The English Springer Spaniel breed is said to have first appeared in the 1500s and was bred to flush out game from the underbrush or, in other words, to “spring” game, and it is from this action that they received their name. They are wonderful, friendly family dogs that are highly intelligent and very eager to please, but does their strong prey drive mean that they are incompatible with cats?
English Springer Spaniels can be great with cats if they are socialized with them from an early age or if they are introduced to their new roommate correctly. Some cats might not be up for the friendship, but Springers and cats can become the best of buds or, worst-case scenario, co-exist peacefully.
There are, however, some considerations that need to be taken into account should you be introducing these two species. Not only on when and how to introduce them but also which type of Springer might be most suited to your home and cat requirements.
Can Springer Spaniels Get Along With Cats?
There is absolutely nothing in the genetic makeup of a Springer Spaniel that automatically means they will be cat haters. Yes, as humans, we have created the narrative where cats and dogs come from different planets and simply can’t get along, but in reality, it almost always boils down to socialization and the way in which you rear your animals.
There are, however, certain pre-dispositions in dogs that may make them adjust to cats more quickly. Although the Springer is not top of the list when it comes to dog and cat compatibility, there are certain elements of his personality that do make him a good option for a home with cats or to bring a cat into the home with him.
Most people’s main concern with any of the gundog breeds is that they are designed to hunt prey, and their instinct will drive them to chase and kill cats. This is, however, not necessarily the case.
The Springer Spaniel is used for flushing out birds, and therefore they are far more likely to instinctually chase birds versus mammals.
Their task as a hunting companion is to flush and retrieve, and they aren’t required to pursue and chase the prey down. Therefore a cat will stand a much better chance of being left alone by a Springer Spaniel than many other hunting dogs.
Springer Spaniels have also been described as docile in comparison to the other breeds in their class. They are still full of boundless energy, but their killer instinct to hunt, attack, and maim anything that moves, is not as strong as other gundogs. In this way, you will already have a head start with your Springer as it will be easier to train their gentle nature to get along with your cat.
Another reassuring factor is your Springer Spaniel’s soft mouth. In a worst-case scenario, if they do happen to get too boisterous and their instinct to retrieve kicks in and your cat becomes their retrieval object, you can rest easy knowing that your cat will likely be physically unharmed.
It’s unlikely that the Springer would have ever intended to actually hurt the cat and simply would have become caught up in what he thought was a game. Their mouths are designed to gently hold a fowl without biting down, so if they are retrieving your cat, then it would be held softly without any puncture wounds.
The main factor that leads the Springer Spaniel to be a comfortable cat companion is their intellect and deep desire to please their owner. This makes the Springer Spaniel highly trainable. Through positive reinforcement training, you’ll be able to coach your Springer into behaving the way you desire around your cat.
Are Field Or Show Springer Spaniels Better With Cats?
An interesting fact about the Springer Spaniel is that there are two types, and the gene pool of these has been segregated for almost 70 years, making two very different dogs within the same breed. The two types of Springer you can get are the field and show dog.
Apart from differences in physical appearance, it is the purpose these dogs are bred for that now define them and, to a certain extent, their personalities.
The Field Springer Spaniel is still bred as a hunting companion. They are athletic with a good sense of smell and strong prey drive. The Show Springer Spaniel, on the other hand, is more focused on good looks, and with this comes a slower and more methodical pace.
Naturally, the Show Springer makes for a better household companion if you are simply looking for a loveable pet and not a hunting cohort. They are slightly more subdued and chilled than their field affiliates, and you won’t be met with a constant barrage of high energy.
Bred to be pretty over and above everything else, they are more likely to make good cat companions with their prey drive and athletic abilities more suppressed.
Are Field Springer Spaniels Bad With Cats?
If you have a Field Springer Spaniel or if you are looking to get one for hunting purposes, this does not immediately eliminate the potential for them to get along with a cat.
They might not be as inclined as the Show Springer, but if you socialize them as a puppy, they will grow up not knowing that cats are anything other than best friends or siblings. Even as adults, they can learn to get along if they are introduced to each other correctly.
How To Introduce Your Springer Spaniel And Your Cat
The best time to introduce your Springer Spaniel to your cat is while he is still a puppy. For all puppies, the first 12 weeks of their lives are considered their socialization period. This is the time you want to expose them to all new experiences, so they grow up well-adjusted and not fearful. This includes introducing them to feline friends.
If, however, you have an adult Springer Spaniel and now wish to bring a cat or kitten into your home, all is not lost. With a bit of patience, there are methods of introducing these animals to each other that will allow for a diplomatic relationship.
Whether puppy or adult, the process of introducing your Springer to your cat needs to be a slow one and, in fact, starts even before they ever meet face to face. The first step is to allow both animals to smell each other’s scent.
The best would be if you could place your puppy and cat in adjacent rooms. Just make sure that each animal has all they require in that room to be comfortable – food, water, bathroom, and bed. This way, they’ll be able to hear and smell each other without any direct interaction.
To add to this, a good idea is to place a blanket with each animal’s scent on it with the other animal, so they get a really good smell of each other. You can also switch rooms and do this several times during the introductory process.
Remember to give each pet tons of love and affection during this time so that it feels like a positive experience for both of them.
When it seems like both your Springer and cat have become accustomed to each other’s scent, it is time for them to meet. For the initial meetings, you should do so with some kind of barrier where they can see but not access each other.
Once they seem comfortable with this format, you can then remove the barrier during meetings, but you should keep your Springer on his leash so that you have control of his activities until it seems like they will tolerate one another.
If you are introducing an older Springer, it may even be advisable to muzzle him for the first few face to face meetings. If there is ever any aggression during a meeting, you should not continue with the session.
Springer Spaniels are people pleasers that are best trained through positive reinforcement. Reward your pup for being calm and gentle around your cat so that he learns how you would like him to behave.
Eventually, over time your Springer and cat will become familiarized with each other. In many cases, especially when introduced young, the pair will become the best of friends. If this is not the case, don’t force the friendship. Not all cats are designed to enjoy the attention of dogs, but they will learn to tolerate each other and find ways to happily co-exist even if it means they don’t interact.
Although Springer Spaniels are hunting dogs and do have a strong prey drive, they are perfectly capable of living in a house with cats, especially when properly trained to do so. Often Springer Spaniels and cats will etch out the tightest of bonds and long-lasting friendships, making the Springer Spaniel not only good but great with cats.