In the process of domestication, dogs (Canis familiaris) and cats (Felis catus) have undergone thousands of years of genetic changes that have adapted them to the human environment. Both species have acquired a global distribution and it has become quite common to find homes with the two living side by side. Nevertheless, there is widespread belief that interspecific communication between dogs and cats is problematic, stemming from their separate evolutionary development and different social structures. Consequently, many people considering possible adoption of both species are concerned about their ability to get along. Interrelationships of dogs and cats living together were studied here in an attempt to determine the main factors influencing the type of relationship likely to develop between the two species. Two approaches were used: (1) a questionnaire completed by owners of both dog(s) and cat(s), which provided a broad database of the animals' behaviors; and (2) observations carried out in participants' homes on their dog-cat interactions. Two separate ethograms for dogs and cats served for analyses of their body language. The findings revealed the following: Both species showed a similar ability to establish a relatively amicable relationship with the other species; the animals' gender had little influence on the nature of their interrelationship; and adoption of the cat prior to the dog appears to conduce to establishing an amicable relationship, as does their first encounter taking place at an early age (up to 6 months of age in cats and up to 1 year in dogs). The findings also suggest that the majority of these dogs and cats understood the particular body language displayed by one animal that has an opposite meaning for the other species; and that the earlier the age of first encounter between the two, the better this understanding. It can be concluded that exposure of both species at an early age to the presence of the other facilitates the learning of each other's body language, and the consequent establishment of an amicable relationship. A better understanding of the various factors that contribute to determining the two species' relationship should not only improve the quality of life of these pets, but also reassure and encourage more people to adopt both cat and dog.
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