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Ancient rivals or historic bedfellows?

Wednesday, 7th November 2012

Dogs and cats have long been known as ancient rivals, but new scientific evidence suggests the ancestors of the two species may have lived harmoniously around nine million years ago.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid have found the tooth enamel of two species of sabre-toothed cat and one belonging to a species of bear dog – a creature that sported dog-like teeth and a bear-like body.

The find at geological pits outside Madrid has left experts believing the prehistoric animals would have inhabited the same space back in the mists of time.

"These three animals were sympatric - they inhabited the same geographic area at the same time. What they did to coexist was to avoid each other and partition the resources," said study author Soledad Domingo.

For modern owners, keeping dogs and cats together can be a challenge. Introducing the cat first is suggested as a useful technique by some experts, while keeping the animals separately for a while so they can adjust to their shared space may also be worthwhile.

Owners should also ensure both of their furry friends have access to their own pet food, and that one isn't stealing the other's.