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Doggy Style: Top tips for keeping your pet entertained when ‘in the moment’

Blog Home Feb 8, 2021

Last month we announced the launch of our very own Itch Advisory Panel; a crack team of experts from the animal world, who are helping us make pet wellness a priority.

We’re delighted to welcome the newest member of our panel, Dr Lauren Finka. Dr Lauren is a research fellow at Nottingham Trent University and specialises in animal behaviour and welfare, with a primary focus on our feline friends. 

Welcome, Lauren to the Itch pack!

Three in five pets are catching their owners having sex

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, we conducted research with pet owners across the UK to shine a light on how even some of our most private moments are not off-limits to our pets. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that three in five (60%) cats and dogs are catching their owners having sex! And two thirds of Brits (67%) are switching up their sex positions to stop their curious four-legged friends staring at them. 


With over a quarter of pet owners (28%) feeling awkward at the presence of their pets, we enlisted the help of Itch panellists, Dr Lauren Finka and Oli Juste, world-renowned dog trainer and behaviourist, to discuss the findings from the research and offer some practical advice for both cat and dog owners. 

What’s the impact of having sex in front of my pet?

Here’s what Dr Lauren had to say:

“Many dogs might assume your romantic trysts are just some sort of ‘game’ that you play every now and then, so why wouldn’t they be invited to join in? 

Other dogs might not like the fact that your attention is very intently focused on another human, rather than them. It’s also possible that some dogs might just misinterpret the situation altogether and assume that you or your partner are in need of some assistance and try to come to your rescue! 

Certain dogs could also feel a little uncomfortable or conflicted because they aren’t really sure what to do.

Whining, excessive panting, self-scratching, a raised paw, nose licking, turning their head to one side and a wagging tail held lower to the ground are all possible signs that your dog could be feeling less than happy. In these cases, giving them something really positive to focus on away from you is going to be particularly important.  


Cats on the other hand, are usually more into having their own personal space and probably don’t mind if we need to ignore them for a while.  Well-socialised cats will certainly enjoy being around humans, although they tend to be less keen to monopolise our attention in the same ways that dogs try to. 

However, some cats can be an exception to this rule and may be extremely focused on their owners, particularly when our attention is elsewhere! Therefore, while the majority of cats might take little interest in their owners’ romantic activities, some individuals may feel the need to make their presence known and divert the focus to themselves! 

Rubbing against us, purring and kneading frantically with their paws, meowing loudly and pawing us, or placing their posterior in front of our faces are all common attention-seeking tactics.” 

Image credit: Ursula Aitchison

Here’s what Oli had to say:

“As a dog behaviourist, the subject of conversation does pop up with friends (especially after a couple of cocktails) and sometimes with clients too. Some proudly boast: “Gosh! If my dog could talk” or others will admit: “I just couldn’t. I have to keep the dog in another room.” 

Amusingly, this survey suggests that over a third of pets decide to simply walk away should they witness their humans having sex, a quarter sit and watch, and another quarter fall asleep (please don’t take it personally). This illustrates that most pets don’t care and see this as another human behaviour they must witness. 

Some, however, may find this situation a little tricky and uncomfortable. The survey reports that 14% barked at the partner, 13% barked at the owner and 7% thought it was a fight. It’s not uncommon to hear about dogs barking during sex at a rather shocked one-night stand or at an “unwelcome” new partner. Some dogs may feel they need to guard their humans or stop (what may look to them like) a fight.”

Top tips from Dr Lauren on how to get your cat to focus on things other than you (and your partner):

  • Manage their expectations: if you want your cat to learn that during certain ‘activities’ they won’t be given attention, then be consistent with this. Make sure they have something fun and stimulating to do on their own and ensure they are consistently ignored during these periods.
  • Environmental enrichment: Confining them to a separate room is an option, although for some highly active or hyper-social cats this might induce an amount of frustration, so ensure that this becomes a positive experience for them by providing them with plenty of environmental enrichment.
  • Use food: For food-motivated cats, puzzle feeders are a great way to keep them distracted and positively stimulated. Many different puzzle feeders are commercially available, or you can make your own, for example wrapping treats in balls of paper and stuffing them into empty loo rolls. Treats hidden in different places within a room can work just as well.
  • Experiment with toys: Soft toys filled with cat-stimulating herbs such as catnip or valerian are particularly good options. Ping-pong balls can also be great for very energetic cats. There are also a wide variety of battery-operated toys which simulate the movements of prey and can be very appealing to some cats.
  • Keep it novel and mix things up: Try alternating between different types of toys and puzzle feeders – cats generally love novelty and can easily become bored by the same items appearing over and over again.
  • Find out what your cat prefers: Studies suggest that cats tend to have specific preferences for different types of prey they like to hunt, and the same usually applies when it comes to toys and puzzle feeders. For example, some cats might prefer feeders they can roll and bat about whilst others might particularly like the ones they can shred and destroy with their teeth and claws. Others might enjoy using their tongues to extract treats from hard-to-reach places.
  • Encourage their autonomy: Encouraging very human-focused cats to maintain their independence is important. This includes generally avoiding calling them and trying to get their attention when they are off doing their own thing and providing them with unrestricted access to a safe outdoor environment.

Top tips from Oli on how to keep your dog calm when ‘in the moment’:

  • A big part of socialising your puppy is working on habituation. Just like you’ll train your dog not to beg for food, by keeping them entertained with a toy in their play pen, the same can be done whilst you are having sex. So, add sex to your socialisation list… You’re welcome.
  • If you are single when you get your puppy, think twice before allowing your dog to sleep on your bed. He/she may start resource guarding you and your bed from your next conquest. Instead, make sure you use a crate (introduced positively and sensitively) and keep a good night-time routine going.
  • Excessive scratching and toileting can be signs of stress and should be taken seriously. So, if you witness this, your dog may need some help.
  • As this is the one situation where you’ll find multitasking tricky, keeping your dog busy with familiar games or food dispensing toys in another room could really help him or her feel more relaxed. You could also turn the radio or the TV on to distract them further and cover the noise.
  • If your dog is confusing your embrace for a fight and reacts “aggressively” towards you or your partner, I would recommend that you get in touch with a professional to help assess the exact emotional state behind the problem and help you to devise a specific plan for your dog. Please remember, telling your dog off or punishment is never the answer. It is possible your dog may feel an array of emotions witnessing your prowess.

 

Consumer research carried out by Research Without Barriers, consisting of 1323 UK adult cat/dog owners and conducted between 28th January 2021 and 1st February 2021.