Can Cats and Dogs Live Peacefully Together?

By PetMD Editorial on Aug. 19, 2015

Can Cats and Dogs Happily Coexist in the Same Home?

Can dogs and cats live together? Do cats and dogs even get along? It seems like a silly question to anyone with friendly canine and feline residents, but the uniformed may have a tough time seeing any real world scenario where cats and dogs live in harmony in the same home.

It's first important to establish that there are several factors that may determine whether your dog or cat will get along with their four-legged counterpart—breed, size, and overall temperament, just to name a few. But there may be something you can do to nurture a healthy union.

According to a 2008 study by Tel Aviv University and published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, you may have more success if you introduce the pets when they are still young. After interviewing almost 200 pet owners who own both a cat and a dog, and then videotaping and analyzing the animals’ behavior, Professor Joseph Terkel and his graduate student Neta-li Feuerstein from the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University found that over 66% of the homes they surveyed reported a positive relationship between their cats and dogs, given that kittens were introduced at less than 6 months and when dogs were introduced before their first birthday.

What about the other pets that either showed indifference or all-out aggression towards their furry fellows?

One reason for the fighting may have been misunderstood inter-species signals. Cats and dogs may not have been able to read each other’s body cues. For example, dogs typically growl when mad, while cats tend to lash their tails; a cat’s averted head probably signals aggression, while in a dog the same head position signals submission.

All hope is not lost, though.

Prof. Terkel suspected both cats and dogs had the ability to evolve beyond their instincts. They can learn to read each other’s body signals, suggesting that the two species may have more in common than was previously suspected.

"We found that cats and dogs are learning how to talk each other’s language." Prof. Terkel said. "… cats can learn how to talk 'Dog' and vice versa."

So, maybe Dr. Peter Venkman, famously played by Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, was wrong. Dogs and cats living together won't cause mass hysteria. Under the right conditions it may be a cause for mass enjoyment!

Image: vvvita / Shutterstock

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