Ray has always had a problem with cats! Whether it is an intuitive thing, or whether he has had a bad experience, we of course can never know but we do think that it is rather more than simply prey drive.
Ray certainly does have a strong prey drive which is evident when squirrels* or rabbits** are active in his territory. It is also noticeable when out on a walk and a squirrel or a rabbit is seen dozing on somebody’s front lawn or scurrying up a tree (rabbit or squirrel in that sequence!).
When he sees either in his territory, his immediate response is to go charging after it and try to catch it. Failing a catch, then he has successfully driven it out of his area of concern. One can only speculate (with a big smile) what a squirrel chase would look like if Ray could climb trees!
When out on a walk, he generally has his nose down and clearly checking out the myriad of scents on the grass, beneath hedges, around hydro poles, bus stops and (of course) fire hydrants! Almost secondary is his visual surveying of his immediate area, and so a squirrel or a rabbit on the ground will suddenly get his attention. His prey drive will then surface and he will usually pull hard on his leash in that direction. In fairness to Ray, a combination of “Leave it!”, and a treat presented (as soon as his head movement tells us that he has seen something of great interest) is often successful at neutralizing any reaction.
He does not appear to go specifically looking for squirrels or rabbits when out on a walk, and this is the key difference. He knows where the cat places are, and checks them out extremely thoroughly each and every time we pass one of those places. We have a house around the corner which is on our route to Ray’s (?) park***. It has driveways on both sides of the house and there are usually cars parked on both of them. Underneath, or alongside, those cars seems to be a favorite spot for cats to chill out.
When Ray first discovered this “travesty of life”, he simply went into his typical chase mode and fortunately came up short of physical contact due to his leash. Unbeknown to him (presumably?), the leash probably saved him from a conflict which he would not have liked. While Ray lunged forward and ran out of available leash, the cat quickly tensed up its back legs and was clearly ready for action! I have seen many cats get themselves into this position and, on literally every occasion, it has been to prepare to spring forward.
There was no conflict however, due to his leash, but when we now approach those driveways, his body tenses up and his head goes down to the ground as he surveys the area under the parked cars. He is clearly in a “stalking” frame of mind and it is really intense. One evening he saw a cat beneath a car and starting creating so much noise (aggressive barking) that the people who lived in the house came out to see what all the noise was about! We explained the circumstances and quickly moved on!
It really does seem as if squirrels and rabbits are nothing more than objects to be chased and caught if possible. A cat however is clearly something to be hunted down. A cat is something that must not catch him off guard. A cat is really embedded in his mind as something to be always on the lookout for. I have not told him that I have had 5 of them as pets over the years! It might tarnish our relationship!
*See “Delusional Squirrel) – Dec 14, 2014
**See “Rocket Boy” – Nov 14, 2014
***See “Ray discovers acorns” – Oct 26, 2014