Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Cats and Dogs

Research shows dogs and cats that live in the same house usually get along, but if helps if the cat is there first.

Cat and dog curled up sleeping together


Can cats and dogs ever get along? Isn’t there always a risk that the cat will become a furry snack, or the dog will get a scratch to the nose? Although we often talk about ‘cat people’ and ‘dog people’, in reality many of us are both, and want both as pets.

There’s some good news from a study by N. Feuerstein and Joseph Turkel, who looked at cats and dogs that live in the same home. They distributed a questionnaire to pet owners who had both cats and dogs, and also spent time in the house observing how the cat and dog interacted when in the same room. Where people had multiple cats or dogs, they chose the animal to observe at random, so they were just observing the interactions of one dog and one cat. They classified the behaviours on a six-point scale that included friendly, indifferent and aggressive behaviours.

In approximately 66% of the cases, the cats and dogs showed amicable behaviours towards the other animal. In about a further quarter, they were indifferent; they were aggressive in less than 10% of the cases. One important factor was the order in which the animals were acquired; dogs were more likely to be friendly to the cat if the cat had been adopted first.

Also important was the age at which they were introduced. They were more likely to have a friendly relationship if introduced at a young age, which for cats was less than six months, and for the dogs was less than a year old.

So if you are planning to get a cat and a dog, it makes sense to get the cat first. Of course, if you are adopting a dog from a rescue, you can find one that has already lived with cats, or at least has been tested to see if it is friendly towards cats.

One very nice finding from this study was that the cats and dogs often seemed to understand each other’s communication, even though there are differences in the signals they use. For example, a wagging tail is a sign of friendship from a dog, but of nervousness or impending aggression from a cat.

This did not stop them from getting along; the cats and dogs seemed to be able to read each other’s body language. The dogs had even learned a cat-friendly greeting. Cats often greet each other by sniffing noses, and the dogs in the study were observed to do this with cats. These nose-to-nose greetings occurred more frequently in the animals that had been introduced at a young age, suggesting that early exposure to the other species enables it to learn their communication signals. 

Does your cat get along with your dog? Have you seen them do a nose-to-nose greeting?

You might also like: Finding out if dogs like cats - or not.

Reference
Feuerstein, N., & Turkel, J. (2007). Interrelationships of dogs (Canis familiaris) and cats (Felis catus L.) living under the same roof Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 150-165 DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2007.10.010
Photo: Jiri Vaclavek (Shutterstock.com)

2 comments:

  1. My dog was 2 and the cat was 2 and came to us from a different house. My dog is very respectful of other animals and always is the submissive one and gives all animals their space.The cat and him quickly seemed to adjust to each other and now greet each other with a nose sniff and sleep near each other on the foot of my bed almost all the the time. They also seem to constantly mirror each other when sleeping. Which I find so interesting. My dog will always move over if the cat is too close to her. She keeps about 10 inches between her and the cat all the time. They do play chase once in awhile when the cat feels like it. The cat is obviously the one calling the shots.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! You should tell more about this. It is very very interesting.

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