If you are thinking about adopting a West Highland White Terrier, you are probably pretty excited.
But there are also surely certain things that you are worried about.
If you already have a cat, of course you want to know if Westies get along with cats.
You may have heard Westies have a strong prey drive and love to chase after small animals. But to a Westie, a cat that is almost the same size is not really a small animal.
You might have also heard that even though they make good family pets, they can also be temperamental. Yes, they can be stubborn, but Westies are generally a friendly breed.
So, are Westies good with cats?
Yes, Westies can be good with cats if they are socialized with cats at a young age. Westies that are not exposed to cats early in life are less likely to get along with a cat.
While I’m sure that’s a relief to hear if you are adopting a puppy, there’s more to the story.
And if you are adopting an adult Westie, all hope is not lost. So be sure to read on.
Here’s is what I cover in this post about Westies and cats:
- Westie Socialization
- Westie Puppy Socialization Stage
- Socializing An Adult Westie With Cats
- Other Factors to Consider
- Westies and Cats Conclusion
So now you know that you need to socialize your Westie puppy with cats, but what exactly is socialization?
Socialization is the process of introducing your puppy to new things, experiences, and stimuli.
It is especially important to introduce your puppy to the things that they are likely to be around throughout their life.
For example, if you plan on taking them swimming throughout their life, your puppy should be exposed to water early on.
If they will be around cats later in life, your Westie needs to get used to cats early on.
Exposure to new experiences like being around a cat should always be positive. This is very important. If a puppy has a negative or scary experience with a cat, they may never learn to get along with cats.
If possible, you should try to first introduce your puppy to a cat that you already know is good with dogs. This way, there is less risk that the socialization will backfire.
It is also best to start with brief interactions in a stress-free environment.
As exciting and stressful as it is for you to bring a new puppy home, your puppy is also equally excited and stressed. Let him settle into his new environment before introducing him to your cat.
When you are ready, you may want to consider introducing the two animals through a baby gate. This way, they are able to see and smell each other without the stress of any potential physical harm.
If all goes well, you can gradually start to increase their interactions over time until you are sure they comfortable living in the house together.
Westie Puppy Socialization Stage
I’ve said a few times that Westies should be exposed to cats early on, but when exactly is the best time?
All dogs, including West Highland Terriers, go through an all important socialization stage as part of their early development.
This socialization stage lasts from around 3 weeks old to 12 weeks old, with weeks 3 to 5 being the most significant.
During this time, puppies are extremely curious and open to new experiences.
They are starting to learn what is safe and what is not, which is why it is so important to make the interactions with cats positive.
Usually, puppies are not adopted out until they are around 8 weeks old. At this point, you’ve missed the 3 to 5 week period of their life.
Don’t worry, being kept with their mom and littermates for the first 8 weeks of their life is much more important than socializing them with cats and they will learn so much more.
However, this means that you should start exposing your puppy to cats as soon as possible after adoption.
Socializing An Adult Westie With Cats
When it comes to socialization, the rule of thumb is that earlier is better.
However, there may be situations where it’s not possible to expose your Westie to cats as a puppy.
Maybe you adopted an adult dog or you had your Westie before adopting a cat. No matter what the reason, all hope is not lost.
You can still socialize your adult Westie to get along with cats. It will definitely take longer and be more difficult, but it can be done.
The same general rules as socializing a puppy still apply. Start slow and gradually increase their interactions over time as they get used to each other.
Kittens also have their own socialization stage similar to puppies which lasts from 9 weeks to 16 weeks old. If you are bringing a new kitten into your home with a Westie, keep this in mind.
Introducing a Westie puppy to cats should not require a professional trainer. However, if you are having trouble socializing your adult Westie, a professional dog trainer is something that you might want to consider.
No matter what age you first introduce your Westie to cats, you should continue to do so throughout their life.
If your Westie has been trained to be good with cats, but hasn’t been around one in a few years, they may not react the same way anymore. So, if you want your dog to play nice with cats, you should continue to give them opportunities to interact with their feline friends even during adulthood.
Other Factors to Consider
Without a doubt, early socialization is the most important determining factor for how your Westie will fare with cats.
Nonetheless, there are a few other elements to consider.
First, many dog behavioral issues can be solved by making sure your dog gets the proper amount of exercise. If your Westie is barking at your cat it may be because he has excess energy and is stressed out or is just looking for a playmate.
Second, make sure your Westie doesn’t have any underlying health problems. Dogs who are in pain or uncomfortable are more likely to become defensive which might come off as aggression towards your cat.
Finally, no matter how friendly your Westie is towards a cat, the cat has to reciprocate. Your Westie is just one half of the story.
Westies and Cats Conclusion
Before bringing a Westie puppy into a home with a cat, it is a good idea to know what to expect.
Westie puppies are open to new experiences and can learn to get along nicely with your cat if they have positive experiences with cats early in life.
Adult Westies can also learn to coexist with their feline counterparts, but it will be more difficult.
Remember, friendship is a two way street. Obviously, I’ve focused on the Westie side of things, but in order for your Westie and cat to live together peacefully both animals have to be open to it.
Depending on your own situation, there may not even be a need to socialize your Westie with cats.
During their puppy socialization stage, you want to expose your Westie to as many new experiences safely and positively as possible.
However, if you don’t have a cat and don’t plan to have your Westie around cats, it’s not imperative that you socialize them with cats.
The West Highland Terrier that I grew up with was never socialized with cats. But it wasn’t a problem because Murphy was never around cats in her lifetime.
If you are adopting a Westie into a home with a cat, I hope this post provided some helpful insight.
Remember to start socialization early and good luck!