While some Labradors are hostile to cats, most can be trained to get along with your kitty. The dogs' playfulness and size can seem threatening at first, but when they get used to each other, labs and cats often can become best friends.
Making the Match
An older cat might be confident, asserting himself with an energetic puppy, but would find an adult lab scary and overwhelming. On the other hand, a kitten might approach any lab boldly, but her crazy antics could get the dog so worked up that your home ends up in a shambles. When you choose the new member of your household, whether it's the kitty or the lab, consider the personality of the pet you already have, and look for an animal with a complementary temperament.
Pay close attention to how the kitty and lab act around each other. Many cats have no qualms about letting the pooch know when he’s overstepped, such as hissing, growling and even smacking him. Labs often don't realize how big they are; as adults they stand two feet at the shoulder and can weigh 55 to 80 pounds. So, what's a good-natured game to them might be threatening to a cat. You don't want either pet to be scared of the other, so separate them right away if you see signs of tension or if they get too riled up.
Lab Traits that Affect Life with Cats
While labs have a prey drive, it’s not one of their primary characteristics, because the breed was developed to fetch and retrieve, rather than hunt. That’s good news for your cat -- except your playful lab might try to “retrieve” the kitty by carrying him in her mouth! Fortunately for all of you, labs tend to be smart, want to please you and respond well to structured, formal training. They’re also very motivated by treats, so teaching your lab to play gently with the cat or at least ignore him shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
Helping a Cat Adjust to Life with a Lab
Your kitty needs safe places away from the dog. If you don’t already have a cat tree, consider getting one so she can observe the goings-on from a high spot where she feels secure. Also, provide her with a dog-free room or closet, where she can eat, drink and use the litter box without being interrupted. A baby gate often works well to keep the pup out while allowing the cat to come and go as she pleases. With space, time and care, she should realize the lab isn’t a threat -- in fact, he might become her best bud.
- Lab Rescue of LRCP: Introducing Your Cat
- Best Friends Animal Society: You and Your Cat: Introducing a Cat and a Dog by Sherry Woodard (PDF)
- Central California Labrador Retriever Rescue: Is a Labrador Retriever the Right Choice for You and Your Family?
- Rescue Every Dog: Labrador Retriever -- Breed Profile by Tiami Coleburg