This morning, I heard a funny sound in the backyard. A puppy? A lost dog? A sad dog, it was definitely an unhappy sound.
I looked out and saw this...
That’s not a lost puppy or small dog. That’s my 9 year old husky. In full prey drive mode. Oh dear!
(Prey Drive has different impacts on different breeds - selective breeding has allowed humans to manipulate it so terriers hunt rats, retrievers retrieve game and herding dogs herd sheep. In many arctic breeds, prey drive has been left unmodified, and in some cases encouraged, where dogs have been allowed to hunt for their own food in summer months, as part of the traditional lifestyles of various indigenous peoples.)
I raced down the backyard. Some huskies can be trusted with small animals, but many are a danger for possums, guinea pigs and even small dogs. Bolo is walked in a muzzle because he can’t be trusted to tell the difference between a white arctic hare (not that we have many of them in Melbourne!) and a white terrier like a Westie or a Maltese. Frankie is pretty happy to live and let live - with the right introductions and combination of personalities, I could see him happily living with a confident cat or bossy little dog.
Czar sits right in the middle of these two. He has been known to catch young possums and snatch low flying birds out of the air. He attends Obedience Classes and Trials very happily, surrounded by dogs of all sizes. But off lead parks became very stressful, as sometimes Czar’s prey drive was triggered by other dogs running past right under his nose, and it was always questionable whether he would just chase or whether he would actually catch and hurt a smaller dog.
And this morning, it was Czar who had something cornered up a tree, inside our backyard. So I hurried down the back stairs and down the back yard. To my relief, Czar “recalled” beautifully, coming out of the garden bed when I called him. I’ve seen him in full prey drive mode completely unresponsive, even to being dragged on a martingale collar (in an Obedience Trial, to my disgust!) Today wasn’t so bad. I took him inside and gave him a lots of praise and treats.
Do you want to know what he had trapped?
To be honest, I’m really a bit cranky about this. We live right by multiple areas of National Park and I’m surprised the local council doesn’t have more restrictions on cats to protect our native wildlife. Since we moved in, the Wee Monster has enjoyed spotting possums (high in the trees, out of husky reach), cockatoos, rosellas and kookaburras in our garden, and I assume that most of the locals are here to enjoy the greenery and the birds. So I’m surprised to see a few neighbours let their cats roam - they’ve been in our front garden quite a bit, but this is the first time in the back, that I know of. But I’m also really cranky about the disregard for the cat’s own safety. Nearly every house in our street has at least one dog, many have two. Maybe not all of those dogs have the same prey drive issues as huskies, but I still think many people are cavalier about their cat’s safety, if they let their cat roam. Cats can be very happy indoors and in cat runs. Why run the risk of them wandering into a backyard and into the jaws of a large dog?
Please, folks, if you love your cat, keep it safe!!