Cats and Greyhounds By Lee Lavery
Greyhound Guardians, Inc, Northwest Indiana
Anyone who lives with a greyhound and cats has seen some kind of interaction between the two species. If the greyhound has been properly cat tested and properly introduced to the cat, it can be a match made in heaven. If the greyhound has not been properly cat tested and not properly introduced to the cat, it can be a deadly combination.
We all know that not every greyhound is cat safe, and we all know that cat testing is not 100% accurate. However, if done correctly, cat testing can reveal a lot about a greyhound’s prey drive. Having cat tested greyhounds for almost eight years, I have learned that first impressions are not always accurate. I have always felt it wise to cat test a “raw greyhound” (fresh from the track) at least twice before placing it in either foster care or an adoptive home. The greyhound that shows no interest in the cat during the first test may well try to devour the cat during the second test. Conversely, what appears to be a high prey driven greyhound during the first test may be a totally uninterested greyhound during the second test. Keep in mind that there are many things that can taint a cat test, i.e. unfamiliar settings may agitate a greyhound causing them to either act out or withdraw thus giving you an inaccurate cat test. Strange noises or stimuli may draw the greyhound’s interest away from the cat, also giving you an inaccurate cat test. I strongly feel that it is always better to test as many times as possible before placing the greyhound and, if possible, place the greyhound in foster care with cats prior to adoption.
When cat testing raw greyhounds I have found that a four step process using two people works well. One person works with the cat while the other person works with the greyhound. Between the two people, the greyhound and the cat can always be kept under control preventing any harm to come to either animal. Initially, I like to start off with the greyhound being muzzled and leashed. While the greyhound is muzzled and leashed, the cat is held in front of the greyhound’s face. If there is little to no reaction the cat is allowed to get down and walk around (I have seen many, many high prey greyhounds that will completely ignore a cat until the cat is moving). If there is still little to no reaction the cat is picked up and the greyhound is un-muzzled and we start the introductions all over again. If the greyhound is still showing little to no interest, the cat is allowed to walk around with the greyhound still leashed but un-muzzled. By this time, if the greyhound has shown little to no interest in the cat we consider him/her to be cat safe.
Once a greyhound has been cat tested and is placed in a home, the family should always be given a muzzle and encouraged to use the muzzle until the introductions to all existing house pets have been made and things have “settled down” a bit. This process might actually take a couple of days (or a couple of weeks [baj]). I’m not saying the greyhound should be muzzled for the entire time; however, the greyhound should only be un-muzzled when there is strict supervision between greyhound/cat meetings. I also strongly recommend the use of a crate until everyone in the family – animal and human – is completely comfortable with the situation. Once the greyhound is well integrated into the home and family, it is fairly common to allow the greyhound and the other house-pets free, unsupervised run of the house. I do advise anyone with cats to arrange some sort of “escape route” for them, just in case. This can something as simple as a baby gate that the cat can get over or under, while still preventing the greyhound access to a certain area of the house where the cat can “relax.”
While, very often, greyhounds and cats can peacefully cohabitate with one another in the comfort of their own home, one must consider the potential dangers of allowing cats and greyhounds to run freely together outdoors. In all the years I have been working with greyhounds, cat testing greyhounds and placing greyhounds in “cat homes,” I have seen only a select few greyhounds that were cat safe outdoors. In most cases, there’s something about the “great outdoors” that can change a cat safe greyhound’s prey drive in a heartbeat. The most cat safe greyhound inside the house can become a very determined hunter in the backyard. I have seen my own greyhounds, which live quite peacefully with six cats, try to attack one of their feline housemates in the yard. It almost seems that the greyhounds don’t understand that that cat in the yard is the same cat they sleep with on the sofa. To put it bluntly, in dealing with cats and greyhounds, if they are outdoors, all bets are off.
Sadly, I have received more than a handful of tearful phone calls from adopters telling me their cat safe greyhound killed their cat out in the yard. This always upsets me for more than one reason. Reason one, obviously, is the death of the cat. Being chased down and killed by a greyhound must be a violent death for a cat. Reason two is the senselessness of it all. There is no reason for this to happen if greyhound adopters will only heed the advice of their adoption representatives and never, ever allow their greyhounds and cats to roam the yard together. We stress to all our “cat families” that greyhounds and cats in the yard together is a deadly combination no matter how cat safe the greyhound may seem in the house. We explain to them that greyhounds are hunters by nature and this is not something that can be un-learned. The bottom line is that, to a greyhound, if it’s small and furry and moving in the yard – it’s mine!
So, can greyhounds and cats live together harmoniously? Yes, many can if you understand the rules and follow them. Rules are put in place for the well being of all parties involved in any given situation and, unfortunately, breaking the greyhound/cat/yard rule may well end up in disaster, for you and for your cat.