Why Do Cats and Dogs Greet Us So Differently?

Why Do Cats and Dogs Greet Us So Differently?

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Dog greetings
A July io9 article discussed, in depth, the science behind why dogs can be so incredibly, exuberantly happy when we come home. The article says that Neuroscientist Gregory Berns of Emory University has been studying changes in dog brains using fMRI to determine how dogs think and perceive their environment. Berns believes from his research that dogs “love their humans—and not just for food. They love the company of humans simply for its own sake.”

Do dogs have separation anxiety?
The i09 article also cites neuroscientist Giorgio Vallortigara of the University of Trento who notes that for dogs “separation from the owner…is not voluntary.” He theorizes that dogs’ over-the-top greeting behavior may be because dogs prefer the social company of others and they have difficulty, or an inability, to accept “the possibility of non-voluntary detachment.” In other words, your dog experiences mild to moderate stress upon your departure, the degree to which depends on the personality, training, development and environment of your dog. Your return is a relief and an opportunity for the dog to express his or her attachment to you and what can be considered “joy.”

What makes a dog so excited for your return?
Another reason for a dog’s excited greeting behavior can be ascribed to that fact that many dogs are bored during the day and lack the necessary mental and physical enrichment they require. A dog that has nothing to do during the hours that you’re gone will become excited when you return because he anticipates it means:

  • He will get to engage in activities that are interesting
  • He will eliminate boredom with play, exercise and social contact
  • He will have positive experiences, like being fed dinner

Why don’t cats greet us the same way?
When looking at how cats greet their humans, one gets a different mental picture. Cats are certainly not known for exuberantly jumping on their people and expressing happiness that, for a dog, can border on looking like temporary hysteria. This lack of an overtly obvious emotional display leaves many people with the impression that cats are indifferent to us and not as loving and affectionate. Research into cat behavior demonstrates that this belief is incorrect and we simply are misinterpreting cat behavior through the lens of what’s expected behavior from the dogs in our lives.

What does the science say?
Dr. Sharon Crowell-Davis, a veterinary behaviorist and Professor of Behavior and Anatomy at the University of Georgia, has studied cat social behavior for several years. Her research has found that cats are indeed “a social species1.”

Cats exhibit greeting behaviors with humans that are appropriate for their species, such as nose-touching, allogrooming, and head rubbing. Therefore a cat that saunters up to you when you come home and rubs her head against your leg is expressing a friendly greeting that is “reserved for familiar” members of their social group. It may not seem as exuberant as a dog’s greeting, but for that cat, she is expressing the same level of pleasure at your arrival that a dog is, just in a species appropriate way.

How would wild cats greet?
In fact, cats in the wild, and in households, form social groups with other cats, and cats only allow interaction with non-members of their social group with “a gradual process1;" strangers are not allowed to just casually stroll up and greet them. This can explain why your dog is delighted to meet every stranger who comes to your door, while your cat may regard them coolly from afar. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t cats that will run up to greet new people— as all cats, and dogs, are individuals—but those that don’t are acting in a manner consistent with their species and cats should be allowed to greet new people with a timeframe that makes them comfortable.

Cats are vocal
Another form of greeting behavior that is very common for cats is vocalization and cats are in fact “one of the most vocal carnivore species1.” Cats can exhibit greeting behavior through purring, trilling, meowing and even howling (for cats that may be more stressed at their separation and your eventual return). Certain breeds of cat are also known to be more “talkative” than others, such as Siamese and Tonkinese cats, according to The Cat Fanciers' Association. Cats also demonstrate friendly behavior when they approach you with their tails up.

So are cats really indifferent to the return of their guardians? Research, and cat lovers, would dispute this notion. Cats simply need to be understood for who they are and their friendly, attachment-oriented behavior should be appreciated and not compared to our canine friends’ unbridled demonstrations of enthusiasm. Both dogs and cats share a clear social affiliation with their human families and express it their own unique ways.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


  1. Crowell-Davis SL, Curtis TM and Knowles RJ. (2004) Social organization in the cat: A modern understanding. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 6(19-28).

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

How Cats And Dogs Communicate

October 14, 2014

Despite working with dogs for a living, I’m actually a “cat person” too. I’ve always shared my home with both species, and for the most part, life together is peaceful. I haven’t experienced much of the “fighting like cats and dogs” stereotype. Still, the interaction between species is fascinating to me. Do they understand each other? Is conflict caused by misinterpretation of signals?

