Greyhound and cats / longish working hours
September 6, 2017 9:48 PM   Subscribe

I would like to adopt a rescue greyhound. I have always loved greyhounds and there is a big dog-shaped hole in my life. However, I have two cats and am away from home for 8 hours at a stretch three days a week.

In terms of the cats, I am adopting through a reputable rescue agency who is looking for the right greyhound for me - one who is "cat-tested", laid back and maybe a bit older. One of my cats is brave but the other is nervous and highly strung and I'm afraid she will run away from the dog and the dog will chase. Is getting a greyhound a bad idea for this reason or is there hope this can work?

In terms of the three days a week I'm away for 8 hours, the options are:

1. Dog daycare (expensive and potentially exhausting for a laid back older dog)
2. Dog walker (same drawbacks as above - I'd like my dog to have enough energy so I can take him for a half hour walk each morning and evening myself
3. Dog stays in the house and a neighbour checks on him and lets him out to do his business at lunchtime. Do I confine him to one room or give him the run of the house?
4. Dog stays in laundry room and I install a dog flap to give him access to outside. We have 5 foot fences - do I need to raise the fences higher?

I am willing to do any of the above. Which are/aren't fair for dog and cats? Anything else I'm not thinking of?
posted by hazyjane to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I love greyhounds! My friend fostered them, and they are so sweet.

Greyhounds do, however, have a high prey drive. They are trained and bred to chase small running things. Even a greyhound used to cats (who are used to the dog) may still give chase if a nervous kitty bolts. Getting greyhounds and cats to co-habitate is a long process that requires patience and attention. Leaving them all unsupervised for hours (or minutes, at the beginning) is not a good idea. I mean, it could be fine. But the consequences of it not being fine for 5 minutes one day while you're at work. . .yeah. Wait on that til everyone is chill and has been for months.

You will need to separate the animals at first, and slowly introduce. How big is this laundry room? If you do go with this option, make sure he has a lot of toys and gets a check-in from a neighbor, at least at first. A 5 foot fence should be ok, but 6 feet is better -- see how your dog deals with it.

Sooo much of the rest depends on the dog. Daycare is not supposed to be exhausting, there are usually set rest and play times. It will help your dog get social interaction when you're gone. Isolated, bored dogs are destructive and can get depressed or aggressive. But maybe your dog will be a super chill loner and lounging at home all day with no one to bug him is his perfect life!

Whether your dog will tolerate being left alone for that amount of time in lieu of daycare, even with a check-in or walk, is up to the dog and how you train him.
posted by ananci at 10:33 PM on September 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

To go off of ananci's answer: keep in mind that prey drive is not something that goes away with training or exposure to perceived prey. Also, that racing greyhounds are bred to have higher prey drives to help with racing. Greys and cats can coexist, but you'll want to temperament test the grey, you have to be really careful about leaving them alone, and you have to be certain that the cat is not going to bolt and potentially set the grey off. You also don't want them outside together, as free-roaming small animals outside are more likely to be read as prey.

I would choose another breed in your situation. But that's me.
posted by schroedinger at 11:52 PM on September 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

If you take the dog-flap route, you will need 6-foot fences. Sighthounds can jump very high.

I have lived with three greyhound mixes and four cats in various combinations. All three dogs have wanted to and have given chase. Some of the cats will stand their ground, hiss, scratch, and usually the dog learns not to chase them, and they've gone on to tolerate each other. Some of the cats are nervous and ended up living their whole lives in a different part of the house (e.g. upstairs when the dog is not allowed upstairs). Some of the cats and dogs have actively played and shared space together. I don't think any of these outcomes are cruel to anyone. It's just how different personalities work with each other. If you can split up your home to give the cats somewhere to escape to (e.g. blocking a doorway with a baby gate that has slats that they but not the dog can fit through) I think that will be enough of a solution to that problem.

An 8 hour stretch is quite a long time to leave a dog alone, but an older greyhound especially will be happy enough to sleep that away- a neighbour coming in to give a toilet break is a good idea. I don't think daycare is necessary. The big caveat is whether the dog has separation anxiety, which would make this situation a lot more difficult. Make sure the rescue is candid about how the dog reacts to being left alone.

Congrats on your new adoption! Greyhounds are the best dogs!
posted by mymbleth at 1:48 AM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you go through with this, maybe install lots of high out-of-dog-reach real estate for the cats to live on, and maybe consider installing a cat flap on a bedroom door that the dog can't get through.
posted by amtho at 3:14 AM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a retired Greyhound, but I have other dogs and no cats. Greyhounds are pretty awesome dogs, and I see no reason this won't work for you if you handle it properly.

