Are Greyhounds Good with Cats: how to prevent tragedy

You own a cat, and are interested in adopting a greyhound, but you wonder, “Is it possible for an animal who is bred to chase small, furry creatures to be compatible with my cat?”  You search the internet, and find many cute pictures of greyhounds and cats cuddling together, and adoption groups promising that their greyhounds are “cat-tested.” Still, you feel a sense of unease.

So, are greyhounds good with cats? 

Any time a cat is in the presence of an unmuzzled greyhound, there is always a very real chance that the greyhound will attack the cat.  Whether or not this can be managed varies from case to case, depending on the following factors: the greyhound, the cat, the owner, the environment, and the level of supervision.

If you are thinking about getting a greyhound, but you own a cat, this article is for you. The most common advice you’ll get is the cryptic answer, “Well…it can work…I have both and they get along fine.” So, if they “get along fine,” why the hesitation? Some of the answers to this question will surprise you.

Many greyhounds have been homed successfully with cats. Many greyhounds have also been homed with cats they have killed, and I can guarantee you that there is not one owner among these who saw it coming. These were all people who, on some level, assumed that bringing this greyhound to live in their home, with their cat, was a perfectly safe thing to do. Obviously, they were mistaken. 

A search of the Internet will reveal many adorable pictures of prey and predator, snuggling away in a perfect Instagram world- Cats cuddling with not only greyhounds, but a coyote and a wolf, too. There’s one with a cat and a guinea pig. And just for the sake of tradition, a lion and a lamb. The common thread between all these photos: just because it works in some cases, doesn’t make it a good idea. You’re bucking Mother Nature here. Just for a reality check, try an image search on “cat killed by” what happens to a cat when prey-drive kicks in. It’s not pretty.

“Cat-Testing:” a hollow gesture?

It’s ironic that someone who owns a cat would be able to turn a blind eye to the potential consequences here. One adoption volunteer claims that “75%-80% of greyhounds are cat-safe.” Even if this statistic is valid (and, frankly, I am suspicious of it – It’s a number with no citation whatsoever), in what other case would you accept those odds?  And “Cat-testing” – the popular greyhound adoption group method of screening retired racers for “cat safety” – is pseudo-science, at best. At worst, it leads owners into a false sense of security.

One problem with cat-testing is the people who do it use the same cat every time, so this will be a very greyhound-savvy cat, indeed; not just your average house cat. It is done under very controlled, very specific conditions. They wait until the dog is in a calm mood, muzzle him, and work in a small space. The “cat-test” is a flawed predictor of the reality of your free-range cat in your home, over the next decade.

Are Greyhounds Aggressive?

Greyhound breeders select dogs with a strong prey drive for breeding (Greyhound Adoption League of TX). Dogs can be very dangerous, and very often their instincts and behavior just cannot be changed or controlled. It is the responsibility of the owner to prevent damage.

By the way, if you have a greyhound, and you go to visit someone who owns a cat or any other small, furry animal (including small dogs), please muzzle your greyhound.

Can Greyhounds and Cats Live Together?

Why encourage a cat owner to take home a greyhound, and run the risk of devastation to the whole family?  Greyhounds strike very quickly, so this is something that can’t be stopped, or even seen coming. Then what? The cat’s not coming back. The owners have lost not one, but two pets, as they turn their shock and horror on the greyhound, who thought he was doing them a favor. A greyhound who was loved one minute, and rejected the next, is never going to be the same, emotionally, again. Ever.

Rejection is Devastating to a Greyhound

Even in cases where the your greyhound does not attack the cat, but displays an uncomfortable level of interest, you can’t just return the dog. Rejection hurts, and even this may be enough to make a sensitive greyhound unadoptable.

As the owner of a greyhound who was bounced back to the adoption kennel after killing her previous family’s cat, I can tell you that it is an absolutely devastating experience for the dog (it’s not too great for the cat, either). In fact, the reason I took Peaches home, was because there were simply no takers for her. She had been at the kennel far longer than any of the other dogs, probably something to do with the fact that she looked like she just wanted to  curl up and die. Actually, she was already curled up, and totally withdrawn. Her saving grace was that the kennel manager had worked with her, bringing her home when the kennel was crowded. It took a long time to gain Peaches’ trust,but she was still a spook for the rest of her life. 

Will a Greyhound Kill my Cat?

