One Kitten or Two?

This is the time of year when many people get a kitten, and cat rescues are full with cats and kittens. Is it better to get one kitten or two? Here are seven reasons why it might be a good idea to get two.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

1. It’s twice as much cute fluffy fun … if one kitten is adorable, then surely two is even more adorable? 
2. So they can play together. Kittens love to play. They have a wide variety of play behaviours: play with objects such as cat toys or shoe-laces, chasing, running, hiding, leaping, and even chasing their own (or  another cat’s) tail. Play behaviours peak at about four months old, and then tail off, but adult cats like to play too.

There are several ideas about why play is important, such as practising hunting behaviours, developing motor skills, keeping fit, and learning about the environment and social bonds. As with other animals, play seems to be important in feline development. Having another kitten around will increase the opportunities for play, and the…

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.

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…

Will a Dog Comfort a Crying Stranger?

Study shows that dogs will respond to someone in tears, even if they are a stranger.

Another Reason Not to Buy Puppies From Puppy Mills

Dogs kept as breeding stock and then re-homed from puppy mills are more likely to have behaviour problems than other dogs. It's important to choose the source of puppies wisely.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A puppy mill, or puppy farm, is a commercial breeding establishment that raises puppies for sale. Often the dogs are kept in very small enclosures and have limited interaction with people. Puppies from these sources often have health problems (because the parents haven’t been properly health-checked), and behavioural issues (because they haven’t been socialized to people, other dogs, or a home environment from an early age). In some cases, the conditions are squalid.

A recent survey by the Dogs Trust in the UK found that almost 95% of dog-owners said they would not consider getting a dog from a puppy mill. Unfortunately, when asked where they had acquired their dog, 15% of them said the internet, an advert in the paper, or a pet store – all likely places to find puppies from puppy mills. …

Why Do Some Owners Not Walk Their Dogs?

There are two factors that explain why some people don't walk their dog.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

In an earlier post, I looked at whether people could be encouraged to take more physical exercise by focusing on the benefits to their dog of going for a walk. It seems they can. But it surprises me that some people don’t walk their dog every day. To me, taking a dog for a walk is one of the lovely things about having a dog, but apparently not everyone feels that way.

A study by Hayley Cutt looks at the reasons why. Public health officials are always looking for ways of encouraging people to exercise, and as Cutt puts it, “one such under-used resource lies patiently, wagging its tail in eagerness to be physically active.”

Participants in this study were a subset of people taking part in a longitudinal survey of a neighbourhood in Perth, Australia. The dog-owners were asked to complete a questionnaire about their dog, how often they walked the dog, and the quality of their relationship.

This …

Preventing Dog Bites in Children

This is National Dog Bite Prevention Week in the US, so I thought I’d look at two recent studies that investigate dog bite prevention in children. Both studies are based on interviews with parents and children, after the children had been admitted to a hospital emergency department.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A study by Ilana Reisner et al asked children who had been bitten by dogs about the circumstances of the bite. They wanted to know things like whether it happened inside or outside, and what the dog and child were doing immediately prior to the bite. Most indoor dog bites happened in the dog’s home (whether or not it was also the child’s home), and most outdoor dog bites happened near to the dog’s home.
They identified two main circumstances for dog bites; younger children tended to be bitten inside the home, often by a dog that they lived with, whereas older children tended to be bitten outside, by dogs they did not know. For the younger children, there was often some interaction between…

Walking a Dog: Good for You and the Dog

A dog-walking intervention helpfully led to increased dog walking behaviour, this study shows.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

We all know that owning pets is said to be good for you. One of the benefits of owning a dog is taking it for walks. And walking – like any other form of exercise – is good for your health.
It surprises me that some people don’t walk their dogs, because having to go out in all weathers is one of the things I like about having dogs. However wet and windy it is outside, it’s (usually) not so bad once you actually get out there. And walking helps prevent canine obesity as well as human obesity. Dogs that are left on their own in a yard to exercise are more likely to be obese than dogs that have an exercise regime, according to a study by I.M. Bland et al in 2009. When dogs are left in a yard, even if that yard is more than an acre in size, they just don’t seem to do enough exercise.
A recent study looked at whether people could be persuaded to do more walking for the sake of t…