Are Cocker Spaniels good with cats? As a person who lives with three cats, that was my first concern when looking for a new canine companion after I lost my precious Cocker mix to old age in the middle of a pandemic.
No surprise, being at home day after day meant his absence was deeply felt, despite the company of three feline companions.
I needed the company of a dog, and I wanted a Cocker Spaniel cross again, preferably a Cockapoo. But the universe had other plans.
After a frustrating search, I found my pup. She’s not a rescue, but she is part Cocker – American Cocker and English Springer. She’s a Sprocker! Her existence was a bit of an accident, but my acquiring her was not.
First, however, my Cocker mix had to meet my cats. Three very different felines, each with their own charms and quirks. One, the orange male, was my biggest concern – more about why soon.
Are Cocker Spaniels Good With Cats?
The answer to whether Cocker Spaniels get along with cats is very likely, but it depends. Breed-specific personality traits, as a hard rule, are gradually being debunked. True, breed doesn’t guarantee disposition, but you can play the odds.
Conventional wisdom about Spaniels suggests there’s a good chance this type of dog will get along with cats for several reasons.
Spaniels, including Cocker Spaniels, were originally bred to be bird dogs – dogs taken on hunting trips to find birds, not vermin. As a result, there’s a greater chance they will be ‘triggered’ by birds rather than smaller animals, including cats. It’s Tweety, not Sylvester, who’s more likely to catch a Spaniel’s attention.
Furthermore, Cocker Spaniels specifically are bred in favor of friendly dispositions and a willingness to please. Again, there’s no guarantee, but that does increase the chance they’ll accept all family members and pack buddies, including kitty or, in my case, kitties.
So, yes, it’s very possible for Cocker Spaniels to get along well with cats, and this experience is reflected in several anecdotes shared by members of the Club Cocker, Cocker Spaniel lovers Facebook Group:
Encouragingly, Barbara Wheeler says, “I’ve owned many Cockers and cats. I’ve never had a problem.” The sentiment is echoed by KJ Berr,y who says, “I have five Cockers and several rescue cats. They get along fantastically.”
Kimberly Swartz-Hettel adds, “My two get along well. The cat is ten years old and the Cocker is 2 years old. However, the cat had experience with another dog before my current Cocker Spaniel.”
While this personal experience is very encouraging, all three have something in common: the age of the pets and how they are introduced are key factors to successful cohabitation.
Monitor Cat and Cocker Spaniel Interactions
In my case, my puppy was very young when she was introduced to the cats, and she’s accepted them as part of her world, maybe because she doesn’t know any different.
That doesn’t mean all is perfect.
My dog still leaps off the bed when one of the cats walks into the bedroom, then stops when she sees who they are. The cats no longer run from her lunges, but the frantic leaping is annoying when I’m trying to sleep.
The cats rarely run away from the dog, which helps to reduce my dog’s impulsive reaction. However, a cat that stands its ground can be dangerous too, as I found out the hard way with my previous dog.
Cat claws are weapons – weapons especially dangerous to canine eyes. Yes, a dog can lose an eye during a confrontation with an angry or cornered cat. Sometimes the eye can be repaired – but other times a cat claw injury is so deep the dog’s eye needs to be removed.
Even if your new Cocker is enthusiastic toward the cat, the cat might not be receptive.
Slow introduction and vigilant monitoring are mandatory. In my house, the monitoring hasn’t subsided even after two years. And positive reinforcement is constant.
An encouraging caution is echoed by Dafina Curtis, dog mom of two Cocker Spaniels,, “It’s a misconception that cats and not just Cockers but any breed of dog cannot cohabit,” she says. “It might take persistent training, but in the end, it pays off.”
Gradual Introduction and Claw Caps
Keeping new dogs and cats apart for several weeks are necessary and introductions are a process – sometimes a slow process.
Friendships or simply tolerance are more likely if all pets meet when young. There is a lot of advice about how this should be done, and a lot of it depends on the age of each animal, but slow and steady is a consistent theme.
Generally, introductions through barriers at first is important, and then slowly building the time they spend together is a good strategy.
Cats should always have an escape route, such as tall cat climbers to jump up on or rooms gated in a way the cats can dash into, but the dog can not follow. Trust me, you do not want the cat cornered.
