Greyhound/cat friendship - What else can I do? Is this salvageable?
November 11, 2015 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Our newly adopted retired racing greyhound is somewhat fixated on our cat - despite being tested as cat-safe or cat-trainable. What else can we do to help this? Is it salvageable?

On Nov/02/2015 we adopted a retired racing greyhound. She is 65 lbs and about 3.5 years old. We live in a 2-bedroom and 2-bathroom condo in Toronto. We also have a 13-year old black cat who is about 15 lbs.

I think we have been fairly lucky with the dog, as far as some of the more common greyhound issues. She has always gone to the bathroom outside and, with a change of food, her ‘poops’ have been reasonably firm and normal. She had a bit of separation anxiety the first 2-3 days. We worked on alone-training and now the dog seems content to sleep the day away in her very large crate. We give her a frozen Kong full of treats when we leave, and a couple of Milkbones. We have a camera on her crate and she barely moves while we’re at work.

At night, she sleeps on a duvet and 2 fleece blankets on top of a dog bed. She will occasionally get up and flop back down again in a different spot, or “dig” around in the blankets briefly. She was whining a bit in the early morning; we started taking her out later in the evening and ignoring the whining and I think she is starting to learn that the alarm clock is what gets things started in the morning.

The dog is learning to leave us alone while we’re eating dinner and responds to the “no” command (after a few repetitions). She is learning not to pull the leash on walks although that is still a work in progress. She hasn’t tried bolting for a squirrel since the first couple of days although her ears perk up when she sees one.

The issue is that the cat/dog friendship is not really progressing. The dog was cat-tested at the racing track, and her foster ‘parents’ brought her over to meet our cat prior to the adoption going through. We were told that if a greyhound is totally not cat-safe, it will be immediately apparent (barking, lunging, stalking, drooling, whining, pulling, extremely fixated). Our dog was definitely curious about the cat but not obsessively so. She approached the cat rapidly, and barked, and the cat hissed. The dog voluntarily turned away at one point, and was distracted by a whistle another time. (She didn’t know her name at that point - and doesn't entirely know it now although she is learning).

I can find a TON of advice online (Greytalk Forums and other adoption agency websites) about “what not to do” when introducing greyhound to cat. E.g. Keep the dog muzzled and on a leash. Don’t pick up the cat. Don’t let the cat race around. Don’t leave them alone together. Don't rush it.

What I can’t find is a lot of practical advice about “what to do.” This is what we are doing:

-keeping dog on leash, muzzled, every time the doors are all open and cat is roaming

-keeping dog in crate, not-muzzled, when home alone. Cat has free reign and doors are all open

-praise/treat the dog every time she looks at the cat and can be distracted by her name or a treat

-walking dog past sitting cat and praise/treat if she doesn't look, or looks but keeps going

-give the dog a firm ‘NO!’ and physically pulling her away when she barks or whines at the cat

I honestly can’t tell if things are getting any better. If the dog is really tired or hungry, and the cat is sleeping/still, then the dog will look, but not get up. BUT the second the cat moves or makes any noise, the dog is fixated and it’s hard to get her attention away. On those occasions we have to physically drag her away, or else she will start whining and eventually barking and trying to get near the cat.

If she’s ever surprised by the cat (it walks by her crate unexpectedly or it’s right at the door when we come inside) she barks and bolts towards the cat. When we first enter a room, she immediately starts searching for the cat. It's freaking me out and making me think this is not really workable or safe for the cat. The cat doesn't seem overly stressed although obviously he is not a fan of being barked at and menaced.

It is absolutely exhausting to be alternating between having a dog on a leash all the time and taking her off the leash but having to open doors just a crack and squeezing through while simultaneously keeping the dog/cat away from the opening. We were taking turns separating the dog/cat by keeping one in the bedroom and one in the main area. Unfortunately the cat tends to paw/scratch at the door after a while, which is irresistible to the dog and seems to make the cat more intriguing.

I have reached out to the adoption agency and they're going to get back to me with some advice... but I wanted to hear from other greyhound owners who had to develop a tough cat/dog friendship. What works? What backfires? Does this sound salvageable? Will this dog eventually stop bolting for the cat?
posted by cranberrymonger to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're doing all the right things except giving it time. It's just over a week - this is a process that can take much longer. While I'm not a greyhound owner, I'm guessing the prey drive might be stronger with one than other breeds. Remember she is getting used to a whole new life and lifestyle. Keep it consistent, keep the faith, and hopefully things will improve as she gets used to her surrounding.

Thank you for adopting and saving a life!
posted by HeyAllie at 8:37 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

We successfully broke our greyhound mix* from his kitty chasing tendencies, it just took weeks. Now he still likes to pester them, but he knows not too hurt them, and a half-hearted "leave the kitties alone" will stop it if he gets too excited.

*with border collie. He tries to herd the cats sometimes, too.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:42 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

For us, all it took was for the cat to scratch our greyhound across the nose, and the dog has kept her distance ever since. It's been more than a year, and they've settled into an uneasy truce. The dog will growl at the cat if the cat rubs up against her while she's eating or gnawing on her bone, but she keeps it to that warning growl.
posted by coppermoss at 8:43 AM on November 11, 2015

Response by poster: I should add that the cat is not an extraordinarily bold character. He does hiss and 90% of the time will hold his ground... but has also slunk away/hid from the dog on a couple of occasions.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:52 AM on November 11, 2015

I'm not sure how much I can help, but I have a greyhound who is cat friendly. He raced on the track for three years, was adopted by a family for three years, and then when the family had to return him to the adoption agency I adopted him. I've had him a little over a year. One thing that I thought was interesting was that his original adoption paperwork listed him as "not cat friendly" even though he has a very low prey drive now. He doesn't run after squirrels or birds and last week we took care of my friend's cat for a week. He didn't love having her around, but they ignored each other and it was perfectly fine. I'm not sure what changed between his original adoption and my adoption, but I'm sure that time and a few cat scratches probably had something to do with it.

