Here Kitty... Kitty...


We are considering getting a Border Collie as an addition to our family but we have a concern. We live on a farm in rural Kentucky with three cats. How do Border Collies deal with cats? I love my cats just as much as I love my dogs and I can't make their life miserable just because we want to get another dog.


There are many households where Border Collies and cats are living in peace and harmony (my own is one of them). But for this to work there has to be several key features at work. First, you need to have a very tolerant cat. The cat has to accept being herded twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Many can be quite tolerant of this and even come to enjoy it but there are some individuals that don't appreciate being "stalked" their entire lives. Not every Border Collie may be so intense with herding the cat but there are quite a few that will take it on as their mission in life to make sure that the cat doesn't leave a room without an escort or doesn't cross the threshold to the living room. Anytime the cat moves, the dog is there. I have one that will creep up to about an inch away from the cat's nose and stay that close until someone calls her off. We recently placed a rescue in a home with three cats and a three-story house and each floor is occupied by a single cat and the dog spends its entire day racing from floor to floor, just to ensure that no one has moved out of their designated spot. Every Border Collie needs a job and this is his.

Many cats are smart enough to figure out that it is movement that triggers the herding instinct in Border Collies and when being herded will freeze motionless to "turn off" the little herding switch in their heads. Many Border Collies will lose interest at this point and wander off until the cat decides to move once again. This becomes a back-and-forth game and I know many cats that will take passing swipes at a Border Collie and then run in the opposite direction for a quick chase, only to freeze when the dog gets a little too close. Unfortunately, Border Collies are brilliant in their own right and some soon figure out that if the cat freezes and won't move to be herded, that you can stomp on their heads to get them moving again. It's a wildly amusing sight to see Border Collies and cats trying to outfox each other in a modified version of a game of "cat-and-mouse".

Not every Border Collie is this patient with a cat and like any dog with a prey instinct, some will take to becoming quite physical with a cat. This is of course entirely dependent on the individual dog so if you're worried about getting a cat-killer, have it evaluated by an experienced rescuer or take it for a "test drive" yourself. There's really only one way to find out. Just be sure that Kitty is safe during the test and that you can pull the dog away if things start to get out of hand.

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Page last updated August 1, 1997. All material Copyright 2004 Border Collie Rescue, Inc. and Dr. Nicholas B. Carter
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