Dogs for a cat person?
July 6, 2006 11:52 AM   Subscribe

What dog breeds are most suitable for a "cat person"?

In particular, the attributes of cats that appeal to me are their small size, lack of strong smells, quietness, tendency to shed less, small appetite, cleanliness, and calm temperament.

By contrast, dogs strike me as large, smelly, loud, hairy, hungry, dirty, and jumpy.

So, what dog breeds are the most 'cat-like'?

A few additional details: we won't be getting dogs for a long while yet; we'll probably get two dogs but only one ('mine') has to be cat-like; we'll only get dogs if we're living somewhere with ample space for running around (>1 acre of open space).
posted by jedicus to Pets & Animals (44 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite has a comprehensive database; one of their categories is "Reliability with Non-Canine Pets."
posted by Saucy Intruder at 11:55 AM on July 6, 2006

Poodles come to mind, in all their sizes. Maybe a papillon.
posted by kcm at 11:57 AM on July 6, 2006

If you want a dog with a catlike personality, you're actually going to want a medium to larger sized dog. Small dogs tend to be very active (read: borderline crazy), yappy, needy, etc.

Big dogs are typically more relaxed, lazy, etc. Of course there's exceptions to the rule on both sides.

I'd recommend you look into some of the medium to large breeds listed as more docile. If you want a really intelligent (though more active than a cat) dog, a border collie is a wonderful choice.

Glad to see you are making sure you have ample space first!
posted by twiggy at 11:57 AM on July 6, 2006

Methinks you want the cat-like, bark-free Basenji. If you read up on that link there are several references to how much they are like cats.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:59 AM on July 6, 2006

A border collie is not a good choice for those with a lack of farm and breed knowledge. They will destroy everything in sight if they aren't given round the clock jobs to do. Great dogs if you're home all day with tons of space.
posted by kcm at 12:01 PM on July 6, 2006

Border collies are also bad for people with kids, or other pets. Just don't do it. Follow SaucyIntruder's link.
posted by canine epigram at 12:02 PM on July 6, 2006

Small size: small dogs. Take your pick.

Lack of smells: not water dogs. Otherwise any clean and healthy dog won't smell. Except for its feet, which will smell like Fritos.

Quiet: Varies more by individual than by breed. We have a vallhund who is the barkiest dog in the world. Other vallhunds are silent.

Shed less: anything with a single coat will avoid the giant mounds of fluff.

Cleanliness: Dogs are dirty, and will roll in smelly stuff. You control this by denying them access to smelly stuff to roll in. And by bathing as needed.

Appetite: Dogs are more opportunistic feeders than cats are, so you can't just plop a week's worth of food down and leave it at that.

Temperment: not a terrier, probably not a herding dog. Or just take in an older dog, or series thereof as they die.

Overall: maybe an Italian greyhound or whippet. For any sighthound (and these are sighthounds) you should think about going with a rescue dog and checking to see whether it's cat-safe. Though I have a hard time imagining a cat that couldn't take on an Italian greyhound, it wouldn't be nice to the greyhound to put it in a position where it's getting beat up all the time.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:05 PM on July 6, 2006

(the rescue bit is only because you have no way of knowing whether a puppy will grow up to be catsafe or not)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:07 PM on July 6, 2006

I had a Shi Tzu that was calm and satisfied to lay around most of the time. In fact, the only less active dog I've had was an English Mastiff.
posted by Carbolic at 12:07 PM on July 6, 2006

If you want a dog with a catlike personality, you're actually going to want a medium to larger sized dog. Small dogs tend to be very active (read: borderline crazy), yappy, needy, etc.

Agree. I'm a cat person who was "converted" into a dog person by getting to know and love a Great Pyrenees. Seriously, this dog just sleeps all day, is soft and gentle and has all the qualities you describe - except for the shedding part. (I'm truthfully still not fond of small, nervous, yappy dogs)
posted by vacapinta at 12:07 PM on July 6, 2006

Response by poster: Wonderful, informative answers so far. One quick note: we don't actually have (and probably won't get) a cat. I'm just much more fond of them than dogs (for the reasons given above) and enjoyed the ones we had growing up, although we had dogs as well. Anyway, strictly speaking, compatibility with cats is not a necessary trait, though I don't really want a dog that'll have a tendency to attack or bark at neighbor cats.
posted by jedicus at 12:13 PM on July 6, 2006

Most responsible rescue organizations will ensure compatibility with other pets in the home by bringing them in to visit together (one by one) first.
posted by kcm at 12:15 PM on July 6, 2006

