Dog Spies

Dog Spies

Explore the science behind the dog in your bed

Dogs and Cats in the Home: Happiness for All?


‘Dogs and Cats in the Home: Happiness for All?’ was a Finalist in the inaugural ScienceSeeker Awards* in the category Best Post About Peer-reviewed Research (winners and finalists listed here). Congrats to all those recognized and many thanks to the judges** for putting in how many hours?

A version of this post first appeared at Do you believe in dog? (Twitter @DoUBelieveInDog) a joint pen pal blog between myself and Mia Cobb, an animal welfare scientist and canine researcher just outside Melbourne, Australia.

RECENTLY, I was part of a Cats in Context conference at Canisius College (say that three times fast) in Buffalo, NY held by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations (ISHAR). The previous conference discussed The Future of Zoos (and all talks are available online), but this year's focus was cats, cats and more cats. Speakers investigated all angles of The Cat -- genetics, domestication, cognition, nutrition, behavior problems, health issues, shelter and feral welfare, cats and the wildlife and cat hoarders.

Lucky for me, Cats in Context came with a side of dogs, in the form of my lecture ‘Dogs and Cats in the Home’. While 15.3% of pet-owning households live with both cats and dogs, cats and dogs as a unit haven't received much attention from researchers.

Here’s a 100% made-up graph comparing the academic research devoted to “Dog”, “Cat” and “Dog and Cat” behavior and cognition. Dogs receive the bulk of the attention, cats get far less, and dogs and cats as a unit are way down at the bottom.

Odie and Garfield

When I say dogs and cats in the home, what comes to mind? An image of a dog and a cat sparring? An arched back? Piloerection? "Frenemies"?

The limited research suggests that many dogs and cats living together look like some version of this:

Odie and Garfield Research

One study used a questionnaire and in-home behavior observations to investigate the relationship between dogs and cats living in the same household. The overarching finding was that many relationships showed signs of “mutual amicability.” 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 among cats. So, it’s pretty awesome that the researchers found this behavior between dogs and cats.

One of the major factors contributing to successful relationships between dogs and cats seemed to be age of first encounter, suggesting that early introductions to the other species promote subsequent amicable relationships.

Of course, not all dogs and cats living in the same home are best buds, but what this research reminds us is that amicable relationships are not just the stuff of movies!

Do you live with a dog and cat? Do they get along? What’s your story?


* What is ScienceSeeker? As Sci Am Blog Editor, Bora Zivkovic explains, ScienceSeeker is the main portal for collecting, connecting and filtering science writing online, especially on science blogs.” Take a looksie and see what you're missing. Follow @SciSeeker

** The judges: Fraser Cain, Maggie Koerth-Baker, and Maryn McKenna.

Images: Graph by author; Get the cat! by Greencolander; Content dog and cat by Roger H. Goun, nose-to-nose by Livinginmonrovia


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:

London K. (2012). Piloerection: What’s going on when a dog does this? The Bark online blog.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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