MTA-ELTE Lendület “Momentum” Companion Animal Research Group (2021-2026)

Summary of the project

More cats and dogs live in European households than children, and a large proportion of owners say that their pet is a “family member”. This is a recent and, up to now, unexplained trend. A novel theoretical framework is proposed based on the hypothesis that this new form of pet (or companion animal) keeping has emerged as a cultural runaway process as a result of humans’ innate preference for nurturing, the lack of kin, and the absence of economic constraints. We examine how current breeding and keeping practices affect the cognition, health, and physiology of pets and the social networks and well-being of their owners. We outline an interdisciplinary work plan, by integrating techniques from ethology, sociology, neuroscience, and genetics, the latter based on our unique Canine Brain and Tissue Bank.

Group members

  • Dr. Enikő Kubinyi, PI. Her task is the professional and financial management of the project, the coordination of the working group.
    Contact: eniko.kubinyi[@]ttk.elte.hu
  • Dr. Borbála Turcsán has considerable experience in behaviour testing, survey analyses, multivariate statistics and handling large and complex datasets. She will organizes the behaviour and survey analyses.
  • Dr. Dávid Jónás is a bioinformatician. He is experienced in full genome, RNA sequence and GWAS (Genome-wide association study) analyses.
  • Dr. Tamás Faragó, ethologist, is an expert on canine vocalisations and emotional communication.
  • Dr. Kálmán Czeibert is a veterinary anatomist with a unique expertise in canine brains.
  • Dr. Ivaylo Iotchev has a mixed background in psychology, ethology, and neuroscience. Dr. Iotchev has specialized in the application and analysis of surface EEG and is an expert on sleep spindles (thalamo-cortical discharges) in a cross-species comparative context.
  • Dr. Sára Sándor is a molecular geneticist. She is experienced in designing and conducting molecular cloning experiments and has gained expertise in organizing sample collection and subsequent experiments in relation to the operation of the Canine Brain and Tissue Bank (CBTB).
  • Dr. Lisa Wallis, ethologist, obtained her PhD in dog ageing, expert on behavioural testing and surveys. She will participate in survey analysis.
  • Dr. Dorottya Ujfalussy, ethologist, studies the cognition of dogs related to head shape and the well-being of dog owners and non-owners.
  • Rita Lenkei ethologist pre-doc, with a special interest in the separation-related problems of dogs.
  • Andrea Temesi ethologist pre-doc, studying the physiological responses of humans to dogs.
  • Kitti Tátrai, PhD student in genetics. She will participate in the further development of the Canine Tissue and Brain Bank and associated studies.
  • Soufiane Bel Rhali, Stipendium Hungaricum PhD student, holds an MSc in microbiology and is writing his dissertation in ethology.
  • Zsófia Bognár, PhD student, is highly experienced with behavioural testing, R programming, dissemination and liaising with owners
  • Kata Tóth, PhD student, is conducting both qualitative interviews and behavioural tests.

The project is supported by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences via a grant to the MTA-ELTE ‘Lendület/Momentum’ Companion Animal Research Group (grant no. PH1404/21). Additional funding: Hungarian PhD scholarships and the Hungarian Ethology Foundation.