A lot of people seem more than daunted by the thought of introducing greyhounds to cats and as there are always waiting lists for ‘cat-friendly’ greyhounds a lot of others who could be taught to live happily with cats could be missing out on the homes they deserve.
We have introduced 4 greyhounds to our cats now, two couldn’t have cared less about the cats, two (including our Spanish galgo Millie) would not have passed a ‘cat test’ and yet in a matter of a few days, with patient and consistent introductions, were able to understand that the cats were part of the family and not for chasing. There is no doubt that it can be nerve-racking, we all love our cats after all, but we try to use a method of positive encouragement and praise, there is no punishment, no squirty bottles or throwing objects such as bunches of keys at the dog. We have never used a muzzle but you could use one if it gave you more confidence.
We begin the introductions as soon as the dog comes home and don’t given them time to get used to their new environment without cats. We have always let them see the cats straight away. Let them get as close as possible but be prepared for the dog to lunge at the cat, so a firm hold on the collar, praise the dog and remember that he has no idea whatsoever what ‘you’ want him to do about the cat yet and needs to be shown so stroke the cat as well and talk to them both.
After this we usually put our cats upstairs in a safe room and then take the dog upstairs, you can do this on a lead, to ‘visit’ the cats little and often. VERY OFTEN in fact, as frequently as every ten or fifteen minutes throughout the day, talking to them both and giving the dog treats helps them make pleasant associations with the cats. This really means that someone has to be dedicated to doing this for several days but hopefully you will be with your new dog full time at first at least. Be very vigilant about doors being shut during this time to avoid any accidents. Don’t rely on young children to remember to close doors and always double check.
After a day or two the dogs really start to get bored with visiting the cats, they should begin to look away when the cats look at them and in general, as the dog starts to relax more in his new environment he should become more relaxed around the cats. At this point we begin to open doors and let the cats out again still being extremely careful and knowing for certain (not just ‘vaguely’) exactly where the new dog and the cats are in relation to each other at all times. When you know the cats are about in the house sit with the dog (it might be a good idea to have a lead on him) as the cat comes into the room. The dog’s face will usually be an utter picture as he realises the cats exist outside of their room and he may well try to get up and chase the cat but stay calm, say ‘No’ if necessary then praise him.
Repeat this process for a few days, we often let the dogs watch the cats being fed, a spoonful of catfood does wonders to take a dog’s mind away from the idea of ‘cats’ and redirect it to ‘never mind the cat just give me the catfood’ mode and as the cat walks away the dog is not watching the cat but watching the food and can have praise and treats for ignoring the cat.
With both our ‘keen’ dogs the introductions have taken five days to get to a point where we are happy that things will continue to go well. Of course we are careful for a long while after this and remember that a dog who accepts his own cats in the house may take a while to get used to them being in the garden, so when the dog is first in the garden with the cat you might want to keep him on a lead until he realises that the ‘inside’ cat and the ‘outside’ cat are one and the same person.
Of course we would not claim this method to be foolproof but it has worked successfully for us and we repeated it recently when we introduced two kittens to the family. Our two older cats are both 15 years old and know how dog introductions work so some of the credit must go to them!
Basic advice: Stay calm, be patient and consistent, give lots of praise, always know for sure where the dog/cats are until you are certain of the dog, don’t rely on other people especially children to close doors… And ask for advice if you need it! Jo and Terry Kiely Millie from Medina del Campo with feline companion
Jo and Terry Kiely