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Are Irish Setters Good With Cats? A Complete Guide

Irish setters are not naturally good with cats due to their strong hunting background. But although the odds are stacked against this relationship, it can still work with a lot of time, care, and caution.


Why Irish Setters Don’t Suit Cats

So let’s first explain why Irish setters have such a hard time getting along with cats.

It starts with the fact that Irish setters have a very strong prey drive. They were originally used by hunters to spot wild game. Although their primary task was to seek out the wild game, they did in fact help out all around.

Still to this day, when an Irish setter spots a rabbit, squirrel, badger, hedgehog, bird, or even a cat, their natural hunting instincts kick in instantly.

These animals are different species from dogs, they’re very small, quick, jittery, and survival instinct tells them to run when they see another animal that might consider them as prey. It’s extremely hard for an Irish setter to resist the “chase” when one of these small animals suddenly darts away from them.

Can An Irish Setter Get Along With a Cat?

Even though it’s highly unlikely that your setter will befriend wild rabbits, it is possible to nurture a good relationship between your pet cat and an Irish setter. Your neighbor’s cat? no chance. I’ll explain why the cat must live in the home with you and the setter for it to work.

How is it possible? As Irish setters are very much pack dogs, and they work off social hierarchy, both in the wild and in your home. If your Irish setter learns that your cat is a part of the “pack” then the relationship will work out just fine.

Key point: It’s essential that your setter deems your cat to be of a “higher rank” than they are. Your cat will always be physically inferior to a larger animal that could potentially kill them, so for your setter to give your cat proper respect, they must consider the cat to be “higher” than they are within the family. This is crucial.

When it’s easier: Technically speaking, it’s far easier to establish this relationship when you raise a puppy setter in a household that already has a cat. This gives your cat a fighting chance, to begin with, while your setter is still physically small and poses less of a threat.

When it’s harder: If you’re trying to bring in a kitten when you have an adult setter, extreme caution will need to be taken, but even still, with the correct approach, it is still possible. As long as your setter learns to accept that the cat is part of the pack.

Other Popular Irish Setter Articles:
How To Encourage Your Irish Setter To Calm Down!
When Do Irish Setters Stop Growing & Reach Full Size?

How To Introduce Your Setter To Your Cat

The most delicate stage of the entire relationship is the initial introduction. The technique remains the same, but it will be easier if you already have the cat, and are getting a puppy setter, compared to the other way around. *PLEASE take huge caution in the beginning as it’s you who is responsible for the safety of both of them.

In the beginning, your setter and cat will both smell each other before they see each other, so they will know some things up right from the beginning.

Some experts believe that keeping them both in separate rooms for the first day is the best thing to do. You can exchange blankets from one another for them to get used to each other’s smell before they see each other for the first time.

The introduction

You’ll want to set up across the room from one another, one person has the cat and another has the puppy.

The most essential thing to do at this moment is to distract each of their attentions away from each other.

Whoever is controlling the cat and the puppy must use toys and treats to do this. The goal is to break their focus from each other, calm their nerves, and create positive associations. It’s like they’re being rewarded for simply being in the same room as each other.

Then, separate them into different rooms for a while to have a break. After a while, repeat the process.

You’ll want to continue doing this until neither the puppy nor the cat is really that bothered by each other. For some, this may take be within the same day, and for others, it may take a few days…

The main goal is to continue showing each cat and puppy that they both belong here and are valued members of the family.

As the relationship gets better, you bring them closer together until you can let them down on the floor with each other. But ALWAYS be ready to intervene, and be sure to keep distracting and talking to them while they’re down. Try not to let tensions build and always diffuse an interaction before it becomes too intense or heated.

Please take all of the necessary safety steps in the beginning to avoid irreversible accidents.

7 Essential Tips To Develop A Good Relationship

Here are additional tips and best practices that will help the relationship develop properly.

1. Allow Your Cat To Rest + Eat Higher Up

I mentioned earlier about the importance of hierarchy and your cat needing to be higher in status than your setter. One way to do this is by physical location, aside from just eating, if your cat likes to take a nap up on the counter or shelf, continue allowing that.

Don’t worry, this will won’t hurt the feelings of your Irish setter, but it will show him that your cat is technically higher in “status” as she’s allowed up on high surfaces. It’s kind of like how we sit on the couch, instead of the floor… for us, it’s about comfort, but for our dogs, they consider this to be about hierarchy.

2. Allow Your Cat To Eat First

Aside from physical location, always feed your cat before your setter. 10 minutes or so before is just fine. This is another symbol to your setter that your cat is an important member of the pack, as she gets to eat before he does. In the wild, the higher up the chain you are, the sooner you get to eat.

Once again, this won’t hurt your setter’s feelings. It’s vitally important your setter considers your cat to be higher in social status than they are (within the family). Simply put, this is because your setter can physically hurt or kill your cat, but not the other way around.

So to balance out this clear advantage your setter possesses, he must consider the cat to be “more important” than he is, in order for him to properly respect your cat.

3. Don’t Let Them Annoy Each Other

Letting them interact with each other once they have an established relationship is definitely encouraged! But sometimes, when one of them wants to play and the other doesn’t it can become annoying quickly.

Avoiding little fights and “arguments” so to speak, is super important. Both your cat and setter could cause each other some damage, not to mention the negative impact it will have on their relationship.

So whenever you sense any irritation, be there to diffuse the situation.

4. Try To Spread Your Attention Equally

Although it’s good to let your cat eat first and higher up when it comes to showing attention, be sure to spread it out equally.

Dog’s typically crave the attention from their owners much more so than cats do, although I’m sure there are exceptions.

If your setter seeks your attention more than your cat seeks it then that’s absolutely fine too, just be sure to make an effort with both of them so they continue to recognize their value within the family.

5. Keep Them Separated When You Leave The House + At Night

Until your setter and your cat have had a relationship for MANY years without any issues, you should always keep them separated when you leave the house.

Even when they get along, a fight could still break out, and this just isn’t a risk you want to take. For the first few years, keep them separated while you leave the house.

This is also suggested for during the night. Cats love to snoop around throughout the night and this could trigger and startle your setter.

6. Continue With Positive Associations

Be sure to keep interactions positive and fun, play games with both your cat and your setter together.

Always incorporate treats for both of them. Nothing is more powerful than receiving something they both LOVE when they’re together. Make it a new household rule that both must be given a treat together, or nothing at all.

Building upon positive associations will really compound with time until the point both your setter and cat will literally be best friends. I know, that sounds amazing, and it’s certainly possible, it just takes time and effort.

7. Ensure Each Have Their Own “Safe” Place

Ensure both your cat and setter have their safe places if they feel overwhelmed.

For cats, this will usually be somewhere high up out of the reach of your setter, and for your setter, it will likely be their bed or crate.

Having this “safe” place to go is essentially a way out for each pet to go before one annoys the other. If your cat’s getting fed up with your setter she knows exactly where to go to relax and feel safe. This will avoid many fights and keep them tolerable of each other.

Video Of Irish Setter Playing With Cat

Proof that it’s possible! P.S There are many more videos too.

Thank you for reading! I hope this has answered your question on Irish setters with cats! If you have further questions please let me know! I am always happy to respond to my readers.

Other Popular Irish Setter Articles on The Puppy Mag:
Why Does My Irish Setter Smell? Fix Bad Doggy Odor Quick
Correct Amount of Exercise For Irish Setters: Top Tips


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