Training your Greyhound to live with your Cat.
Your greyhound has been assessed as being able to be trained to live with cats – however they are not trained yet! It will be up to you to train your new dog to live harmoniously with your cat.
Two key things to keep in mind are:
- Go slowly – the cat was here first and likely feels threatened with the new arrival, especially if they haven’t lived with a dog before. Let the cat set the pace, it is important that they are not showing signs of stress or fear for you to progress with training. Equally, your hound’s stress hormones will be higher over the first week in a new home and this will influence their behaviour.
- Be present - While they are developing a relationship, treat interactions as “training sessions” where the cat and hound are supervised and have your full attention. Otherwise the hound is crated, behind a baby gate, or the cat is in a separate part of the house, so they don’t have access to each other. This ensures that the greyhound never has the opportunity to chase your cat (or visiting neighbourhood cats) as this will undo all of your good work.
Ways to help your cat feel safe:
- A designated “safe room” for the cat to go to while adjusting to the new arrival. Prepare this before you come home with your hound, so you know where your cat is.
- Place the cat food and water somewhere out of reach of the hound so they can eat in peace.
- If your cat has a litter tray make sure this is also out of reach of the hound, if your cat usually toilets outdoors it could be worth putting a litter tray in the safe spot if they’re feeling too vulnerable to leave the house for now.
- Ensure your cat has plenty of places high up that they can retreat to
- You can search online for DIY enrichment ideas to reduce cat stress.
- Don’t pick up your cat or force them to interact.
Signs the cat is stressed:
- Hissing, growling
- Hiding or avoiding
- Tail fluffed up
- Weight loss
- Toileting problems
- Other illness
Before they meet:
Scent can be just as important for a cat as it is for a dog so these introductions can begin long before either of them meet. Collect some fur from both animals and let them smell if before they eat their meals. The idea that the dog will think the scent equals food and will therefore eat the cat is a common misconception.
Time and patience spent carefully managing introductions in the first few weeks will pay off in the long run. Twice daily training for 5 minutes will allow you to gauge the dog’s progress. Move on to the next step only when both the cat and greyhound are disinterested, outside of these times keep them separated. Bear in mind that often the hound will learn to live with the cat indoors but will still chase if the cat is outside or if they run.
- 1. After trading smells, feed the cat and hound behind a closed door where they can’t see each other, but can hear and smell each other.
- 2. Next, meet through a door where they can see each other, this could be from behind a baby gate or a ranch slider door. A baby gate allows the cat to watch the greyhound from safety but also be able to freely get in and out as required. Our recommendation is to have the gate 10- 15cm above the floor level so that the cat can go either over or under if needed. Alternatively, you could have your hound in the crate and your cat loose in the room.
- When the hound sees the cat, use a happy voice to get the dog’s attention and when they glance in your direction be ready with a delicious treat e.g. cooked chicken. It is important to give the dog a chance to look at the cat and then realise what’s working to get you to dispense treats is when they focus on you instead.
- Continue to reward with food calm behaviours or being disinterested in the cat e.g. turning their head away after looking. If the greyhound is ‘focused’ on the cat, but voluntarily breaks eye contact, this is major reward territory so feed several pieces of chicken at ones!
- 3. Have the cat and dog in the same room, but the hound is on lead, continue reward calm behaviour and disengaging from the cat to look at you instead.
- 4. Progress to supervised muzzled off lead interactions (or you could have the lead loose and trailing behind the dog) in one room, while ensuring the cat has an exit, such as over or under a baby gate, or a high vantage point to retreat to. Continue to reward the hound for calm behaviour, disengaging from the cat and looking at you instead.
- 5. Avoid unsupervised interactions until your cat and dog have been peacefully coexisting in supervised situations without any incidents for several weeks.
Rabbits and other small animals:
Fear is not an uncommon cause of death for a small furry prey species (rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice) so their stress levels must be kept to a minimum. Another important thing is to remember that any dog’s response to attempt to catch a small furry - particularly if it runs, is common and natural. This means we need to set everyone up for success to ensure this doesn’t happen. As the best time to introduce a dog to different species is when they’re puppies, the ideal way to keep your rabbit or other small animal safe is to keep them entirely separate and this way they never have to see the greyhound.
On occasion we have placed greyhounds into homes with house rabbits, if this is the case then we can provide additional training material.
As birds are often a prey species it is important to go slowly as not to traumatise the bird with a natural predator’s scent. If at any point either animal gets too excited, then it’s likely a sign that things are moving too quickly. If the pet bird is kept indoors, make sure the bird is in a separate room to the greyhound to allow gradual exposure to one another.