If you want a calm dog you might consider adopting an adult dog. Temperament varies so much from dog to dog, so getting an adult would let you see the dog's developed personality and 'speed'. Puppies of any breed are absolutely insane, so if you're looking for a quiet dog, you'd probably have a tough time for a year or two with any breed of puppy.
posted by robinpME at 12:18 PM on July 6, 2006

Greyhounds are couch potatoes that occasionally stand up and run 10,000 miles an hour in five-second bursts. They're pretty cool and pretty low-key.
posted by frogan at 12:18 PM on July 6, 2006

shiba inu!
posted by miss tea at 12:25 PM on July 6, 2006

I agree, go for an adult dog, and don't pay so much attention to breeds. Any dog will be loud, noisy, smelly, and wild if it is treated poorly enough. (This is also true of cats). Only shedding and size are reliably predicted by a dog's breed.
posted by profwhat at 12:28 PM on July 6, 2006

In particular, the attributes of cats that appeal to me are their small size, lack of strong smells, quietness, tendency to shed less, small appetite, cleanliness, and calm temperament.

I have a strong preference for the Havanese.

They are small, hypo-allergenic, very quiet (I get commented on this the most about our dog, doesn't bark at new ppl, hardly makes a peep unless there is a interesting smelling dog she can smell but not see), non-shedding, not much of an eater (all hair), well, she's a dog, so she'll get dirty if you let her (although she destest the water), and quite happy to just veg.

However, the Havanese is not aloof by any means, and prefers being with it's owners, and is quite affectionate. Given free space, they can also run pretty fast for being a small dog (former chicken herders is their breed job), but can be pretty lazy if you prefer that. They are best paired with a friendly social dog like a Golden Retriever.
posted by eurasian at 12:38 PM on July 6, 2006

Yep, go get an adult dog from a shelter.

The most cat-like dog that I've evern known was an old mutt that my aunt had rescued. He loved life, and it showed.

Another dog that I like is my SO's boxer ... but he was absolutely apeshit as a baby, kind of like the Rhodesian Ridgeback that we've got. He's exceptionally calm now, and makes a great companion... he nearly understands english. She also has a couple of adult Great Danes that are not only the biggest couch potatoes I've ever met, but are completely calm and peaceful and friendly dogs. I guess it's worth saying though that she's an exceptional dog trainer.
posted by SpecialK at 12:47 PM on July 6, 2006

My wife was a committed cat person until we (well, I) got a Hungarian Vizsla. She describes her as infinitely more affectionate but often a pain-in-the-ass (but I am sure would not trade her for the world)

* small size : females can be
* lack of strong smells : definitely
* quietness : they don't bark incessantly but use it to communicate. great watchdogs
* tendency to shed less : yes
* small appetite : yes but dogs are always looking for food
* cleanliness : yes
* calm temperament : ummm no. very excitable
* smelly : no not at all
* hairy : very nice, smooth short-haired coat. furniture-friendly in most cases.
* dirty : no. cleans itself like a cat does. seriously. licks its paws and other bits
* jumpy : yes. quite
* affection : no comparison. they give love like it grows on trees.

Vizslas are (supposedly) for active people (we are not active) who want a dog that crave human interactivity and give affection in truckloads. Strip away their dogginess and they are very catlike in their mannerisms.
posted by zaebiz at 12:52 PM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

...a Great Pyrenees. Seriously, this dog just sleeps all day
That's because the Pyr is nocturnal. It will nap throughout the day and roam around at night. My neighbor has one that seems to be the relay dog for the neighborhood barkvine. I've seen her barking while she's chewing food. She bit me the day I moved in and often fights with his other dogs. Pyrs tend to get along with small dogs and other herd dogs, but they will tend to fight other large dogs since they were bred to guard against wolves.
posted by forrest at 1:19 PM on July 6, 2006

I second the Shiba Inu recommendation. I heart mine.
posted by hendrixson at 1:23 PM on July 6, 2006

I third, fourth, fifth adopting a shelter dog. Although they don't act totally true to form in that (often awful) environment, you can figure out an older dog's vibe in a hurry. I was 'trying out' different dogs at the Humane Society and one came right up, jumped up and licked me in the face. I knew he was not my candidate. The next came up, checked me out, gave me a slurp on the hand and plopped down next to me. I knew we had a love match! We've been couch potato buds for 2 yrs now. Love her to death.
posted by CwgrlUp at 1:52 PM on July 6, 2006

A Basenji is very cat-like, but definitely NOT for an inexperienced dog owner, and definitely NOT for someone who can't fence in the entire area (and maintain the fence carefully) the dog will be free to roam around in, or commit to long walks on a leash with them otherwise.
posted by mikel at 1:53 PM on July 6, 2006

I have a great pyr and I can attest to her gentle personality. Also she is definitely NOT nocturnal.
posted by zia at 1:57 PM on July 6, 2006

"Except for its feet, which will smell like Fritos"
My chihuahua's feet smell like fritos. I have never known another dog to smell this way and when I tell friends they think that I am insane.