I'm sure it's dog specific, but my greyhound took a while to relax and feel comfortable around me. I was carrying him up my apartment stairs for about six months (despite him knowing how to climb stairs--he just didn't like them), he still doesn't like to go in my kitchen (because of the flooring), and he's not ever interested in sleeping on my bed or on furniture. That is, don't be afraid to give it plenty of time because your dog is still getting used to their new surroundings.

Good luck! Greyhounds are the best. :)
posted by lucy.jakobs at 8:53 AM on November 11, 2015

Best answer: Hmmm, it's hard to say because every dog and every cat is different. I have a greyhound (my second) and a cat (also my second). My first greyhound didn't even look at the cat, so no advice from that experience.

My second and current greyhound tested as not cat safe, then later cat safe, by the adoption group. When I brought him home, he definitely was interested in the cat: ears up, pulling, some whining. But the adoption group reps weren't concerned and thought he was trainable.

You are doing all the right things, but just to confirm, the main thing that I did was to have the dog either muzzled, leashed, or crated at all times, and then correcting with a tug on the collar and a "NO" whenever he so much as looked at the cat. When he turned away from the cat, he got a treat.

I can't remember how long it took for him to figure out to leave the cat alone. I want to say it was maybe a couple of weeks.

He does growl at the new cat (but never did at the old one, not sure why) if he's laying down and half-asleep and the cat gets too close. But he doesn't show any signs of wanting to chase an inside cat anymore at all. (Outside cats are another story.)

If the cat isn't super pissy/hissy/swatting/growling, I think that makes it harder. My first cat, who was the one that I cat-trained the second greyhound with, was not very tolerant of the dog. So her aggression and probably a few swats on the nose I think helped him learn the Don't Touch Kitty lesson sooner. My current cat is a bit more mellow and the dog would have to do a lot to get him to respond. I suspect that would make it harder to cat train if I had to do it again.

Good luck! If your adoption group is any good they should also have plenty of advice and encouragement and if it turns out this isn't the right greyhound for you, don't worry. There are others!
posted by misskaz at 8:55 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't have a greyhound, but I do have a nine month-old herding dog (Australian shepherd/Corgi mix). I adopted her about six months ago and have two nine year-old cats. She was cat-tested at the shelter and completely ignored the cat, so it was kind of a surprise when she started messing with them immediately when we got home.

She still gets excited with them sometimes because she's curious about them, but what's helped for me:
- Getting the cats their own space. I got them a tall cat condo that the dog can't reach the top two tiers of. They love it up there.
- Leashing the dog when she gets too rowdy. I learned in an obedience class that leashing + stepping on the leash is a "quiet time" signal to the dog. She totally chills out when I do this.
- Teaching "walk away" as a command. This can be used for anything, but I use it mostly for telling her to get away from the cats.
- Crating the dog when I'm not home so she can't bother the cats and they get free reign of the house for awhile.
- Closing the cats into another room when the dog gets super crazy.
posted by anotheraccount at 9:43 AM on November 11, 2015

A friend had a greyhound who never shook his prey drive and he tried to keep her separated from his cats (two story home). The cat, like yours never really sensed the danger, but the greyhound was fixed on it's movements. It worked for years, until the cat got into the dog's space while he was away at work. It did not survive. If the fixated look doesn't stop, I would try and rehome it soon. Both animals deserve to rome free at home.
posted by TenaciousB at 10:41 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

We have a greyhound. Seconding lucy.jakobs above that it can take months until they relax and you start to really see your grey's personality.

I am allergic to cats and we'll never have one, so a cat-safe grey wasn't a priority for us. Our grey is definitely NOT cat safe, so here's what that looks like for us (these are all interactions with outdoor, neighbor cats):
  • staring
  • stalking
  • running after (to the end of the leash)
  • barking and jumping around (after cat runs off)
  • getting clawed is NOT a deterrent for our grey (stuck her head in a bush where a cat was hiding once, I didn't see it until it was too late, had to pull her out, nice gash in the side of her head)
  • she has actually tried to bite chill cats that don't/won't run off right away (so it's not always a prey/chase-the-moving-thing)
Which brings up another point, even a cat-safe/cat-trained greyhound is NOT to be trusted with cats outdoors. Even if your grey ends up being best pals with your cat, she may chase/attack your cat if they're both outside.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 10:51 AM on November 11, 2015

For a Dogs and Cats living together scenario, the dog has to be fairly compliant if the living space is limited. From what this sounds like, the dog is okay as long as the cat doesn't move. This is not good. If this doesn't improve, you'll have to make an either/or decision at some point.
posted by ovvl at 5:55 PM on November 11, 2015

1) TIME: All dogs take many weeks or months to settle into a new routine. We got our new dog about 8 weeks ago and we are still learning new things about her. So nothing at this moment is necessarily an indication that it won't work. But...

2) TRAINER: You should get a really good trainer in the house ASAP. They'll be able to read the dog's body language MUCH better than you, and help you figure out specific steps to take.

3) SAFETY: At this point though, I would not personally feel comfortable leaving the dog in a crate and the cat free roaming in the same space. Crates can (and do) fail and cats which have known their space to be safe for a decade might not move immediately. I'd leave your cat in another room upstairs while you're out.
posted by barnone at 7:04 PM on November 14, 2015

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