Dead cat walking? Jack Russell Terriers and cats...
August 27, 2009 9:38 AM   Subscribe

What are your Jack Russell Terrier + cat stories? I can't get a consistent read from The Google.

I've been scouring the Tubes for stories about Jack Russells and cats co-habbing. I found a very small JRT while working in a nearby city on a VERY busy street the other day. She was nearly hit, then terrified, etc. I lured her slowly into a building and then slowly trapped and leashed her. Within a half-an-hour she was following me everywhere, and has been an absolute joy. No bites from Craigslist posts, nearby vets and flyers. She wasn't collared or chipped, and she isn't spayed (she is probably close to two years, but very small). So I'm thinking her owners weren't particularly diligent. And they haven't made an effort to find her. But she is VERY domesticated, pretty mellow (but a blast to play with), great with other dogs, off-leash trained, and quiet. This is unlike any JRT I have ever met.

The local animal control (where I found her) has a 3-5 day kill cycle.

So if I keep her (a low probability -- I expect she'll show signs of the JRT traits that drive me nuts, or I'll find her owners, or I'll wake up to the fact that she needs more exercise than Usain Bolt), does that mean that I can never have a cat? I don't want to rule that out by making a dumb choice now. The Tubes are full of "MY JRT JUST LOVES CATS!" stories, but there are the occasional, "I had a cat and JRT for three years and they were BFF until he suddenly ate it" horror posts. I know that there is a bias in those data, as there will be here, but I thought I'd solicit for more info.
posted by dirtypants to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can attest that a friend had both, and they got along OK. They would occasionally get into chasing each other around, but it seemed more out of boredom than true animosity.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:50 AM on August 27, 2009

I don't agree with the dog whisperer on everything, but there is one thing he said that has stuck with me as truth. I quote (possibly misquote, but whatever): First, it's the owner. Then, it's the dog. Third and only third, it's the breed. Which is to say that individual dogs in the same breed are different and expecting each member of a breed to act the same is a lesson in futility. You can make some general predictions, but they're just not always going to hold true. THIS particular Jack Russell may well be fine with cats. Or it may not.

My experience with both dogs and cats - which has never included terriers, but has encompassed spaniels, danes, labs, shepherds, collies, hounds and pure-D American mongrels - has been that pretty much every dog, confronted with a cat containing household, will eventually settle down and accept the cat as a member of the pack. This tends to happen faster if the cat is there first but I have even introduced kittens to coonhounds without any fearsome incidents and that is supposed to be impossible. Dogs are pretty good at figuring out who is pack and who is not pack and treating them accordingly. That same coonhound would chase any other cat in the universe who crossed his path, but the cat who lived in our house was exempt. Dogs figure that the household cat is an honorary dog and treat him/her as such, which can lead to great hilarity and often genuine fondness.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:50 AM on August 27, 2009

I can't speak to JRTs specifically, but my folks have a Westie who gets along very well with their cats. Ditto on the occasional bait-and-chase games, but it seems to be all in good fun (cat hides, taunts dog, dog chases cat around, repeat).
posted by jquinby at 9:55 AM on August 27, 2009

Naturally, my dog is the best dog in the world. But the second-best dog is Didi, a JRT who belongs to an acquaintance of mine. Don't assume a dog will be like this or won't do that because of its breed. Dogs are every bit the individuals that people are. If you have found a dog you click with, keep it! Learn to train your dog; my Best Dog in the World and I go to school every Thursday - we're working on the Canine Good Citizen certification, and I'm an ardent supporter of Cesar Millan's views on exercise, discipline and affection.

I've never heard much about JRTs having problems with cats. Didi is the single calmest, best-trained and most responsive dog I've ever known. Give your foundling a chance.
posted by workerant at 10:00 AM on August 27, 2009

My mother got a Jack Russell after I moved out, and I've lived in a house with them for a month or so at a time with my cat.

Sammy Katz is a tough-as-nails, dog savy cockroach- and bird- killer, and about twice the size of Barney Google. Even so, prey drive in JRTs is very, very strong. My mom initially had nipping problems with Barney generally, and they were much worse around the cat. He seems constantly compelled to lunge and chase Sammy, who usually hides in the basement over the first half of our visit. Generally, keeping the dog leash-confined initially helps so that eventually he no longer lunges--but he still nips at the cat (often, weird, mouthy-looking nips) if he's allowed to get too close for too long. Mind you, we always supervise their interactions.