As far as cat like dogs... my mom had a sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog) that was most awesome.
posted by nimsey lou at 1:58 PM on July 6, 2006

French Bulldogs are small dogs with big-dog personalities: They're very calm lapdogs -- most of the time, they just want to snooze on your lap. They're usually pretty quiet (although they may bark a bit when the doorbell rings, etc.), they don't shed very much, and although they can be a bit...gassy...they don't smell, if you keep them clean.

One big caveat: It's a very popular breed right now, and that means lots of unethical/cruel breeders. Start looking with a rescue organization, like the one I linked above. In addition, it'll be easier for you to find an older dog, who'll be calmer and much more grateful for a happy home.
posted by PlusDistance at 2:18 PM on July 6, 2006

adopt an older dog from a shelter, one that the volunteers all love.

i just have to say, since no one else has said it - look into irish wolf hounds. yes, they are HUGE. but if you have an acre, it would be fine.

breed summary

they are good with kids, mellow, loving, lumps. and the howl is out of this world. they will come up to you and flop over like a friendly cat will, begging for a belly rub. you would have to have the coat maintained professionally if you didn't want to deal with it.

i know you aren't going to get one, but i just love them
posted by saragoodman3 at 2:23 PM on July 6, 2006

small size, lack of strong smells, quietness, tendency to shed less, small appetite, cleanliness, and calm temperament

I have a Lhasa Apso, and he's all of those things; he's basically as much of a cat as a dog can be. We've lived with cats and cat people and they've all been very happy with him. Also it's a myth about all dogs needing lots of space to run around—living in New York has taught me that many breeds are happy to sleep all day, if you give them two or three good walks, Greyhounds and Great Danes are renowned couch potatoes. My dog loves going on walks but when we've lived or visited places with yards, he'll wander around for a few minutes, pee, and then go back inside to take a nap.

He's so mellow that the other night he sat still for like five minutes or so to let me take this photo:

posted by lia at 2:24 PM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have a retired racing greyhound. They are great dogs (I'm a first time dog owner), often described as cat-like, and there are plenty that need homes as they retire from racing. They need relatively little exercise (are sprinters by nature, running for 5 minutes and sleeping the rest of the day), tend to be calm, rarely bark, short hair, don't smell. Mine at least is also a total goofball. She looks all elegant and refined, but in fact she's the biggest dork ever. If this flickr set of my Alina (aka Beans) doesn't sell you, I don't know what will.

One caveat: Greyhounds do have some needs that are particular - if you want a dog that will romp alongside you off leash in an unfenced area, they are not the dog for you. Some have a bit of a prey drive, but most adoption groups cat-test for such things. I have a cat in addition to the 'hound and they get along fine. It's the cat that's the ornery one, of course.

P.S. The racing industry gets a bad reputation that in most cases isn't really deserved IMO. So don't think that you'd be getting some terrified, abused dog with mental issues from years of poor treatment if you adopted a retired racer. Most of these dogs are incredibly good natured and can adjust from being working dogs to retired housepets in no time. Get one that's been fostered for a while by the adoption group and the learning curve is that much less.

I'm going to add my email addy to my profile right now in case you want to contact me about my 'hound.
posted by misskaz at 2:38 PM on July 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

We've transitioned fairly easily from being a 4 cat family to being a 4 cat family with chihuahua. The chihuahua plays well with the cats (that are larger than he is) and is mostly litter-box trained.
posted by john m at 3:20 PM on July 6, 2006

The thing to remember if you get something as small as a Lhasa is to treat it like a dog, not like a toy or cat. I've met more than a few disgusting, bitey, snappy, barky lappa-loozies that got that way through absent-minded spoiling and just picking them up when they were being little shits rather than training and correcting them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:52 PM on July 6, 2006

Great suggestions here! I particularly second the Whippet/Italian Greyhound/Greyhound suggestions. Most of these are mellow, cuddly when you want them to be, quiet, clean, sweet-natured, easy to keep clean (healthy dogs eating a good diet should not smell "doggy" except for a few minutes after they've been outside, except for oily-coated breeds like Labs), and are generally easy to get along with (a couple of walks a day and a good hike once or twice a week, less for an Italian Greyhound). Basenjis and Shibas are not really suitable for a first dog or for someone not really "into" working with the dog, in my opinion.

