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Prey Drive & Living with Small Animals

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

A frank discussion about prey drive


So if you're new to the breed and have never owned a Sighthound, you're probably left wondering if you can bring a whippet home safely if you already have small animals like cats, birds or rodents. There can be a lot of conflicting information found online. The short answer is both Yes and No! Now to be clear, yes, we do have cats at home with our whippets, but that doesn't mean the average new whippet owner can.
Let me explain a little further. First off, if you haven't already, please read our section on our homepage titled "Living with History". Recall in the Breed foundation their purpose was to chase down and kill small game such as rabbits for their master's supper. Whippets are extremely efficient at this. Their brain is highly attuned to any motion that might be potential prey and give chase to. Whippets are not mean or aggressive dogs by nature. What they are doing is written into their DNA and it is the primitive and instinctual part of living with sighthounds. If the idea of your dog ever killing another living creature disturbs you, then DO NOT GET A WHIPPET. That may seem harsh, but as Breeder's and fanciers we have no tolerance for people who have not taken the time to research the type of dog they are bringing home. When a whippet does catch its prey, it gives a split second shake of the animal in its mouth and snaps its neck. The fun is over. Some whippets will then walk away, the chase is what enthralled them and the kill was just them acting out instinct. They aren't premeditative little monsters. Some whippets if you don't interfere will then proceed to eat their prey.
Now if you've made it this far, bear with us for another key point. The yard is THEIR kill zone. Meaning any small animals are potentially at risk if they will give chase. That being said, lets be frank about this. If you own cats, most cities have bylaws requiring them not to wander freely outdoors. There are many risks for a cat outdoors including cars, other cats, coyotes and other animals. If you do permit your cat to wander freely outside because you think it's "nice", we would strongly encourage you to think again. Many responsible cat owners utilize a "catio" to allow their cat to explore the outdoors safely. If you are still determined to let your cat roam freely outdoors despite the negative impact they have on local bird populations, do not turn your whippet and your cat out together. Before you let your dog out, make sure your cat is free from the yard. But note if you refuse to keep your cat indoors you must acknowledge that an accident in the yard is not only possible but probable.

In the house, it's a different story. Remember our blog post on crate training? If you've read it, you'll recall that our dogs are never left alone unsupervised. If we are not home, our dogs are crated. So in the event one of our cats runs around and gets the cat crazies, no accidents will occur because our dogs are crated. When you are home, do not leave your whippet and cat alone unsupervised. A dog savvy cat will quickly teach an overly exuberant puppy what is and isn't acceptable play. You can also teach your puppy the cue to "leave it". Trust us, regardless of whether you have small animals or not, that is a cue your whippet will need to learn and master.

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