I think you should separate the animals while you're not there. Like others said, regardless of how much time they spend together adjusting, the prey drive is a built-in instinct and you never know what will set it off. Mine completely failed her cat test, which is fine for us, but she has caught some critters in the yard and I wouldn't want you to take a chance with the cats.

You will want to crate the Greyhound at first, and work up to giving access to a larger area while you're away. I disagree that 8 hours is too long for an adult dog. There are tons of people (me included) with regular jobs whose dogs stay home all day. And Greyhounds sleep a lot.

If a neighbor can let the dog out, that's great. Especially at first, you will want to work up to that. Greyhounds are used to holding it for at least 4 hours at a time, and go out on a regular schedule at the track. For the first week or two we had ours we tried to work up from that 4 hour time to the whole day. It was no problem at all - she has a bladder of steel.

Please don't allow the dog to have access through the dog door when you aren't home. My greyhound respects the fence, and doesn't try to jump it. But they can be skittish, and if something scares her you never know. And once they're gone, they can cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time, and easily get lost. They can also be skittish around strangers and very hard to catch.

Plus, you never know what will happen if your dog is out when you're not there. While it would probably be fine, what happens if she eats something bad in the yard? Or another dog/animal gets into our yard and injures her? Or barks a lot and you don't know it, and some angry neighbor decides to feed her to quiet her down, and gives her something she shouldn't have? Or worse, I've heard horror stories of angry neighbors intentionally poisoning a dog left out all day.

One last thing to consider, is that because of their upbringing, Greyhounds are not used to being alone. Some do just fine, but others have serious separation anxiety. Just make sure the rescue is aware and honest with you about how the dog does when left alone.

I realize that's a lot of warnings about what could go wrong, but I really do think you'll love having this dog in your life and will give it a very happy home. Good luck!
posted by thejanna at 5:14 AM on September 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Is getting a greyhound a bad idea for this reason or is there hope this can work?

These are not exclusive options. Of course it might work, and you could hope for that. If it doesn't, best case is your cats live in terror and you rebuild your house and lives to isolate them, worst case is the greyhound shreds them to gory pieces the first time you leave them alone together – which happened to people I know, who live with their guilt and sadness, and without cats or children.

You have an obligation to look out for your pets' health and safety. Bringing an animal bred to chase and kill them into their home is a bad idea, even if it does not do so. If you must have a greyhound then wait until the cats have died peacefully, or you have found them safe homes.
posted by nicwolff at 5:39 AM on September 7, 2017 [12 favorites]

You have an obligation to look out for your pets' health and safety. Bringing an animal bred to chase and kill them into their home is a bad idea, even if it does not do so.

What Nicwolff said. You don't sound as if you are in the right place to get a greyhound now. I can definitely understand wanting a dog, though! Why not get a mellow, adult, no-prey-drive rescue dog instead? Most reputable rescues (I emphasize reputable because unfortunately there are some really shady ones) will work with you to find a nice mellow cat-safe pooch.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:08 AM on September 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

There are PLENTY of people who have cats and greyhounds, myself included. I wouldn't adopt from a group that didn't cat-test, because there are definitely greyhounds that cannot be trusted with cats, but there are also so many that are perfectly fine living with them. Neither of the greyhounds I've owned have ever chased cats, squirrels, bunnies, or any other creature, indoors or out. I've had friends bring their various (mostly mutts) dogs over and all of them terrorized the cat more than any of my greyhounds ever did. You're better off getting a cat-tested greyhound than a dog from a shelter that doesn't even do cat tests, IMO. (Don't get me wrong, I love all dogs, but cat testing is pretty reliable indicator and it's great that greyhound rescues do it.)

My first greyhound never once even looked at my cat with any sort of interest. No one was "living in terror" or any other sort of catastrophic descriptor you want to use. The cat, if anything, scared the greyhound more than the reverse. My second (current) greyhound showed some interest (ears perked, a little whining, but no chasing or heavy panting/drooling), so for the first week or two of him living with me, I did the following:

- Kept him on a leash that we held or wearing the muzzle he came with whenever both animals were free to roam.
- Kept the cat separated upstairs when we weren't home.
- Whenever the showed interest in the cat, we said No, called his name and turned his attention away from the cat. Once he turned away, he got a treat.