Misleading Internet searches are a big reason  prospective greyhound owners get such incomplete advice about greyhounds and cats. You searched “are greyhounds good with cats” or “can greyhounds live with cats.” But what if you did a search on “greyhound killed cat?” I did, and was sickened by the results. They can best be summed up by the following comments from Yahoo Answers:

  • “Even greys who had been fine with kitties did kill one after a few years.” 
  • “I was in a Petsmart once, a lady was at the checkout with 2 Greys. A woman came in the door and was walking her Toy Poodle in front of the checkouts headed for the grooming dept. Both Greys grabbed the little dog and started ripping it apart!  The owner of the Greys said they were both rescues and neither have showed aggression or have ever gone after another animal before.”
  • “Unfortunately, it is hard to tell if a greyhound is a hunter until after they’ve attacked something.  Unless you want to use your cat as a guinea pig, I would suggest playing it safe and avoid getting a greyhound.”
  • “You dont know its past, and it may have been used for hunting rabbits or hares [this is increasingly true, as tracks close; today’s retired greyhounds are coming from other lines of work, and even other countries]
  • “It’s when they see something running away, that they attack – Instinct [kicks] in.”
  • “My friend’s yorkshire terrier was killed by a greyhound, because it saw it running away and the greyhound just went for it. After the attack, the greyhound was its normal, quite placid self again” 
  • “Unless the dog was raised as a puppy to not attack small animals, then it is almost a guarantee that the greyhound will attack the cat. We have a greyhound that comes into my boarding kennel, and we cannot let him anywhere near small dogs. They have a natural instinct to pounce on anything that small, and will do it even when in the house.”
  • “Greyhounds are great dogs. They are the most placid and easily trained dogs… but do not let a cat or small dog around them; they will most likely end up as lunch.”

It is worth noting that the same people who forbid you from ever letting your greyhound off the leash, because “something could happen (a valid concern),” have no problem releasing a greyhound to live in your home with your cat. They will even hesitate to adopt a greyhound out to a family with the child. If they’re so concerned about the greyhound & children, why aren’t they worried about your cat? Why do adoption groups take such a chance? Because, until recently, they have had more dogs than they can find homes for. Rejecting cat-owners who apply for a greyhound would shrink the pool of available homes even further. 

New to the Debate: “Is this really necessary anymore?”

With greyhound racing in the US headed toward extinction, the supply of these dogs is dwindling. The adoption groups did such a good job promoting them to the public, that you now have a supply-and-demand situation: more people than ever want a greyhound, with fewer and fewer available. For years, getting a greyhound was – literally –  as simple as 1-2-3. Turn in an application, get approval, and go pick out your dog, the majority of whom were 2-4 years old. Now, many wait months. A lot of the available dogs are “seniors.” 

Greyhounds deserve homes where they aren’t subject to the temptation of a something as chase-able as a cat. With the supply of available greys at a low, and an ample supply of potential homes, we should try a bit less cat-testing, and a bit more owner-testing, giving priority to applicants who do not own a cat.

Now ask yourself, honestly, why you want a greyhound, even though you have a cat. You may want to add a dog to your family, and do some good at the same time. You can do a wonderful thing for a little, furry life by adopting a rescue dog of a breed that does well with cats. If you want to help greyhounds, join an adoption group and help them out once a week or once a month. If the group is too far to go every month, you can spend time collecting supplies for them, and drive  to deliver them occasionally. In fact, if you enjoy driving, there are even groups who need help transporting greyhounds to their new homes, and they need drivers. Each driver does one leg of the journey, in his local area, and hands off the dog to the next driver, and so on.

Which Dogs are Good with Cats vs. What Dog Breeds are Not Good with Cats

In spite of the old adage about cats and dogs, some breeds actually do better with cats than others.  Golden retrievers and Labs are known to live peaceably with cats.  Plus, their popularity means that there is always one available for rescue; and, of course, there are many fine breeders, as well.  Interestingly, I found Beagles listed as #3 on each list, both “Good with Cats” and “Bad with Cats!”

If after reading this, you still insist on having both a cat and a greyhound in your home, please learn as much as you can about the breed & pre-screening. Learn everything you can about training your greyhound to behave himself around other animals. Choose your greyhound as carefully as possible, and be prepared to follow through with at-home training and constant vigilance. Here’s a sneak-peek at a little cat-testing action:

Gail McGaffigan

The owner of the Greyhound Homecare website and YouTube channel, Gail has had retired racing greyhounds as pets since 1997. Please visit our channel, too!

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