Cats and Dogs: Do They Get Along?

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
Photo: Jiri Vaclavek/Shutterstock

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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.

This page contains affiliate links.

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?

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband and two cats.

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

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


  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.

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

    2. So interesting because my situation is SO similar! I had my dog, she was about 3, I took in a stray cat, he was about 3. It took a bit for them to be near each other but they were never aggressive towards one another. Now they lay near one another often, either on the couch or at the foot of my bed, but, just like this person said, they keep about a foot between them (sometimes closer on a good day :)) and often mirror each other in the way they're laying. It's really interesting to me that our animals behave so similarly, along with the similarity in age when introduced and everything. I'm hoping you read this because I'd love to discuss this further!

  2. I have two Shih-tzus a father (7) and a daughter (4) who already have a strong bond with eachother. Last year I took in two kittens (brothers) who were barely 3 months and I was scared of how the dogs would react to the new members of the family. The father at first was very cautious of the kittens and stayed away from them as much as possible, while the daughter assumed the role of a mother and helped raised the kittens who became so attached to her they followed her everywhere. Overtime the kittens grew and the father finally gave in to accepting his new family and even shares his bed with one of the cats now. Cool thing too is that the cats have picked up so much from the dogs they think they're dogs too where one likes to take walks outside on a leash with his canine buddies and they other loves to play fetch. It's been so amazing to watch them interact and grow with each other this past year and to know I have four dogs now :-)

  3. My dog Cinnamon, is a boxer and a rottweiler mix, we had just recently gotten a cat from our local animal shelter, her name is Maddie. At first my dog and cat could not stand to be in the same room as each other, then my dog became accustomed to the cat,the cat now even likes to sleep near her. What seems to be off, is that they like to sleep closer than a foot to each other. My dog cinnamon is a girl, and when we adopted Maddie she was 3. Maddie was about 5 months old. This leads me to wonder, because my dog has shown a different attitude to her, even lets her eat or drink from her bowls, which she doesn't let the dog that she has known forever do. Could it be possible that my dog Cinnamon think Maddie is her pup?

  4. My dog is a golden lab, he often shares his food with stray cats but he does not let anyone see. you could say he is the kindest dog in the world, he wouldn't harm an ant, literally. but my cat on the other side he is a devil. I found him on my balcony when he was really young. he is still only one years old. So I took him to my dog, as soon as he say my dog from a window he hissed. I tried over the days and he is slowly getting better. (:


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Don't Punish Your Dog for Peeing in the House

What Is Positive Punishment in Dog Training?

What is Negative Reinforcement in Dog Training?