New study: Cats and dogs don’t actually fight like cats and dogs

We’re going to have to find a new cliché to describe people who don’t get along.

A new study from the University of Lincoln in Lincoln, the United Kingdom, explores the relationships between cats and dogs who live together in the same home. And in most cases, cats and dogs living under the same roof got along just fine . . . as long as nobody ticked off the cat.

Given that 32% of US pet-owning households have both a cat and a dog, the study provides some insights for veterinarians with clients looking to maintain peace at home.

Of course, amicability is in the eye of the beholder—the study based its findings on owner responses. Researchers conducted an online survey of 748 pet owners from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, and Europe. More than 80% of respondents said that their pets were comfortable with one another. Only 3% thought that their cats and dogs couldn’t stand each other.

When things did get out of hand, the cat was usually the aggressor:

  • Cats were 3 times more likely to threaten their canine housemates than the other way around.
  • Cats were 10 times time more likely to injure dogs in a fight.

But most of the time, things were chummy:

  • 27% of owners said their cats and dogs played together every day.
  • 12% said their dogs groomed their cats every day.
  • 10% said their cats groomed their dogs every day.
  • 82% said their cats and dogs spend time in the same room every day.

However, getting along doesn’t necessarily mean “what’s mine is yours”—while some cats and dogs shared both food and a bed, only 28% of dogs and 18% of cats were happy about sharing food. And only 49% of dogs liked the idea of sharing their beds with a cat, as opposed to 42% of cats who didn’t mind sharing their beds with a dog.

Age appeared to play a factor, too: The younger the cat when introduced to the dog, the greater the likelihood that the two would get along. So the researchers recommend that if a dog owner wants to get a cat, get a young cat—preferably less than a year old.

The researchers believe that domestication may play a big role in why dogs are more amenable to sharing space with cats than the other way around: dogs have been domesticated for longer than cats and they’re easier to train, so controlling their behavior may come easier to them than to cats.

One thing was clear: Pet owners’ perceptions of how well their pets got along were influenced more by “cat factors” than “dog factors.”

In other words, if Kitty ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Photo credit: © iStock/skynesher

NEWStat Advancements & research News Interesting/unusual