Within a couple of weeks we felt safe letting both animals roam even when we weren't home and there were never any issues. In fact, Blink took the training so much to heart that now we have a different, very friendly cat who would love to cuddle with him. But he still looks away whenever the cat does his adorable "I love you please love me" belly flop, so despite my fondest hopes I don't think they will ever cuddle.

Regarding being away from home for eight hours, your hound would probably be fine with that, especially if it's only three days a week. I was a single full-time worker with a fairly long commute and even when not single, my partners always also had full-time jobs. I never did the dog walker or doggy day care thing, because as you surmise, it's kind of overkill for greyhounds. With proper alone training (separation anxiety can definitely be a thing for dogs that have always lived their lives around people and other dogs), I don't see any reason to think your lifestyle precludes owning a greyhound. The neighbor checking on him seems ideal, but even if that doesn't work out I think you'd be fine.

I crated my greyhounds when I first got them, and I do recommend having a crate as many of them feel very comfortable in one - after all, their racing life involves living in crates as well. However, both eventually "graduated" to life without a crate and had full run of the house. It wasn't an intentional effort to wean them off the crates, just how things gradually evolved. I also have used a baby gate to confine them to one room as needed. This all kind of depends on the individual hound and his/her tendencies. I know some greyhounds are champion counter-surfers or will destroy your kitchen garbage if it smells yummy, but I've been lucky to have really mellow hounds. I leave the peanut butter jar in easy reach of my current dog (he takes pills daily that I use the PB to administer so the jar is right next to his food bowls) and he never goes after it.

I hope you get one! They are just the best dogs.
posted by misskaz at 6:14 AM on September 7, 2017 [7 favorites]

I can't speak to the cat situation but definitely get a dog walker when you are gone for more than 6 hours, as a rule. My dog sleeps 20 hours a day but he does weird shit when left to his own devices (like pile all of our shoes on the couch to lay on top of). In my opinion it's completely wrong to think that your dog will be too tired to walk with you after work, and it is not a justification for leaving your dog alone for that long. Its not just about giving him a chance to pee; dogs need social interaction. If he's lazy, though, then go the dog walker route instead of daycare as all that stimulation can be exhausting.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:26 AM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just as a course correction: all dogs are predators. Some dogs just get along with smaller faster animals extremely well, like canine St. Francises. Some dogs know the difference between "their" cats and other animals/cats (or the difference between indoor smallfuzzies and outdoor ones). I had a greyhound who lived with three cats - including one who was aggressively affectionate with him and he just put up with it until she was done - for years; it was my mutts who killed two of them.

And people have dogs and work full time - that's usually nine hours to a workday plus commute - all the time. It is not abuse to do so.

Much longer than that is not going to work for indoor dogs (and it is dangerous to give a dog outside access unsupervised, where they are exposed to the whims of other humans and animals and weird situations that are much less likely to arise indoors) because they need to pee, and they may eventually become seniors who cannot hold it anymore and you will need to get someone to take them on a quick pee trip midday, or apply some other technology to the problem. People manage it.

Greyhounds tend to go into low-power mode when they're not in use, so unless they are real troublemakers they make pretty good working-folk pets. (They are tall, so you may have to block access to areas like the kitchen where they may be able to get at food/trash other dogs can't.) They're used to long periods with low stimuli. And most greyhound-specific rescue groups know a lot about cat-testing, which isn't going to be a guarantee (dogs change over time just like people do, if nothing else) but can give you a general read, and you'll have to make your own decisions about whether you can provide the sort of safety anyone with cats and dogs should.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:40 AM on September 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have spent a lot of time around both greyhounds and whippets (both have similar high prey drive). A close friend has exclusively owned these breeds for many years, and she is also a professional animal handler of decades. She trains these dogs for obedience, for breed competition in the show ring, and she is part of an experimental program in training whippets for bomb detection. I say this because I think she is probably one of the foremost experts in understanding the behavior of greyhounds and whippets in the country.

And she has never, ever, EVER, allowed her highly-trained greyhounds or whippets to be off-leash around a cat, even cats they are familiar with. Because she knows what could potentially happen. Cats to a greyhounds are big fluffy bunnies, bunnies that they can run after, catch, grab and kill in literally seconds, you don't have a hope in hell trying to stop them, they are that fast. And you won't see any warning signs either.

