By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 1 September 2011)
The findings of a study conducted by Professor Joseph Terkel and graduate student Neta-li Feuerstein of Tel Aviv University indicate that cats and dogs can get along well, provided certain conditions are met.
Conflicts between cats and dogs often result from crossed signals. For example, a dog wags its tail when happy, whereas a cat with a swishing tail is angry. A dog may perceive the moving tail as a friendly, welcoming signal, whereas the cat, which has been warning the dog off, feels threatened by its advance and lashes out.
Despite these differences in body language, Terkel and Feuerstein found that in nearly two-thirds of multi-pet households that included both cats and dogs, the pets were good friends. In many cases they had even learned to read one another’s signals and thus bridge their cultural differences. In other words, dogs had learned to speak “cat” and vice-versa. Cats and dogs in harmonious households often slept together, played together, and even groomed one another.
The study found that in an additional 25% of multi-pet households, cats and dogs had established a peaceable indifference to one another. They were hostile and aggressive toward each another in just 10% of multi-pet homes.
Cat Breeds That Get Along Best with Dogs and Other Pets
Animal Planet has rated cat breeds based on how well they tend to get along with other pets. Of course there will always be exceptions because not every cat of a given breed will have all the characteristics of that breed, and individual cats may have had positive or negative experiences with dogs.
The highest compatibility ratings went to the Manx and its long-haired counterpart, the Cymric, which received scores of 9 out of 10 for their ability to integrate within multi-pet households. Manx and Cymric cats are tailless or have very short, stubby tails. They are often described as doglike for their willingness to play fetch and ability to adapt well to vehicle travel. These cats tend to be relatively adaptable in general and less traumatized by change than cats of most other breeds.
The following cat breeds also received relatively high scores of 8 out of 10 for their ability to get along with other pets:
- American Curl
- American Shorthair
- Exotic Shorthair
- Maine Coon
This is quite a varied group, ranging from the ultra-intelligent Sphynx to the laid-back Persian to the hardy American Shorthair. What they have in common is that they all tend to be relatively easy going and tolerant.
Cat Breeds That May Have Difficulty Getting Along with Other Pets
Animal Planet rated the following cat breeds just 5 out of 10 for their ability to live happily with other pets:
- Colourpoint Shorthair
- Devon Rex
- Egyptian Mau
- Russian Blue
Many of these breeds are derived from the Siamese, a highly intelligent but sensitive breed. Others, like the Korat and the Russian Blue, tend to be timid and prone to startling, so they may have difficulty with rambunctious dogs.
The Cornish Rex, a curly-coated breed, received a score of just 4 out of 10, and the Bengal, a wild-cat hybrid, came in at the bottom with a rating of 3 out of 10. Although these breeds may have difficulty adapting to multi-pet households as adults, if they are introduced as kittens (ideally at around 12-16 weeks of age), they have a much better chance of integrating well.
Some cat fanciers disagree with Animal Planet ratings. For example, many fans of the Devon and Cornish Rex assert that these are dog-friendly breeds, as long as the dogs in question are cat-friendly.
How to Increase the Likelihood That Cats and Dogs Will Become Friends
The Terkel and Feuerstein research findings indicate that the greatest likelihood of cat-and-dog friendship occurs when the following conditions are met:
- The cat is adopted first.
- The cat is under 6 months old when it meets the dog.
- The dog is adopted at less than a year old.
However, there have been plenty of positive cat-dog relationships established even when these conditions were not met. To increase the likelihood that pets will become friends, it is very important to handle the introductions properly, particularly if both pets are adults.
For information on how to bring cats and dogs together, see How to Introduce a New Dog to Your Cat. The same guidelines apply when introducing a new cat to a resident dog. Adopters can maximize the likelihood of a successful integration by choosing a shelter dog that has prior experience with cats, or a shelter cat that has lived with dogs in the past.
- Animal Planet. (2010). “Cat Breed Directory.” Animal.Discovery.com.
- ScienceDaily.com. (9 September 2008). “Dogs And Cats Can Live In Perfect Harmony In The Home, If Introduced The Right Way.” (summary of the Terkel and Feuerstein study).