Earlier, I mentioned my orange cat – he was my greatest concern when I got my new puppy because he’d attacked my previous dog damaging his eye.
I took extra measures with him: I had the vet tech put plastic caps on his claws prior to him meeting the new dog. Nail caps usually stay on the cat’s paws for several weeks then fall off as the nail grows. I had them replaced once, until I could trust my orange monster.
Cat claw caps are a temporary fix, but an option if you don’t agree with declawing. Capped claws provide a buffer until both dog and cat get used to each other.
What ended up happening? Of the three cats, my tough guy orange cat has the best relationship with the dog now. They almost cuddle.
How Often Do Cocker Spaniels Bond With Cats?
Cocker Spaniel and cat bonding likely depend on the personality of the feline and at what age each was introduced. My current Springer/Cocker Spaniel-cross has a different relationship with each of my three cats:
- The female torti-cat keeps her distance. She’s fine in the same room as the dog, but that’s all.
- The orange male cat ended up liking the new puppy the most. In fact, he’s the only cat my young pup sleeps beside.
- The sweet black cat side rubs the dog affectionately, but it’s a love the dog calmly tolerates and does not necessarily return. This outdoor-loving cat has also figured out the dog can open the back door, which I suspect is part of her motivation.
Each of my cats responds differently to my Cocker mix, and she , in turn, has a different relationship with each. Apparently, this is not unusual.
For instance, Naomi Lukaszewski, a Club Cocker member, had a similar experience.
“Sometimes it’s the personalities involved,” she says, which is especially true with rescue animals. “We have friends who let us ‘cat test’ one of our foster Cocker Spaniels, Sawyer. Sawyer was fine with their cats. However, at his new home, he went after the cat and ended up coming back to us. I now evaluate during the home visit and warn potential adopters that dog and cat relationships might not work out.”
Similarly, Rhonda Robers, a Cocker Spaniel mom from Nova Scotia, says, “My late Cocker loved our two Himalayan cats we got from the SPCA. My dog and the male cat would wash each other, sleep together, and follow each other everywhere. Supposedly, the cat had never been around dogs before, and he didn’t do this with my other Cocker Spaniel.”
Are All Cocker Spaniel and Cat Introductions Successful?
Every experience introducing Cocker Spaniels to cats is unique, including mine. What I can say is introducing my dog to my cats when she was a puppy normalized the presence of cats in her world.
It wasn’t perfect – but there were no injuries. And after two years, there are moments of affectionate exchanges, especially thanks to my maternal and sweet black cat – she’s discovered a Sprocker is just the right height for under-the-chin full-body cat rubs.
Other Cocker Spaniel enthusiasts have had even better success.
Again, I asked several Cocker Club members, breeders, and dog enthusiasts, if they thought Cocker Spaniels could live with cats. The responses ranged from heart-warming success stories to heart-breaking tales of cats and Cockers grieving when they lost one another.
For instance, Besty Wolf, a purebred dog enthusiast, says, “In 1963, we had two Cocker Spaniels, and my husband at that time brought home a kitten that really shouldn’t have been away from its mother. We named her Garlic and treated her like a dog. She thought she was a dog. She and me dogs loved each other – the cat and my female cocker would take turns chasing each other around the house.”
Similarly, but sadly, Becky Delashmit of Texas says, “My dog Camille and Kitty were raised together. They ate together, slept together, and when Camille passed, Kitty moved to the front porch and never came into the house again.”
Finally, the last word goes to Patricia Halstead, a Board Member of the Clay County Animal Rescue and Education Center. She says her dog, Frankie and Kitty are best friends. “Frankie was very lonely when my older cocker passed away, so I got him his own cat,” she says. “It took them several weeks to get used to each other. However, now they get into everything together. Kitty knocks something off the counter for Frankie to eat or tear up. They are partners in crime.”
So, can Cocker Spaniels and cats get along? Yes, with careful introduction Cocker Spaniels can get along with cats. Apparently, sometimes too well.
Have you had success introducing your Cocker Spaniel to a cat? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author: Sherri Telenko lives with one young Sprocker, a Cocker Spaniel/Springer Spaniel cross, and three cats who tolerate the dog with varying degrees of patience. She also publishes DogTrotting– Global Travel for Dog Lovers and regularly travels with her dog, Victoria (but not the cats).