I definitely second getting an adult (ideally one from a reputable rescue group which has been in foster care long enough to settle in, so its true nature should be mostly apparent), since then you'll have a pretty solid idea of the individual dog's personality and habits (and if it's a retired rescue Greyhound, it should already be leash and crate trained, which is a big plus).

(and misskaz, Bean is gorgeous, love the roadkill sleeping position)
posted by biscotti at 4:36 PM on July 6, 2006

Shiba Inus -are- rather catlike, but I would not recommend one for a first dog, mostly because of this fact. They are highly independent (often aloof), very intelligent, and can be straight-up obnoxiously ornery (my best friend's Shiba, Shoga, hears his name being called, or the command "come," and immediately turns tail and runs as fast as he can in the other direction. He doesn't stop until he's sure no one is calling or chasing him, then comes back on his own terms. Bloody annoying.). They need special training because of these tendencies, by someone experienced and confident.

My vote? Miniature Dachshunds, actually. I like dogs, but still classify myself as more of a cat person than a dog person -- but when my family got one of these (a longhair, but shorthair will probably work better for you, as longhairs need fairly consistent grooming and do shed), I fell in love. They're smart, incredibly loyal and loving, and will spend most of the day (if they can) curled up in your lap sleeping. All of the mini dachsies my family has owned have been exposed to small children and the terrors thereof, and have handled them admirably, with an attitude of, "Ah, sigh. This is my kid, and this is what she does to me. Don't blame me, I didn't ask to be dressed up/carried upside-down/grabbed by the tail/put in a stroller/et cetera." One of their dogs currently is a registered therapy animal with Lend-A-Heart and participates in three to four sessions monthly. These are definitely people-loving dogs. Though it has been suggested that a medium to large sized dog will generally be better for "catlike," to which I mostly agree, Dachshunds have been the exception, as far as I've found - which is perhaps a plus for you, as you mentioned you liked the small size of cats. Mini Dachshunds shouldn't ever be more than about 12 pounds, unless badly bred (which can get you a discount, as too-big minis are sold only as "throwaway" pets by breeders). They also don't smell, are very (for dogs) clean, and don't require much food (though as has been mentioned above, almost all dogs -will- eat whatever is given to them; one of my parents' dogs will eat until totally unable to eat any more, and make herself sick, but normally gets fed only a tablespoon or two of food a day.).

Forseeable problems: if these guys don't grow up with a bigger dog(s) around, they tend to be fearful of them and aggressive verbally. I've never had my dogs actually attack or bite a larger dog, but they bark their heads off at them, usually much to the larger dog's amusement. ("No, really. You think you can do what?") They also tend to bark at the doorbell without proper training and attitude - if you make a big deal out of it and get excited and yell at them when they bark, it only encourages them to do so more. And if you allow them to jump on furniture and/or climb stairs, it increases their likelihood of back problems - though they're not as widespread as some would have you believe.

Good luck, and congratulations on your thoughtful approach to getting dogs!
posted by po at 5:22 PM on July 6, 2006

Seconding what Mikel said: I would not advise getting a Basenji.

Basenjis (which do strike me as cat-like--but in the negative aspects) are "barkless," but they *can* teach themselves to bark in an odd manner. Also, they were bred to nip the ankles of wild game in Africa--not an ideal trait in a pet. [Full disclosure: I'm a dog lover, worked in a very hands-on position with a wide variety of dogs for about a year, and was bitten by a Basenji--the only dog bite I've ever gotten.]

Some of the traits that are okay or desirable in cats aren't good in dogs: you don't want a catty, independent-minded dog because it's going to be tough to train.

An older mixed-breed could be a great choice. Definitely do not get a small purebred--in my experience, most of the small breeds are loud and hyper.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:56 PM on July 6, 2006

I was going to suggest a beagle, but I think a whippet (a miniature greyhound) is probably the right answer. Quiet, sweet, very short hair, well behaved, friendly (though sometimes a bit shy with strangers).

