Greyhounds and Cats
The simple fact is greyhounds can in many cases learn to live with cats in total harmony, but this takes time, vigilance and patience.
At SGS we will whenever possible "cat test" our greyhounds. This test consists of monitoring the greyhounds reaction to the cat. We do not take this lightly and in fact if we have any doubt we will not home that dog to a home with cats. What we are looking for is a dog that can be distracted from the cat, whether with food, or attention, or even better when the dog himself pays little attention to the cat. A complete no is when the dog stares transfixed, trembles and the body is rigid, nothing can make this dog take his or her eyes off the cat, and when someone blocks the cat from the greyhounds sight, the dog will try to see around the person to see the cat. This dog is promptly taken from the room and is classed as not cat trainable by us. In a way this is sad because many of these dogs could, in time and with care, be taught to live with a cat, but as a rescue its too much of a responsibility to risk passing this dog onto a home with a cat, unless the new owners have a lot of experience with this situation.
If the dog can be distracted the test is taken up a notch, the dog will have to see the cat move, again this can cause a reaction as greyhounds chase instinct is triggered by movement. Then if the dog looks at cat but then away again, we will keep at this. If the cat can meow again we look for reaction to that. A dog that shows interest in the cat in a more relaxed way, sometimes almost playfully, the body is relaxed, the tail is wagging, the dog can look at you when you talk to them, and maybe back at the cat then away. This dog will be classed as potentially trainable. There are also dogs that show zero interest in some cases fearful of the cat, easily distracted no matter what the cat does, is classed as cat. trainable. The test isnt a training session, its just purely there to learn more about that dog. If possible we like to try and get these dogs into a foster home with cats to take this further.
Although we have done these tests, we can never ever say a greyhound is cat safe. The training is ongoing when in the dogs new home, and new owners must be prepared for a stressful few days or weeks until the dog starts to feel settled.
Just before you bring your greyhound home please, ensure that your cat is indoors and cannot get out. The cat should be kept inside for an absolute minimum of 10 days. The purpose of this is because If your cat really does "freak out" about sharing its house with a greyhound, it could do what cats do and make itself scarce for a while or worse, you run the risk of never seeing your cat again if it is extremely stressed in the beginning. You are also training your cat to live with a greyhound remember! Also greyhounds who are exposed to cats on a regular basis generally become accustomed to the cat quicker. If the cat is a permanent fixture in the house, the greyhound will be exposed to the cat much more. The cat stops becoming a novelty, its part of the dogs new life, part of the package.
The cat should be given the option of having a dog free area somewhere in the house but do not shut the dog out of this area. It is preferable to use dog gates/ children's stair gates. This means that your cat can freely come and go as it pleases but the dog cannot follow. However, the dog will be able to see the cat at all times. Continually separating cat and greyhound will make the dog a lot more interested in the cat because of the novelty factor of seeing it.
If you have any other dogs, introduce the dogs outside, perhaps allow the dogs to run round the garden or go for a walk if possible, get their greetings out of the way and generally just wait for them to settle down before going inside to meet the cat. Before allowing your new greyhound inside, ensure that it is on a strong lead, the greyhound collar is fitted tightly (to prevent the dog backing out of it) and the dog is securely muzzled.
Do not try to hold the cat in your arms. You will get severely scratched and bitten by the cat and it also heightens the greyhound's interest. On introduction to the cat, make sure you have a firm grip on the lead. The greyhound may pull and lunge towards the cat. Gently pull the dog back and say "NO" very forcibly. The tone of the "NO" is very important - you have to mean it. Try to distract the greyhound by calling its name and by having some very nice dog treats available. Cheese works well. Every time your dog lunges for the cat, do the same again. If you can distract the dog, reward the dog well and give lots of cuddles. Keep the dog on lead and muzzled at all times when the dog and cat are together but let the cat come and go as it pleases. (The muzzle must be removed to allow the dog to eat, or if the dog shows any signs of vomitting. Make sure you have a firm grip on the dogs lead at these times and try to keep the cat away from the dog whilst it is unmuzzled. Other than that, it is possible for a greyhounds to drink and do all other things whilst wearing a muzzle).
As long as your dog is muzzled the cat is safe from serious harm, do not after a couple of days think "oh they are fine now" and take off the muzzle. This is serious business. Some dogs take longer than others to train and it also can be affected by the resident cat; a sleepy older cat is less of a temptation than a flighty young cat that zooms around the place for instance. If you have children the whole household needs to be vigilant. If the cat is in another room and you have given the dog time out from the muzzle and lead, a door opened at the wrong time can be disastrous. So for a while be aware where your cat is at all times.
Once you feel your dog making an improvement with the cat, change things a little. An improvement can be quantified as the greyhound is no longer "fixed" on the cat or if the cat hisses at the dog, the dog looks away and puts its head down maybe falls asleep while the cat is in the room. When you are at home, take the lead off the dog but still keep it muzzled. Should the greyhound have the urge to chase the cat, you are there to supervise and say "NO" if necessary and of course, reward the good behaviour. . Keep up this routine until the greyhound has really lost interest in the cat.
Once you feel confident that the greyhound has lost interest, you can then take the muzzle off while you are at home to supervise. Again, correct any undesirable behaviour with the word "NO" and reward the greyhound for good behaviour. We get asked a lot "when will i know when its safe to take of muzzle or leave them together?". It's hard to answer some dogs show zero interest from the get go, some take longer. You will need to trust your own instincts here.
The final stage is for you to leave an unmuzzled greyhound together with the cat unsupervised. Providing the greyhound has lost all interest in the cat, this should not be a problem. However, the first time you leave them together pretend you are going out but be just outside so if anything does happen, you are there to intervene. Gradually, leave them for longer periods of time and before long, you will be able to go out safe in the knowledge that cat and dog are happy together. There are many photographs of greyhounds curled up with cats, showing affection even. This is of course possible but not something to be aimed for as such, you are looking for NO interest from the dog to the cat. Affection towards each other may come in time however, but not always. Indifference will do nicely.
Then there is outside, even after you have reached the stage indoors where cat and dog can be together easily, NEVER assume this will be the case in the garden. You need to go through a similar process in the garden. However as by this time the dog knows and has bonded with you, knows the cat and his surroundings its usually a lot easier.
Keep in mind that while your own dog might be totally safe with your cat, she is their cat, part of their pack. A new cat outside is a whole different kettle of fish, and training your dog to live in harmony with your neighbours cat that occasionally pops into your house or garden is near impossible, and it is in fact unfair to expect the dog to know that ALL cats are not to be chased. Always scan the garden before letting your dog outside if there are regular feline visitors to your garden. Eventually neighbourhood cats will stop coming into your garden once the dogs scent is around.
So although it's not an easy job to take a greyhound into a home with your cat, it's worth it if you and the whole family are prepared to to put a bit of work in in the beginning. Then eventually you can relax and enjoy having these sweet gentle dogs in your life.