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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


25 January 2013

Dogs and Cats in the Home: Happiness for all?

Hi Mia!

Looking forward to hearing more about your upcoming conference, ‘When coping is not enough - Promoting positive welfare states in animals’.

I was recently thinking about positive welfare in animals, sort of by accident. This past Monday, I was part of a Cats In Context conference at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. The conference was put together by ISHAR, the Institute for the Study of Human Animal Relations. Last year’s conference covered The Future of Zoos -- and all those talks are available online -- and this year's focus was cats, cats and more cats. Topics included genetics, domestication, cognition, nutrition, behavior problems, vet and health issues, shelter and feral welfare, cats and wildlife and cats and hoarders. 

Apparently, all talks and discussions from Cats in Context will be posted on the ISAHR website so you can see how much coffee and grapes I consumed over the course of 7 hours.

Lucky for me, the conference came with a side of dogs! My talk covered Dogs and Cats in the Home. While approximately 15.3% of pet-owning households own a combination of cats and dogs, cats and dogs, as a unit, haven't receive that much attention from researchers.

Here’s a 100% made-up graph comparing the amount attention given to “Dog”, “Cat” and “Dog and Cat” behavior and cognition research. The point I'm making is that dogs get the bulk of the attention, cats seem to get much less and dogs and cats as a unit are way down at the bottom.

I think many people picture this when they hear Dogs and Cats in the Home:

But when I took a look at the limited literature, it suggested that many of the dogs and cats living together were more like this:

One study used a questionnaire and in-home observations to explore the nature of the relationship between dogs and cats already living in the same household. The overarching finding was that many relationships showed signs of “mutual amicability.” For example, the researchers found that many dogs and cats displayed, “a motivation to initiate mutual play.”

Additionally, 75% of dog and cat pairs displayed nose-to-nose contact which is characteristic of friendly and affiliative relationships, specifically between cats. So, it’s pretty awesome that the researchers found this behavior between dogs and cats.
(Nose-to-Nose behavior between a cat and a dog -- Source)
(Typical Nose-to-Nose behavior between cats -- Source)
One of the major factors contributing to successful relationships between dogs and cats seemed to be age of first encounter, suggesting that early introductions promote subsequent amicable relationships. 

Of course, not all dogs and cats living in the home have amicable relationships, but what this does remind us is that amicable relationships can and do exist, they are not just the "stuff of movies!"

What’s your experience with dogs and cats in the home?? And do tell more about your upcoming talk at the conference, ‘When coping is not enough - Promoting positive welfare states in animals.’

Bye for now!


Feuerstein N. & Terkel J. (2008). Interrelationships of dogs (Canis familiaris) and cats (Felis catus L.) living under the same roof, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 113 (1-3) 150-165. DOI:

© Julie Hecht 2013
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  1. I have a 3 dog, 1 cat household. All future puppies will be well and truly habituated to a cat as the adult dogs don't work well with the cat at all! We have 'cat time' and 'dog time' in the lounge room and it's probably going to be the way things go for years to come.

  2. Yes, pets like cats and dogs are stress relievers and I consider them as my family. I'm glad to have dogs and cats in my life.


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