So you’re thinking about rescuing a retired greyhound? Ah yes – but, you might have one small problem. One small, furry problem? If you think you can’t have a cat and a greyhound, don’t despair – it is possible. However, here are some things you’ll want to consider.
The Nature and Training of a Greyhound
Greyhounds are classified as sight hounds – which means they have amazing vision. And they can move at lightning speed. Add the two together and that makes greyhounds fabulous hunters.
Now, let’s take the large, beautiful animal with amazing vision and lightning speed and train it to chase small, furry things. What do you get? One strong possibility that your new greyhound may consider the family cat lunch.
Yes, all of these things are true; but, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a cat-friendly racer to round out your family of four-legged friends. It just means you’ll have to look for a special type of greyhound and be vigilant during the canine-to-feline courtship.
Selecting the Right Greyhound
If you’re determined to have both a cat and a greyhound, you’ll want to make sure you tell the placement volunteers you’re looking for a cat-friendly tested greyhound. Rescues will actually put cats with greyhounds to test their “prey drive.” If the greyhound shows too much excitement or gets aggressive, it shouldn’t be placed in a home with feline residents.
However, even if your greyhound has been tested cat-friendly, you still have work to do before you can leave them alone together. Introduction, acclimation and building a mutual respect for each other only comes with time, patience and a watchful eye to make sure all members of the family are happy and safe.
Introducing a greyhound to a cat should be a gradual process. An instant face-to-face greeting is not the best method of introduction and could turn into a confrontation. Start by putting the cat in a room behind a closed door and let the greyhound enter the house – with the door closed. Allow them to smell each other through the door.
If either animal shows excitement or agitation, keep them separated in that manner for a few hours or until their aggressive interest subsides. Then sit the greyhound at your side with on its lead at first. Quietly let the cat out of the room and allow the cat to walk freely. If the greyhound shows too much interest, correct or restrain the dog with a simple, purposeful command of, “No.”
When the dog shows no sign of interest or aggression, remove the lead and quietly continue to monitor the interaction and offer correction, as required. Make sure there are a couple of good “escape” places for kitty to run to, if necessary – like up on a tall piece of furniture or open spaces under other objects. And also it’s important not to get excited or too anxious yourself – it will only translate to the animals you’re trying to acclimate to each other.
Just as in the introduction, the acclimation period should progress slowly and be closely monitored. Start with 15 to 30 minute “getting-to-know-you periods” before you allow your greyhound and cat to spend unsupervised time together.
When my greyhound, Marie, first came to our home, she was still skittish and nervous about all of her new surroundings. In the first couple weeks that she didn’t pay much attention to our cat, Hightower. In fact, she avoided him. Then one day she just walked over, looked down and the next thing I knew she had the cat’s head was in her mouth. Fortunately, she (like most greyhounds) responded well to correction and a sharp, “No” caused her to release immediately. That bought her three more months of totally supervised interaction. And since greyhounds are used to being crated at the race track, we continued to crate her whenever we weren’t there to supervise the pair.
Can You Beat the Prey Drive?
Eventually, we successfully created cross-species buddies. It look over nine months before we ever left them alone together and we still make sure kitty has a place to escape, if needed. In fact, the cat loves to sit on the back of a tall recliner and wait for Marie to walk by. It’s not a sight-seeing past-time, he actually does it to ambush the greyhound when she gets within striking distance – standing up on his back legs and boxing her head with his front paws. No fear, the cat is declawed and the greyhound just ducks down and walks away. She doesn’t even retaliate – to them it’s just a game.
We even rescued a 14-pound pug last year. Yes, Marie the greyhound was acclimated to another small, furry “ball of fire” and they are living together today in perfect harmony after an introduction and acclimation period with the rambunctious pug, too.
However, greyhounds (like all other animals) can have their own distinct personalities. They are muscular, powerful animals and some have a strong prey drive that you may not be able to overcome. Not all are suited for cats or other animals in the home. Use common sense when making an evaluation of compatibility or opt for an older greyhound who has already successfully lived in a home with other dogs and cats if you’re not up to the challenge of creating housemates.
But, if someone tells you have can never have a greyhound and a cat living together under the same roof, show them the picture of Marie and Hightower above. Or I’ll invite them to my house this evening and let them watch the greyhound, the pug and our cat settle down together on the same blanket and fall asleep. That ought to dispel that nasty rumor once and for all.