Feline-Friendly Dogs

A study published in the January 2017 Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science may help you determine if a dog you want to adopt will get along with your cat. The study looked at dogs’ responses to cat-related sights, sounds, and smells to determine which dogs are likely to get along with cats.

“When dogs are waiting for adoption at a shelter, a common question is ‘what is the dog like with cats,’ ” says Christy L. Hoffman, Ph.D., assistant professor of animal behavior, ecology, and conservation at Canisius College.

“Our study investigated what a cat-friendliness assessment might look like,” says Hoffman.

To do this, the team examined the responses of 69 pet dogs when presented with three different stimuli: a realistic-looking cat doll, recordings of cat sounds, and the smell of cat urine. They learned dogs are more responsive to the sounds of cats than to the sights or smells of cats. Specifically, dogs with a history of killing or injuring a cat or other small animal spent longer orienting to the cat sounds than the other dogs. No relationship was found between a dog’s history with cats and other small animals and his reaction to visual or olfactory information.

“As humans, our first thought was to test dogs’ responses to the cat doll because it visually resembles a real cat. However, our findings suggest that dogs are relying more heavily on another sense, hearing. This was surprising since most behavioral assessments focus on dogs’ responses to visual stimuli. Our findings suggest that employing assessments that engage other sensory modalities, especially sound, may provide additional clues about an individual dog’s behavior,” Hoffman says.