So, I'd be a bit wary about combining a JRT with a cat permanently, but your JRT might, of course, vary.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:08 AM on August 27, 2009

Oh, and regarding JRTs and exercise: with Barney both "play" and "exercise" are nothing more than bolting in circles around the house or yard for twenty minute stretches of time. I've never seen a dog more disinterested in toys or interacting with people or other dogs while playing, but he might just be a weirdo.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:13 AM on August 27, 2009

I have a Jack-Rat. She has always been hell on rats and mice, as you would expect, but learned very quickly that cats were off limits. As far as she is concerned, cats don't exist unless they're within a foot of her bowl at feeding time. Not that that ever happens anymore.

As noted upthread, dogs are individuals. But my experience is that even the most emphatic cat-chasers eventually settle down if the cat is in the house with them. My other dog had obviously never been around cats when we got her, and made it her business to tree them (in the house or out) whenever she encountered them. That was when we first got her. Now she will spend hours playing with a kitten, and the kitten is none the worse for wear except for the slobber.
posted by bricoleur at 10:33 AM on August 27, 2009

Depends on the dog, they are all individuals. But keep in mind that all terriers, without exception, are bred specifically to kill things, even though that instinct varies widely from individual dog to individual dog.
posted by biscotti at 10:36 AM on August 27, 2009

OP here. Thanks for all your responses....

I'm generally good about not blaming the breed, and I am somewhat versed about the possible genesis of breed-specific behavioral trends. Even though I'd like to fall solidly on the "don't blame the breed" side, even some of my intellectual crushes, people who have been quite radical, give me very technical reason to abandon that notion at least somewhat.

But it clearly is possible for them to co-exist. There are attestations to that effect everywhere, too.

For those who asked, examples of JRTs cat kills and concerns are here, here, and here.

posted by dirtypants at 11:30 AM on August 27, 2009

Oh, and does anyone here have reason to believe she'll continue to be this mellow? No chewing up stuff when bored unless given something, no constant begging for attention, etc. I have walked (run) her each night at a local off-leash dog park. And I've got her clicker trained in two short days.

Another surprise is that she doesn't jump up on the bed to sleep after only being told once (I prefer not to sleep with dogs), and will lay away from the table where I tell her to when I eat. But she will lay on my lap for hours when invited. She is remarkably non-JRT from my limited experience. Maybe she is just adjusting -- she has only been here a few days. Am I fooling myself?
posted by dirtypants at 11:37 AM on August 27, 2009

Oh, and does anyone here have reason to believe she'll continue to be this mellow? No chewing up stuff when bored unless given something, no constant begging for attention, etc. I have walked (run) her each night at a local off-leash dog park. And I've got her clicker trained in two short days.

Honestly, we have absolutely no way of knowing--she's been through some traumatic experiences and she's adjusting, so these things could change and they might not. I'd make sure the dog park is securely fenced, though, in case she does decide to show terrier-tendencies and bolt after something.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:47 AM on August 27, 2009

It's also possible she may not be full JRT.

I have a Jack-Rat as well, who is the spitting image of his JRT father. (He's also a fierce hunter of cockroaches.)
posted by bluedaisy at 2:24 PM on August 27, 2009

My parents have a JRT, who grew up in a house with two cats, and had two other cats grow up once the originals passed on. He will occasionally chase them when they've taunted him too far, but never with malice and never trying to nip/etc. He's an energetic little ball of muscle, and will still chase a tennis ball for hours at a time even though he's pushing 15.

His sister, who now lives with my grandmother, is much more mellow (also, smaller -- looks more like a jackrat!). In fact, she sounds a lot like your foundling. The closest she's got to chasing a cat is chasing mum's dog chasing the cat. Otherwise, she's a biddable, gentle, friendly little beast, who trots along for a daily walk but will sleep the rest of the day.
posted by coriolisdave at 5:00 PM on August 27, 2009

Have you contacted the local JRT rescue group? If it turns out you can't keep this dog - for whatever reason, they could help find a home. They might also have some ideas for things to do with the dog. You should also see if there any JRT meetups in your town.

If you look at JRTs on Petfinder, you'll see that many of them have the no cat logo - but how can you know if that means there was a serious problem, or if that means the rescue group of foster family is being over cautious?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:02 PM on August 27, 2009

My beloved JRT, Lyle, is consumed with chaselust for outdoor cats, but seems perfectly fine with indoor cats when we visit people's houses who have cats. He is, like many dogs, very interested in their food dishes and litter boxes, but not at all interested in them as creatures.

In terms of other behaviors, Lyle has never been a chewer or a yappy barker like other JRTs I've met. But he definitely had a post-rescue-best-behavior period for a few months before his natural JRT sense of entitlement kicked in, and your girl might too. I had never been a fan of the breed till meeting Lyle, but now I'm a sucker for their clever, loyal ways. They require a lot of attention, exercise and mental stimulation, but they are tremendously rewarding companions. Best of luck with yours!
posted by judith at 5:21 PM on August 28, 2009

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