Are there greyhounds that live comfortably with cats? Sure. But why risk it.
posted by nanook at 9:52 AM on September 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

My mother's 1st greyhound had raced;she was mostly laid back but also:

found the plumber's friend and raced around the backyard with it

destroyed the padding of her bed pillow while the cover was being washed

ran out of the house and nearly killed a neighbor's cat

My mother has adopted 2 more greyhounds and has since installed a dog gate at the front door.
posted by brujita at 10:13 AM on September 7, 2017

I have a greyhound that I leave at home for 8 hour days (Uh sometimes longer than that to be honest. There is a reason I got a greyhound--I check in on him via my webcam and he sleeps all day and never moves!).

I also cat sit in my home a lot. My greyhound has no prey drive and the cats have plenty of space that they can easily access that the dog can't reach, so they can chill out in a dog free zone if they want to. Though honestly usually I come and see the dog sleeping on the floor in the sun and then the cat sleeping next to him on the couch in the sun.

So it's definitely possible, though cat testing is a must as you have to be sure to choose the right dog.

I'd suggest start with option 3 (with a cat tested dog). Keep them in a crate and then expand if you feel comfortable. Also communicate well with the rescue that way if it's not a good match, you can return the dog if necessary.

Good luck!
posted by lucy.jakobs at 11:01 AM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

We've also had several greyhounds, as well as concurrent cats.

What you envision has definitely doable. It can take some work at first.

A greyhound coming fresh off the tracks will need time to get used to being alone. At the tracks they around people and dogs 24x7, and it's a big change for them. It may help to use your vacation time so you'll be home the first few weeks, then use doggie daycare/walker/neighbor to ease them into things. Every hound is an individual, and a good rescue group will carefully consider and match your needs.

Being too tired to walk is usually not a problem. Hounds love to go out with their humans.

Some options are a hound that's been fostered for a while, or an older hound, for example a retired brood matron. They need homes too.

Greyhounds are super special and I hope one races into your heart in the near future.
posted by metaseeker at 12:47 PM on September 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Re: prey drive. Lots of greyhounds end up in rescue precisely because they have no prey drive and are therefore rubbish at racing. Thus is totally doable. It's just a matter of finding the right dog for you.
posted by bimbam at 2:20 PM on September 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had a greyhound mix when I was younger. I would not leave the dog unattended with kitties, especially at first. If you feel good about the fence height (depends on the size of the greyhound I think, 5 ft should be ok in most cases), and the laundry room is heated/cooled. I would go with that option, having the neighbor check up on the dog for the first week or two. Greyhounds sleep a lot. If you are walking him/her twice a day that will be fine. The dog wont get bored I don't think.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:48 PM on September 7, 2017

I live peacefully with greyhounds and cats (and have for near on ten years), and just brought a(nother) new hound home two weeks ago today with neither cat nor hound being interested beyond very mild curiosity. In my experience, your most useful/appropriate answers so far are from misskaz, Lyn Never, lucy.jacobs and metaseeker. I wish I had more time right now, but feel free to reach out over MeMail.

Yes, in my opinion, you can do this. Use a reasonable degree of awareness and vigilance, especially in the early days when you are setting up training and behavior expectations -- and "leave it" is always a good idea to train for first. Being able to take a few days off to work on alone training and then flex your time at work for a couple weeks is really helpful for the transition to home life.

Every dog is an individual, and greyhounds -- as unique as they are -- are still dogs. Always leave your cats an escape route. And don't shut a greyhound into a small room they can't see out of. When I'm at the office, my hounds are gated in my largish living room without full access to the rest of my place. We do 3-4 walks a day.

I hope you, your cats and a greyhound find the peace and happiness that's certainly attainable.
posted by vers at 3:55 PM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks to everyone who answered - you've given me a lot to think about. I've decided to give it a try but have told the rescue agency that the cats are my number one priority and if it doesn't seem to be working the greyhound will have to go back to them, and they've agreed this. I've decided the following:

-At least at first the greyhound will go to doggie daycare when I'm working and will be crated when I'm out for shorter periods.
- When first introducing greyhound to cats he will be crated, then will come out on a leash, then will be loose but muzzled.
- Greyhound will never be loose around cats without me being there.
- I will take several days off work when greyhound first arrives to help get everyone used to everyone else.

And of course I will talk to the rescue once they've found the dog they think is right for me to be sure I'm comfortable with their choice.
posted by hazyjane at 3:13 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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