The correct interpretation of an animal’s emotional state is crucial for successful human–animal interaction. When studying dog and cat emotional expressions, a key source of information is the pet owner, given the extensive interactions they have had with their pets. In this online survey we asked 438 owners whether their dogs and/or cats could express 22 different primary and secondary emotions, and to indicate the behavioral cues they relied upon to identify those expressed emotions. Overall, more emotions were reported in dogs compared to cats, both from owners that owned just one species and those that owned both. Although owners reported a comparable set of sources of behavioral cues (e.g., body posture, facial expression, and head posture) for dogs and cats in expressing the same emotion, distinct combinations tended to be associated with specific emotions in both cats and dogs. Furthermore, the number of emotions reported by dog owners was positively correlated with their personal experience with dogs but negatively correlated with their professional experience. The number of emotions reported in cats was higher in cat-only households compared to those that also owned dogs. These results provide a fertile ground for further empirical investigation of the emotional expressions of dogs and cats, aimed at validating specific emotions in these species.
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