The only thing is that you must let them run sometimes. It's not like border collies who need half an hour of dashing around per day or they'll go insane, but you have to let greyhounds and whippets run.

Beagles are more compact but not really smaller (whippets are more stretched out); smart, disciplined, friendly, and have short fur. But they tend to bark a lot; greyhounds don't tend to make a lot of noise.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:31 PM on July 6, 2006

I vote for terriers, specifically a West Highland White Terrier. Fergie, of my handle's name, is a Westie and he is a lot like the Siamese cats I have had the pleasure of knowing--aloof, can spend time on his own, enjoys being nosey but also is affectionate if I want to be or if he wants to be. Belle, the other dog in our household, is a half-Golden Retreiver half-poodle mix (Goldendoodle) and she is the neediest dog EVER. I will commonly find Fergie upstairs looking out the window or asleep on a bed when Belle is following me around. Fergie doesn't mind being by himself. I like that about a dog.
While Westies can be considered a small breed, I think Fergie is a mutant Westie as he weighs about 25 lbs and is bigger than the average Westie. But he has a dead-on Westie personality of being stubborn, intelligent (for a dog) and inquisitive. He's highly trainable and doesn't shed much. I love having a dog which sometimes acts like a cat.
posted by FergieBelle at 6:33 PM on July 6, 2006

I also suggest a Viszla. These dogs are absolutely beautiful; they look almost like horses when they run. Plenty of space (your acre of land) is a must– a cooped up Visla will turn neurotic. Visla fur is short and never needes trimming. The size is bigger than a cat, but unlike the small dogs I have encountered, a Visla doesn't yap or act like a brat.
posted by reeddavid at 6:38 PM on July 6, 2006

I vote for terriers, specifically a West Highland White Terrier

Unless you can get a clone of yours, that seems bad advice to me. As breeds, the central tendency of terriers is pretty fuckin' far from calm. Or quiet.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:37 PM on July 6, 2006

I will never forget the poor Viszla that a self-centered friend bought 'cause they were cool, then she kept it tied in the backyard and it basically went crazy. Every time they brought it inside it would go nuts racing all over the house and furniture and they'd have to put it right back out. A nasty vicious cycle with poor ownership skills as the main catalyst. Don't get this dog unless you can give it lots of space and lots of YOUR TIME to play.
posted by intermod at 8:52 PM on July 6, 2006

It's about breed but it's also about the individual. My Shih Tzu is as hyper as can be, even at almost 13 years (although he sleeps a little more now). He is very friendly but not a lap dog and not snuggly. My aunt's Shih Tzu is calm, quiet, and will sleep in your lap for hours.

I think you *can* tell a lot from a puppy. Talk to a dog trainer about specific tests to determine the puppy's temperment. You're also probably better off with the runt of the littler cuz they're usually more docile.
posted by radioamy at 9:27 PM on July 6, 2006

Every time they brought it inside it would go nuts racing all over the house and furniture and they'd have to put it right back out.

This Vizsla behavior is not necessarily correlated with lack of exercise. Ours does that crazy mad dog running thing mostly after she has just finished climbing up and down a mountain for two hours. It is not insanity - it's just a Vizsla excitement-overload thing. It's funny. Now we just put her straight into the bathroom, wash her down, isolate her for a while then put a coat on her and sit her in front of a heater and she chills right down.

Agreed though - Vizsla can be very excitable and they need a place to run around daily. But the welcome you get when you wake up in the morning or come home makes it worthwhile (and the exercise helps you stay healthy too). Don't get this dog unless you will involve her in your daily activities - definitely not a all-day backyard dog. And yes they are incredibly elegant and beautiful and affectionate in the extreme.
posted by zaebiz at 9:28 PM on July 6, 2006

Our Vizsla.
posted by zaebiz at 9:50 PM on July 6, 2006

If you like a bit bigger dog, I've also heard great things about Greyhounds. Specifically that they are incredibly serene and calm. They are also short haired, but keep in mind they do have a prey instinct (that's how they get them to run around the track).
posted by eurasian at 7:32 AM on July 7, 2006

unlike the small dogs I have encountered, a Visla doesn't yap or act like a brat

Just to make it clear, reeddavid hasn't encountered small dogs, he's encountered small dogs with shitty owners; big dogs (like a Vizsla) can be and are just as yappy and bratty with shitty owners. When dogs are poorly behaved, it's rarely the size or the breed to blame but the person who should've been responsible for training them.
posted by lia at 1:58 PM on July 7, 2006

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