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For Peace and Harmony: Get the Kitten First, Puppy Second

A Truce Between Species
 
Pet owners love their animals like children, and develop the desire to expand the brood, but worry Fido will tear out the new kitty's eyes. Or conversely, that their finicky Fifi will rip out a new puppy's eyes.   
 
But worry no more. New research at Tel Aviv University, the first of its kind in the world, has found a new recipe for success.  According to the study, if the cat is adopted before the dog and if they are introduced when still young (less than 6 months for kittens, a year for dogs), there is a high probability that the two pets will get along wonderfully.
 
"This is the first time anyone has done scientific research on pets living in the same home," says Professor Joseph Terkel, of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University.  "It's especially relevant to the one-third of Americans who own a pet and are thinking about adopting a second one of the opposite species."
 
Now You're Talking my Language
 
After interviewing almost 200 pet owners who own both a cat and a dog, then videotaping and analyzing the animals' behavior, TAU researchers concluded that cats and dogs can cohabitate happily if certain conditions are met.  Two-thirds of the homes they surveyed reported a positive relationship between their cat and dog.
 
But it wasn't all bliss.  There was a reported indifference between the cat and dog in 25% of the homes, while aggression and fighting were observed in 10% of the homes.
 
One reason for the fighting might have been crossed inter-species signals.  Cats and dogs may not have been able to read each other's body cues.  For instance, cats tend to lash their tails about when mad, while dogs growl and arch their backs.  A cat purrs when happy, while a dog wags its tail.  A cat's averted head signals aggression, while in a dog the same head position signals submission.
 
In homes where cat-dog tensions began to relax, Professor Terkel observed a surprising behavior.  "We found that cats and dogs are learning how to talk each other's language.  It was a surprise that cats can learn how to talk 'Dog' and vice versa."
 
Cats and dogs appear to have evolved 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. 
 
Once familiar with each others' presence and body language, cats and dogs can play together, greet each other nose-to-nose, and enjoy sleeping together on the couch.  They can easily share the same water bowl and in some cases groom each other.

By Chris Navarro
Get Veterinary Technician Jobs, Contributing Editor

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