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University of Edinburgh

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

University of Edinburgh via Coursera


What is your cat revealing to you when she purrs? What is your dog expressing when he yawns or wags his tail? Understanding your cat and dog’s behaviour and the way they communicate with you, will enable you to better understand their needs and strengthen your relationship with them.

This MOOC is divided into five topics, the appliance of science; behaviour and body language, senses and perception; challenges for the human-animal relationship, including pet problem behaviour; and how to improve the quality of life for cats and dogs in our care.

At the start of the course we ask you to consider what you feel is important to your cat/dog and what your cat/dog means to you? We explore the world of cats and dogs and how our relationships with them vary around the world and have changed over time. We ask if we can really know what our animals are thinking or trying to communicate through their facial expressions and behaviours.

From our beloved pets to street dogs, shelter dogs/cats and welfare challenges, we explore the world from their perspective and examine how their genetic make-up may influence their behavioural responses and choices. We dispel common behavioural myths by looking through a scientific lens, asking questions about the function and development of their behaviour.. We explore how their senses help them to interact with their world and how they communicate with each other and us!

Finally, we ask whether we impose unrealistic expectations on our cats and dogs and how this affects their ability to live alongside us. We ask, what can we do to be more responsible pet owners and to ensure the welfare of all cats and dogs in society? This MOOC explores different scientifically validated methods that can help you to better understand your pet, to enrich their lives and help you to be a more educated and confident pet owner.

We hope you enjoy the course!


  • The Appliance of Science
    • In week 1, we provide 'an insight into cats and dogs behaviour: through their eyes'. We will explore cats and dogs of the world and ask you what you cat and dog mean to you, as well as what you feel is important to your cat and dog. At the end of the week, you will be able to complete the first of the graded quizzes. We hope you enjoy the MOOC as much as we have enjoyed making it!
  • Ethology
    • In week 2, we will we explore ethology, which is the scientific and objective study of non-human animal behaviour, rather than human behaviour, and usually with a focus on behaviour under natural conditions. There will also be an opportunity to look at different breeds of cats and dogs and some of the possible issues that arise from breeding. At the end of the week, you will be able to complete the second of the graded quizzes.
  • Sense and Sensibility
    • In week 3, we aim to explore cat and dog sensory capabilities and how they interact with their world. We will explore how our cats and dogs communicate with us and each other. We will also examine how their specific senses work and how they use these to operate effectively such as to solve problems, hunt, and play. At the end of the week, you will be able to complete the third of the graded quizzes.
  • Living with humans
    • In week 4, we explore the domestic environment and how our cats and dogs adjust to this (or not). We will also discuss what behaviours may arise due to the unrealistic expectations that we may impose on our pets. The videos this week, will help you recognise the signs of fear, frustration, and anxiety, as well as other behavioural problems in cats and dogs. At the end of the week, you will be able to complete the fourth graded quiz.
  • Can We Do Better? Improving Pet Quality of Life
    • In the final week of the course we want to reflect on what we have learned so far and start to consider how we can make changes. In doing so, improving our beloved cats and dogs lives for the better, for example through enriching their environment, training, and appropriate care at all stages of their lives (from kittens/puppies through to old age). At the end of the week, you will be able to complete the fifth and final of the graded quizzes.

Taught by

Dr Heather Bacon, Miss Hayley Walters, RVN, Dr Amy Miele, Professor Nat Waran and Louise Connelly


4.9 rating, based on 10 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 2145 ratings

Start your review of The Truth About Cats and Dogs

  • Rebecca Judd completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    I went into this course feeling like I was already quite experienced with living with cats and looking after them, and something of a novice regarding dogs and their needs. I expected to learn a lot about dogs, and hoped to learn some new things about...
  • This is the second course I took inside Class Central's Study Group with other teammates. We learned knowledge from this course and shared interesting experiences about our pets within the group while learning. In the final study meeting, one of our teammates...
  • This is the second course that I did as part of the internal study group initiative at Class Central. I could have never even though of doing this course without study group. This four weeks course gave me an in-depth knowledge about cats and dogs. How...
  • If you have a pet, or are considering one, this is the course for you! As well as describing natural characteristics and behaviors (and in what ways dogs and cats differ), we are taught how to effectively meet both their physical and mental needs. The...
  • I took this course as part of a study group at Class Central. Maybe I wouldn't have been motivated to take the course on my own since I thought that I had a lot of experience with pets, especially with dogs. But there was still a lot to learn and to understand...
  • I inherited my cat from my roommate, so I never really researched cats (or any other animals). This course was my first formal introduction to this topic.

    The course is very light, but I did learn a lot from it. I learnt that cats are hunters by nature and unlike dogs, don't have many ways to communicate affections.

    The five welfare needs explained by the course, has provided me with a framework to think about my cats needs.

    I would like to thank the course team for a great course and also letting us see their cute pets!
  • Donato Rossella completed this course, spending 10 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    The course was helpful in giving an in-depth knowledge about cats and dogs needs and issues in our society and not only.

    Despite being already familiar with some concepts, there was quite some new useful information in the course, which was also rich in additional material to look at things more closely.

    I'm definitely recommending it to everyone.
  • Carli L

    Carli L completed this course, spending 1 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    It was a very interesting course about dogs and cats. Great for pet owners or potential pet owners or just pet enthusiasts.
  • Roy Wang

    Roy Wang completed this course, spending 1 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be very easy.

    An introductory course, nothing difficult or vey professional, thus perfect for pet owners who want to know more about their pets. For those who are planning to buy pets, I do recommend this course to help you get ready to be a good owner. For those who want to be vet, this may not be what you are looking for.
  • Paige-Erin Karpinski

    Paige-Erin Karpinski completed this course, spending 12 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This is a great course for anyone interested in the behavior and welfare of cats and dogs. I would also highly recommend you take the Animal Behavior and Welfare course, also from the University of Edinburgh, as these two courses supplement each other very nicely.

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