Why Does My Shih Tzu Act Like a Cat?

why does my shih tzu act like a cat - shih tzu puppy with kitten on its head
Depositphotos ID: 69799201 Copyright: cynoclub

Have you ever wondered why does my Shih Tzu act like a cat? I’ve been there. Sometimes Shih Tzus have more cat qualities than dog qualities. It has a lot to do with their size and what they were bred for and how they have lived over hundreds of years.

Reasons Your Shih Tzu Acts Like a Cat

There are a couple of reasons your Shih Tzu might be acting like a cat. Here are the most common.

You Also Have a Cat in the House

If you are a multi-pet household and one of those pets include a cat, your Shih Tzu might be picking up or mincing your cat’s behaviors. 

You might be surprised to learn that dogs can not only mimic a cat’s behaviors, they can also pick up and mimic your behaviors as well. 

If you’ve ever seen one of those funny cartoons where a human and their dog look-alike, well, they can also act alike. 

So, if you have a cat that is lounging on the back of a chair, chases lights, and uses you as a step ladder to get to where they want to sit, your Shih Tzu might have seen your cat do these things and have decided they want to try them out for themself.

I know from my personal experience that Truman (you can learn more about Truman here) when he was younger would jump up on the sofa and run over me to get where he wanted to be. 

He was also always a big fan of sitting at the highest point possible.

If you have a cat you may have noticed that it likes to sit up high as well. You might find your cat on top of a bookcase or at the top of a cat tower. Cats do this to show dominance. 

Truman always wants to sit as high as he can as well, but I think he is just doing it get a better view. 

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shih tzu puppy with purple bow next to a kitten
Depositphotos ID: 49538681 Copyright: FotoJagodka

Your Shih Tzu Was Bred to Be More Cat Like

I don’t believe the intention of Shih Tzu breeders were to make a Shih Tzu into a cat, but some of the qualities that they bred for 100’s of years ago ended up causing it all the same.

For example, Shih Tzus were bred to be companions. They don’t hunt or herd or protect. Their main goal in life is to lay around and be near you. 

Sure, cats naturally hunt. It is instinct, but when they aren’t on the hunt, they tend to lay around and some even like to cuddle. They are only active in bursts. Otherwise, they find a nice, warm, spot to sleep.

Shih Tzus are much the same. They like their playtime, but once it is over, they pretty much just want to curl up next to you and sleep, and that’s what they were bred for. 

Cat Like Traits in Shih Tzus

If you have a Shih Tzu then you will have noticed some or all of these cat-like traits.

  1. Your Shih Tzu loves yarn – my Truman loves yarn. If I am working on a project that uses yarn, I have to stand guard over it or before I even realize it, Truman will have run off with the ball of yarn and have turned it into a tangled mess. 
  2. Your Shih Tzu will let you know if they want to be petted – just like cats, Shih Tzus will make it very clear if they want to be petted. If you don’t pet them, they will cause a stink until you do.
  3. Your Shih Tzu sleeps on the arm of a chair – or the top of the sofa or chair if it is large enough. Truman does this as well. As I mentioned, he always wants to get to the highest point possible. This includes the tops of chairs and the back of the sofa. 
  4. Your Shih Tzu can sleep anywhere – have you ever noticed that your Shih Tzu can curl up and fall asleep just about anywhere? That’s pretty cat-like.
  5. Your Shih Tzu is smart and self-confident – Every Shih Tzu I’ve ever met is very self-confident. They know they are the king or queen of the household and they act like it. Shih Tzus can get a bad rap as being stupid, but that’s not the case at all. They are actually very smart. There’s just too stubborn to show it.
shih tzu puppy sitting next to a white kitten
Depositphotos ID: 95442178 Copyright: cynoclub

Is It Something to Worry About?

If you’re not a fan of cats, you might be thinking, yuck, I don’t want my Shih Tzu to be like a cat. Actually, however, some of these cat-like qualities are exactly what makes your Shih Tzu so special. Their need to be with you and to cuddle shows their love and affection for you.

Not to mention, Shih Tzus are very loyal. 

So, there’s nothing to worry about. Shih Tzus are going to be who they are no matter what you have to say about it. They know they are special and deserve your love and attention even if some of their best qualities are also cat qualities.

Related Questions:

Are Shih Tzus Good with Cats?

In general, Shih Tzus do get along with cats. Of course, every Shih Tzu has its own personality, so some might have issues with cats. 

It is best to introduce your Shih Tzu and cat slowly. If possible, it is great if you can get a Shih Tzu puppy and a kitten at the same time, so they can grow up together.

Interestingly enough, a study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior has found that “Typically, the cat appeared to be the main controller in determining amicability in the cat-dog relationship.”

And according to a Psychology Today article “Cats were more likely to threaten dogs, while observations of dogs threatening cats were rare.”

To Sum it All Up:

A Shih Tzu does have some cat-like qualities that make it seem like they are acting like a cat. From sitting on the back of the sofa to using you as a step ladder and cuddling up next to you demanding attention, these qualities are some of the best things about cats and added to the mix of Shih Tzu traits they are what makes this breed of dogs a wonder to behold.


Please Note:

This article is informational only and does not substitute for veterinary advice. Always check with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your Shih Tzu’s behavior. This article should not be considered in any way as veterinarian advice.


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