As a trainer, I believe I’d be doing a disservice to my clients who share their home with the two most popular household pets if I didn’t know about cat behavior too. Based on my research, I’ve come up with 5 common ways our pets communicate similarly, and 5 common misunderstandings. Of course, individual personality, breed, and experience are all factors that can affect communication greatly. My hope is that you will be able to look at your own pets’ interactions a little differently!

5 ways our cats and dogs get signals crossed:

1. Tail position – We all know a loosely-wagging dog tail is an indication of friendliness, but it looks strikingly similar to an agitated cat tail whipping back and forth. Watch out, pooches!

2. Meeting and greeting – Cats use a nose-to-nose touch to greet other cats, where as dogs go, you know, nose-to-butt. Both often find the other’s greeting style to be quite rude.

3. Barks, meows, hisses, and purrs – Dogs bark and cats meow, particularly when looking for attention. Barks and meows don’t really translate across species, and dogs have no equivalent for hisses and purrs. However, there is evidence that dogs find a hiss noise to be intrinsically unpleasant, so they tend to understand this means to back off from kitty!

4. Rolling over and lifting a paw – For dogs, rolling over indicates in some way that they mean no harm. They’re exposing their vulnerable bellies, after all. For a cat, though, rolling onto their back often means they’re about to grab, scratch, kick, and bite. Similarly, a cat raising a paw might seem like an invitation to play, deference, or attention-seeking to the dog, until they’re met with a smack on the nose! A cat’s raised paw is a warning.

5. Ears – This might be one of the more subtle signals, at least for us humans to recognize. Cats normally hold their ears forward, up and to the side when fearful, and back and flat when aggressive. Dogs hold their ears back and flat when fearful, forward and stiff when aggressive. If a dog can’t read the other feline signals, the dog may mistake aggression for fear or neutrality with aggression.

5 ways cats and dogs understand each other:

1. Shrieks, yelps, and growls – These vocalizations are fairly universal across species. Our cats and dogs should at least recognize these signals of pain, fear, and aggression. Thank goodness for that, right?

2. Eyes – Both species blink often and softly to communicate that they mean no harm or are friendly, and both stare intently as a challenge or threat. When fearful, both cats and dogs show the whites of their eyes, often called “whale-eye.”

3. Whiskers and mouth – Canines and felines both have tension in their mouth area when they’re aggressive. Humans often do this too! When threatened or aggressive, whiskers are pushed forward.

4. Grooming – If your cat and dog groom each other, you’ve got a pair of best friends! It’s called allogrooming, and it’s just about the pinnacle of affection.

5. Resting – Lying down and relaxing near each other indicates comfort. The closer together, the more comfortable your dog and cat are with each other. I used to have a cat and a dog that would spoon each other. How sweet is that?

Time for some participation!
How do your cats and dogs get along?
What signals do they give each other?

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Lynda manages our dog walking team at Rover-Time. Her career focus is on dog training and behavior and her approach is based on science, positive reinforcement, and humane methods to improve relationships between humans and their pets. She’s also an assistant trainer at Animal Sense in the evenings and co-parents her own cat and two dogs, Surf and Ryan, with her other half Mary.

Interesting Differences Between Cats and Dogs:

1. Family: Cats belong to the feline family whereas dogs belong to the canine family.

2. Differences in their built: The physical structure of cats and dogs are different. Cats are agile and their muscles are lean as they love to stalk their prey quietly whereas dogs are firmer and their structures are more athletic. Their endurance level is much more than cats.

3. Sounds they produce: a cat majorly makes sounds like ‘meow’ or ‘purr’. And dogs use barking, growling or woofing.

4. Obeying directions: Cats are the masters of their own minds. It’s really hard to train them properly because they hardly care about what you are directing but dogs are easy to train and they understand and obey certain directives like ‘come’, ‘sit’ or ‘run’.

5. Diet: Cats are totally carnivore. They can’t survive without meat in some forms but dogs are omnivore just as you are, though they prefer meat but they can even live on plant materials.

6. Numbers of teeth: your pet cat has only 30 teeth whereas your pup has 42 teeth. Funny right?

7. Social behavior: Cats love to be lonely. They do not enjoy your bodily attachment that much. But dogs are the social animal. They will love to cuddle with you, will play with your kid and will consider themselves as one of your family members.

8. The difference in movement ability: Cats are agiler than their canine friends. If they feel threatened or if they need their food they would jump or climb steadily but dogs are not that much swift in terms of movement. They will rather attack their hunt with aggression.

