Greyhounds and Cats
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.
If the dog can be distracted the test is taken up a notch, have the cat move around or meow. If a dog is relaxed around the cat and looks at you when you talk to them they will be classed as potentially trainable.
Although we do 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.
The reason for 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 never see your cat again. 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 could get severely scratched and bitten by the cat and it also heightens the dog's interest. Gently pull the dog back and try to distract him by calling his 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. 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, although the muzzle must be removed to allow the dog to eat, or if the dog shows any signs of vomiting.
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 confident that the greyhound has lost interest, you can then take the muzzle off while you are at home to supervise. 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.
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.
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.