safe Zones

Before you even think about letting your two animals meet each other, take a look at your space.

You need to ensure that your cat has plenty of “safe zones” that can’t be accessed by a husky. These areas serve to calm and reassure your cat and let them know they can escape if they need to. Good examples of safe zones are cat trees and small doggie doors. If your cat has a few escape plans, they’ll feel less trapped when they first meet your husky.

3. Introduce Them Through Smell Only At First

Once you have some safe escape routes for your cat, you can start the introduction process.

The first step in this process is letting your animals get to know each other through scent. At this point, your pets will be kept in separate rooms. Give each of them something that smells like the other one. You can put one of the husky toys in your cat’s room. Then you can try putting one of your cat beds in the Huskies room.

You’ll notice that your animals spend tons of time sniffing and smelling the objects. This smell introduction gives them time to process the idea that a new family member is in the house without the physical presence of that animal.

4. Let Them Meet On Leash

Finally, you can let your animals meet on a leash and Dr. Patel explains that, “This creates a situation in which you, as the owner, have the control of the situation if anything concerning were to happen if both are on leash.”

You might need to do this soft meeting a few times before letting your pup off-leash. If your husky starts to show any signs of chasing your cat, that’s probably not good. But if you have a few meetings where both the animals that comfortable and relaxed, you can try to let your pets off leash.

5. Supervise The First Off Leash Interaction

Letting your husky off leash is probably the scariest step in this introduction. You need to pay close attention and make sure you’re nearby in case your cat needs to be rescued.  Watch your husky for growling, raised lips, or raised hair. Even intent staring is a bad sign!

If everything seems OK between the two animals, you can finally move on to the last step.

6. Let Them Start To Cohabitate

Eventually, you’ll need to let your animals start to live together naturally.

Your cat might still be wary of the new addition to the family at first. That’s normal and as long as you have safe zones set up your cat should be OK to escape when they feel overwhelmed. During the initial phases of cohabitation, your number one concern is making sure that both animals are safe. As long as that remains true, they can work on their relationship and selves.

If you’re lucky, you might have a husky with a low prey drive and get along just fine with your cat.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a dog to pair with a cat, huskies aren’t the best option.

These dogs are stubborn and focused and have a high prey drive that’s difficult to break. Though they’re smart and easy to train, some individuals won’t ever be able to be trained enough to live with a cat. But if you can adopt a husky as a puppy, the training journey will be a lot easier. Your pup will learn from a young age to respect their cat, and will definitely grow to love them

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