Should You Get Your JRT a Cat?

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Terriers and cats aren’t a natural combination in a lot of people’s minds. Terriers, including the Jack Russell, are hunting dogs. Many breeds were developed with the purpose of chasing and killing smaller animals. Even though most terriers are now house pets, this instinct is still strong with a lot of JRTs. And when that instinct kicks in, both the cat and the dog can get hurt.

At the same time, there are plenty of Jacks who love their kitty companions and get on well with them.

So, should you get your Jack a kitty of his or her own? The answer is…


Know Your Dog

A lot of times, these things come down to the individual dog. So if you’re thinking about adding a cat to your household, or bringing a Jack into a household that already has a cat, consider the dog’s personality.

Does your JRT alert to other animals when you’re out walking? Does he or she turn into the Tasmanian devil when a cat walks by?

If so, then it’s probably not a good idea to bring a cat into your JRT’s space.

On the other hand, if your Jack ignores other animals, that can be a pretty good sign.

Do it In the Right Order

Happy Jack Russell recommends against bringing a cat into a home with an established Jack Russell. This is because not only does the Jack have the hunting instinct, but also its instinct is to protect its territory. And a new cat will definitely be seen as an invader.

Many sources suggest instead, bringing a kitten and a puppy into the house together, at the same time. Also, if you bring a puppy into a house with an established adult cat, the cat will have a better chance of teaching the puppy to respect it.

All the same, it’s always important to be careful and cautious. Even a docile terrier that has never shown any hunting instinct may suddenly discover it when face to face with a cat or other small animal.


Happy Jack Russell recommends consulting a professional animal behaviorist to help you to monitor and interpret interactions between the two pets. Even if you decide to go it alone, it’s important not to leave the dog and cat alone together at first.

If you have to leave the house, you can use baby gates to separate them. Also, provide the cat with high spaces where it can escape if necessary.

Here is how HJR recommends going about it.

  • First, keep one of the animals confined at all times. Alternate so both can explore the territory and get used to the other’s scent.
  • Once they’re both acting and eating normally, allow them to see each other through a baby gate. Have lots of treats handy for your Jack, and reward him or her for peaceful interactions.
  • If the cat hisses, or the dog barks, snaps, or snarls, end the interaction and try again later. This stage may take a few days.
  • Once they can interact peacefully through a gate, allow them to sniff each other while both are on a leash. Monitor closely for any signs of aggression, and end the contact if there are any.

Even after both the cat and the dog appear to get along peacefully, never leave them alone together. If you need to leave the house, separate them. And make sure kitty has some high places to go to, and that your Jack has somewhere he or she can get away from the cat.

Can Cats and Terriers Be Friends?

Though they’re not naturally allies, you’ve seen the pictures for yourself. There are definitely some Jack Russells who love their kitty buddies! At the same time, it’s important to always be cautious, and to keep an eye on both pets when they’re together.

Do you have a cat-loving Jack? Tell us how you did it in the comments!

Featured Image: CC BY 2.0 by Les Chatfield, via Flickr

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