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The Truth About Cats and Dogs

September 20, 2010

My mother-in-law likes to use this clever platitude when describing the difference between dog and cat ownership:

Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.

Now that I’m the owner of a cat for the first time in my life, I’ve come to find out that’s not the only thing that distinguishes the feline from the canine.

Just the way these two animals move around is completely different. I can hear Casey and Romeo coming from anywhere in the house. They trot into the room, making noise as they step. There probably isn’t a day that goes by that poor Romeo – being a bigger dog – doesn’t trip over himself or something else when walking along. Even Casey – a mere 18-pounds – isn’t too hard to miss.

Then there’s Tess the cat, the newest member of the family. We have taken to calling Tess “Ninja” because of the way she quietly slinks around the house with no sound whatsoever. The other night I was brushing my teeth. I turn around and – POOF! – there she was beside me. Not a minute later, she’d disappeared and I found her laying on the carpet down the hall. We’re going to have to attach a bell to her collar just so we don’t run the risk of stepping on her.

And then there’s the entirely new problem of needing to cover any morsel of food on the counter top because young Tess will jump onto the counter for a snack. Now I must say that if Casey could do it, she would hop onto the counter for food too. But dogs do not have that “cat-like” agility to them. Counters are not common ground for the canine. Although I’m convinced that Casey and Tess are working out some kind of deal to create a distraction to grab the food and make a run for it.

It seems that people worry far less about cats. With Casey and Romeo, I’m always making sure they’re in the house, fearing they’ll be hit by a car or Casey’s nose will lead her astray. But cats seem to lend themselves to less worry. It’s like with a cat, you know they may disappear for a bit, but they’ll be back. Hence “nine lives.” I suppose worrying about a dog is like a parent worrying about the child that can never make it in the world alone. While the cat is the good offspring that you know will always succeed in life, hence why worry?

What else is different about dogs and cats? Dogs are easier to train to behave the way you want. Cats can care less what you want. But cats need barely any house-training. Dogs, on the other hand, are four-legged toddlers transitioning from diapers to the potty. Incentives and positive reinforcement work best.

I never thought of myself as a “cat person” and I certainly never imagined owning a cat. But I’m enjoying Tess quite a bit. It’s definitely a learning experience to be around an animal with which I’m completely unfamiliar. I’m amazed at how well she and the dogs get along! She makes a great addition to our little family. And whatever differences there are between the two species (three if you count the human factor), I like to think the diversity will only help be a stronger pack.

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