Can Jack Russell Terriers and Cats Live Together?

This are no clear-cut answers to this question.

Jack Russell Terriers were originally bred for hunting which makes them more inclined to chase small animals, particularly if they run away from them. Paradoxically, cats are known to fear dogs and run away to protect themselves.

Even though they may seem innocent, Jack Russell Terriers have a natural prey drive to hunt small animals. It’s not uncommon for Jack Russell Terriers to harass, injure or kill small pets, such as cats, birds, rabbits, mice, rats, etc.

There are many instances where a Jack Russell Terrier and a cat live in the same house with not problems for many years, but that does not guarantee the cat’s life-long safety. Your terrier might show no signs of aggression around your cat but there is often a honeymoon period, sometimes many years, and then out of the blue something happens.

These behaviours might not be apparent on a daily basis, but instinctually they’re there and regardless of how strong their relationship seems, a Jack Russell Terrier can suddenly change and become aggressive towards a cat at any time. Jack Russell Terriers are not always predictable, so if it does happen, you’ll most likely be caught by surprise.

However, this does not mean they should not live together, there are always exceptions and there are always steps you can take to minimize the risk of harm to either animal.

What makes Jack Russell Terriers and cats so different?

Jack Russell Terriers have a very different kind of lifestyle to cats. The energetic Jack Russell Terrier thrives on company and social interactions. They are highly prey driven and often see cats as something they need to hunt. They also tend to be quite territorial in their home environment.

This is a polar opposite to the quiet peaceful life that cats enjoy. Most cats are happy with being left to spend the entire day on their own. Although there are some cats who do seek out attention, it is usually on their terms and when it suits them.

The Jack Russell Terrier can be quite a lot for a cat to handle and since cats don’t share the same personality traits, they can see a terrier’s behavior as intimidating or aggressive. Whilst cats are good at putting up with most annoyances, the Jack Russell Terrier can really tip them over the edge and they can become aggressive, or scared.

Precautions to take when you own a Jack Russell Terrier and a cat

A Jack Russell Terrier and a cat can live together, but ensuring they are safe comes down to taking the right precautions and putting the right measures in place to avoid potential problems. It is important that you supervise them whenever they’re together and keep them separate whenever you’re not there to watch.

There are steps you can take to keep both a Jack Russell and a cat safe in the same household.

  1. Discourage rough play
  2. Provide plenty of ‘high areas’ for your cat to jump out of harm’s way
  3. Ensure they are always supervised; both indoors and outdoors

It’s extremely important to take these precautions Things can go south very quickly if you don’t take steps to ensure their safety.

Can I leave a Jack Russell Terrier and a cat home alone together?

Best advice: NO! Don’t risk it and don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Just because there haven’t been any problems, doesn’t mean there won’t be any.

There will be times when your Jack Russell Terrier and cat need to be left at home together by themselves. When this happens, it is best to keep them in separate enclosed areas. If they are left to freely roam the house, there is a high risk that there could be issues at some point.

It is imperative that you keep them securely locked in separate rooms away from each other. If you slip up by not closing a door properly or forgetting to separate them before you leave, both pets are at risk.

Keep in mind if you forget to just once, you could come home to a disaster.

When is the best time to introduce a Jack Russell Terrier and a Cat?

The best time to introduce a Jack Russell Terrier and a cat is when they are both young.

Ideally, this socialization process should begin during the “sensitive period” which is between 3 and 14 weeks of age for Jack Russell Terrier puppies and 3 and 9 weeks of age for kittens. This is when they start to work out the things around them that are safe and the things that they should be wary of. 

It is important to note that if either animal has a bad experience with the other at this age, it is almost impossible to undo.  Ensure when your kitten and puppy meet, the environment is calm, safe, and controlled. This will help in a tension-free relationship over the long term.

If it is not possible to introduce them when they are both young, introducing a puppy to an older cat is also possible. It is best to avoid bringing a new kitten into the household with an adult Jack Russell Terrier who hasn’t been socialized with cats before, especially one who’s had negative experience with strange cats. 

How to introduce a Jack Russell Terrier and a cat to each other

A recipe for disaster would be to throw your Jack Russell Terrier and cat into the same household and expecting them to just “get along”.

To feel comfortable with each other and develop a comfortable relationship, they need to be introduced properly. It is best to have a plan before introducing them which will make the whole process a lot easier and prevent your pets from getting stressed.

Be aware though that this process can take a few weeks (or more!), especially if they’re not too happy about seeing each other.

Keep your Jack Russell Terrier and cat separated for the first few days

A good relationship develops when you take things slowly and allow them to get comfortable with each other’s scent before they even meet.

Keep your Jack Russell Terrier and cat in separate rooms for a few days and let them roam around the house or yard separately at set times. Continue to do this for the few days.

This will allow them to get used to each other’s scent in the areas they will be sharing.

Introduce your Jack Russell Terrier and cat slowly

Now the face-to-face meetings can begin. At first these should be for short periods of time, like 5 minutes at a time.

Closely watch your Jack Russell Terrier and cat to see how they react to each other.

If neither of them displays any dominant behaviors, you can slowly increase the time they spend together. However, if you find that they are getting too excited or there are signs of aggression/discomfort, then separate them for a while and try again later.

If necessary, use a leash

If things haven’t gone to plan and your Jack Russell Terrier and cat are chasing each other all around the house, a leash is a great tool. It can help ensure when you bring these two together, you have more control of the situation. If one can’t run off, they the other can’t chase them.

Once they are comfortable being around each other on a leash, try short periods of time off the leash.

Feed your Jack Russell Terrier and cat together

To begin with keep their food bowls close but separated by a baby gate, door, or glass panel, so they can hear, smell, or see each other when they eat. This can help to build comfort.

As they become more comfortable with each other, they can be fed in the same room. This can take time though and it is important to always stay with them until they finish eating to ensure there are not problems.

Make sure your Jack Russell Terrier and cat both have a safe place

It is important that your cat has high places to jump up to where your Jack Russell can’t reach them, and your Jack Russell Terrier has a crate or a safe place to escape to if they ever feel uncomfortable.

Praise your Jack Russell Terrier and cat and avoid any form of punishment

Positive reinforcement is the best way to manage both the good and bad times when introducing two pets. When they behave in ways that show signs of becoming more comfortable or accepting of one another, offer them a treat or verbal praise.

It is important to avoid punishing your pets or reacting in a negative way to any undesirable behaviors. The last thing you want is for your Jack Russell Terrier and cat to associate their interactions with each other as being something that will get them in trouble.

Always keep your Jack Russell Terrier and cat in sight

Make sure that you always keep an eye on the two of them when they are around each other and never leave them alone unsupervised. Problems can arise if you become too complacent.

Remember that even though they may seem innocent, Jack Russell Terriers have a natural prey drive to hunt small animals and they are well known to harass, injure or kill small pets, like cats.

Final thoughts

While it is not ideal to have both a Jack Russell Terrier and cat living in the same house, it is certainly not impossible. When introducing these two pets, it is important to take the necessary steps and be aware of potential dangers to ensure they are both safe.

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