9. The requirement of space: Cats can compose themselves in the very little amount of area but dogs tend to feel suffocated in small areas. They require open spaces.

10. Runner vs. sprinter: Cats attack their prey silently from the back and if they have to chase they are sprinters but dogs are good runners they will chase their food and will have it.

11. Potty training: Cats are more likely to understand where to go potty with only a help of litter box but training a pup is more difficult. It takes lot of time and effort to make them understand which the right place to release their potty is.

12. Memory: Cat’s memory is sharper than the dogs. They tend to memorize a thing for up to 16 hours whereas your dog shall forget it within 5 hours.

13. A difference of greeting people: Cats do not care about people. They won’t even greet you if you are seeing her after 1 week or so but dogs will jump at you, will lick you, and will wag its tail to show you their affection.

14. The sharpness of claws: Cats have retractable claws so they can use their sharp claws when needed. The sharpness of their claws is maintained throughout but in cases of the dogs, their claws tend to be duller due to their constant walk.

15. Stamina level: Cats are sprinters. They lose their energy more easily and they are not as strong as the dogs. Dogs have more stamina than the cats. They use fat as the primary energy source that helps them to be the better runner.

16. Hard working capability: According to a recent study, house cats spend 80 percent of the day doing actually nothing. But dogs are versatile workers. They help human beings in many jobs like helping to hunt, to detect criminals, to guide blinds, etc.

17. Dependence on the owner: This point is very important for you to know if you wish to have cats or dogs as your pets. Cats do not bother much about you. Your supervision towards them is not that much needed but your pet dog often acts as your baby. You need to take care of his health, exercise, diet, etc. otherwise they feel neglected.

18. The sense of smell: Dogs have a much better sense of smell than the cats. We, human beings have only 5 million olfactory receptors whereas cats have 45 million to 85 million receptors which make them superior smaller than us. But dogs outshine them in supremacy.

19. Your savior: In night time your doggy will protect you from any scare that comes your way but your cat will escape for its own safety!

20. The span of life: Cats enjoy an average lifetime of 13 or 14 years. Though the outdoor cats do not live as long as the indoor cats. But the indoor cats can even survive for more than 20 years. In contrary, dogs cannot live that much. And in the case of dogs, the bigger the size, the shorter the lifespan. That’s why a poodle might live for 14 to 15 years but a big breed of dog cannot.

These are certainly interesting, funny differences between these two, four-legged, domesticated mammals. Both of them have some distinct qualities. Cats have their own solitary style of living and dogs will love to live in your arms. But both of them are very popular as pets and let us love both. Right?


Kelly Pie is injected with passion and enthusiasm to take out the creativity which is hidden inside her heart and mind as well. Presenting her thoughts and facts in bewildering and astonishing way is her cup of tea. Inspecting new and unique things and learn from every single thing is what she Loves to do. Along with writing her thoughts, she always welcomes new thoughts and suggestions!!

Cats, and most mammals, feel emotions, although those emotions may be experienced and expressed differently in different species. Some of the different emotions observed and studied in mammals, including cats, are fear, happiness, sadness, curiosity, anger, grief and anxiety. Love is difficult to study in animals who cannot tell us how they are feeling, but there is no reason to believe that, when a cat acts affectionate, he isn't feeling an emotion to go along with his behavior.

One of the ways scientists assess whether animals feel a particular emotion is by looking at brain activity and comparing it to humans. Cats have many of the same or similar brain structures as people, including the areas involved with emotions. For example, a cat's brain responds in similar ways to serotonin and dopamine, two hormones that are associated with human love and affection. Another way to compare cat affection with affection in other animals is to see if drugs or brain damage affect them in the same way. The antidepressant buspirone causes cats to become extremely affectionate toward their owners when used as a feline anti-anxiety medication, further supporting the idea that those brain areas associated with feline love, happiness and affection are similar to those in the human brain.

Dogs, however, were less susceptible to the virus. The researchers inoculated five young dogs with SARS-CoV-2 and found that two excreted viral RNA in their faeces, but none contained infectious virus.

Similar investigations in pigs, chickens and ducks identified no viral RNA in animals deliberately inoculated with the virus, or in those exposed to the inoculated animals.

These findings suggest that none of these species plays a part in the epidemiology of COVID-19, says Pfeiffer.

Watch the video: Ask the trainer: why doesnt my dog listen?