Cat Introductions In Foster Care And After Adoption
All dogs undergo a simple cat test whilst in the shelter in Spain. Some dogs are then placed in foster homes with cats, or if there is no foster available, they will remain at the shelter. The cat tests will never indicate a dog is totally accepting or amenable to every cat, or even yours. This is a totally different context to living with a cat on a permanent basis. The cats used in the cat test are confident and used to dogs, so we cannot use these to predict or guarantee they are completely cat friendly. Cat’s temperaments and movements vary greatly – a nervous and flighty cat can induce the chase instinct in dogs, even if they are tolerant with cats as a rule. Even if they have been in foster with cats, they are still not your cats.
We will only term a dog as cat friendly or tolerant if they have lived in a foster home with cats. We will never put a dog in with a nervous cat or a cat who has not lived with dogs before. The risk is too high.
Remember that they are animals (sounds silly to say), but they operate on different levels to us. Their sight is different, their instincts are different, their thought processes. A dog has to make a split second decision not to chase when they see a flash of movement out of the corner of their eye. All dogs have to learn that that movement is just the cat, by exposure and supervision. It isn’t something that happens immediately because they met one cat during a test. It is likely to take a little more time with a “cat trainable” dog than one with a very low prey drive that gets a “cat tolerant” rating, but the process is the same for all sighthounds. We also recommend this process for all adoptive homes introducing sighthounds to small dogs. This is especially true of dogs that have not been fostered in a home with cats and have only met cats once during a test.
A ‘cat test’ is purely a test of how that dog was on that particular day with one cat. No matter how safe, cute and harmless they seem to be; all dogs are still predators. If any dog is deemed cat tolerant or friendly, they should still all have supervision for weeks/months around small animals. Always err on the side of caution and keep your new Galgo/Pod muzzled and supervised around small animals until you are VERY confident of their behaviour. Some owners always separate their dogs and cats when they leave the house just to be safe.
Use a muzzle!
If you need one, go to https://foreverhoundstrust.org/product/greyhound-muzzle/
Muzzles are not cruel, they are a very useful tool that we have access to that makes cat training safer. We consider a muzzle to be an insurance policy and ask all adopters and foster homes to use it until they are 100 percent confident of their dog’s behaviour. There is no harm in having your dog wear a muzzle too long, the only harm is if you remove it too soon.
Initially anticipate each pet’s movements and routines and ensure your dog wears a muzzle if the two are going to cross paths. You want to set them up for success!
When you feel it is safe and when you feel they are ready to meet, do this with the gate between them and have plenty of high value treats ready. Please do not rush the process and be prepared to put some effort in – it can take weeks, sometimes months for both to adjust to each other’s presence. Please do not take anything for granted. Even in doing this, please muzzle your dog.
Be aware of body language – a tail can wag in a dog for various reasons. A tense/stiff wag is something to be very wary about. Loose wags are more positive indicators. But of course a cat’s reaction can have a knock on effect. If things are tense, move the dog away.
It is very important to keep cat tolerant and cat trainable dogs ON LEASH around the cat at first until it is very used to seeing the cat running around. That allows you to correct and stop the dog if it makes a mistake and gets excited and wants to chase. Once a dog chases a cat it can be very difficult to convince him that he doesn’t want to do it again, because it is fun. We have had a few dogs that seemed pretty cat tolerant, change to very unsafe, after getting to chase a cat only one time. It is very important to prevent that from happening by using the leash or having separate zones for dog and cat, where your dog can not gain access to your cat. Tall stairgates are excellent and we strongly urge all fosters/adopters to use one, or even several if necessary.
Introducing Your Dog to Cats
Don’t just assume that because your dog now gets on with your cat that they will be fine with all cats! Dogs are predators and even the most cat friendly dogs will chase a squirrel/bird/rabbit! Dogs are also territorial and squirrels and the neighbour’s cat aren’t likely to be welcome in their garden. These two instincts together mean that a pretty complex thought process has to go on in the greyhound’s head to prevent it from chasing your outdoor cat. A greyhound has to recognize that darting ball of fluff in the bushes is a cat and not a squirrel, rabbit or lure. Then it has to identify the cat, specifically as the cat it lives with, instead of an intruder. Finally, it has to decide to abort the chase, most likely, already in process. That is a lot of thinking for a dog so fast that can reach a cat anywhere in the garden in 2 or 3 seconds. In the house, the greyhound has to decide to get up off the couch before chasing the cat, which makes cat chasing a lot less appealing, but by no means impossible.