Like many breeds, some Shiba Inus do well with cats and some don’t. The key is finding a dog that isn't overly aggressive and a kitty who's neither too shy nor too dominant. With the right mix of personalities, all of you can enjoy an active, stimulating life.
Shiba Inus tend to be dominant. They like being in charge, so if you have an assertive cat you might find yourself caught in the middle of a battle for control. An overly submissive kitty, on the other hand, could trigger a Shiba’s hunting instinct, which won’t make for a happy home. Shibas can get along well with cats if both animals have been socialized appropriately. Raising a Shiba and a cat together from weaning can increase the chances that they’ll get along throughout their lives.
In Japan, Shiba Inus were bred to hunt birds, boar and other small game. Today that instinct remains strong enough that the dogs aren't trustworthy around small animals -- squirrels and chipmunks you encounter on walks, for instance, as well as guinea pigs, parakeets or rabbits in your home. A kitten zooming around the house could trigger the predatory instinct in an adult Shiba, which might see the behavior as fleeing rather than play.
Finding the Right Shiba
If you want an adult dog, breed-specific rescue operations can match you with a Shiba Inu that has proven himself to be good with cats. If you prefer a puppy, ask the breeder if your pick has been around cats and how those interactions have gone. Also watch how he plays with his littermates. If he’s especially aggressive and loves to roughhouse, he might not be a good companion for a cat. If he’s more interested in having gentle fun and shows a mellow temperament, he might get along well with a kitty.
If you get a Shiba puppy, he’ll chew everything he can get his teeth on. This could include your kitty, which won't go over well with her. Distract your Shiba and use rewards to reinforce the behaviors you want. Shibas tend to be extremely possessive of toys, food and anything else they view as theirs. Putting the cat in another room while the Shiba eats can prevent problems. Spaying or neutering usually reduces aggressive urges, too. If you need professional advice, look for a behaviorist or trainer experienced with this breed; someone unfamiliar with Shibas could actually hurt more than help.