Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cats Are Not Dogs


While I was taking one of my frequent walks around the local reservoir, I got to thinking about dogs and the people who love them, and about cats. More precisely, I started thinking about the differences between cats and dogs.

Now, I or my family, over the years, had quite a few dogs. When I was living at home, we almost always had a dog. My dad was fond of English Setters, so we had lots of those. Beautiful animals, those Setters, but boy did they like to run. Most of the time, my mom or dad would feed the dog in the morning and then let it outside and we wouldn't see it again until that evening. That was fun for the dog, but it didn't really make for much companionship for us kids. The most interaction we had was in the evening when we had to somehow convince the dog that it would be better to come inside for the night than stay out and play. Not an easy task, that convincing. Another problem with letting one's dog run loose all day is that, unless you live in the middle of a wilderness area, there are highways and streets all around where cars move at high speeds. We lost all but two of our dogs to automobiles. That's one of the ways I learned about death at a fairly early age. I learned a lot about grief, too. Despite the fact that I didn't get to see the dogs much, the time I did spend with them was fun. I got to loving those dogs, since they were much more fun to play with and easier to relate to than most of my human friends at that time. With one exception, we never had a cat when I was living with my parents. My mother didn't like them. She claimed they were unreliable and sneaky. Mostly, I think she just didn't trust anyone that wouldn't do what she told them to do, or come when she called them.

My first cat came to me from a loading dock. He didn't last long, sadly. He started following my sister around. He followed her across the busy county road one afternoon near Idaho Springs, Colorado where we were living at the time. My sister made it across, the cat didn't. She didn't understand about cats. Cats don't get the concept of streets and cars. It just doesn't make sense to them. Rats and mice and dogs and skunks and opossums and birds are things that cats understand. Pillows and towels and sock drawers and closet shelves and sunny windowsills are what cats like the best. A dog will lie down in the middle of the yard and trust that no one will run the mower over him or drive a bicycle over his tail. Cats want a place that's safe from all that for their nap. Cats want a vantage point where they can see what's coming after them, and a place nearby where they can run to if they don't feel like fighting. A dog will follow you around all day and be happy just hanging around with his human. A cat wants to have a choice about what it does. I don't believe that dogs do very much thinking and considering before they act. A cat will ponder an action for awhile, sort of mull it over, before he does it. Even when he's hunting, a cat will think about strategy, he'll wait, he'll stalk, he'll watch his prey and once he's figured all the angles, he'll pounce. It doesn't always work for the cat, but you can see that he always has a plan. A dog will love you if you feed him, pet him, play with him and make him feel safe.

With cats, you have to earn that affection. At the beginning of your relationship, a cat will love you when he needs to be fed, petted and played with, but wants to be left alone when it's nap time or tongue-bath time. If you're lucky, and you do everything right, sometimes a cat will love you all the time. He'll miss you when you're gone and he'll be waiting at the door when you get home. That sort of cat will walk into whatever room you are in and make sure you are okay. He'll then go about his napping or playing, knowing that everything and everyone is where they belong, but he'll come back and check once in awhile just be make sure. But you have to have established a mutual trust with your cat to achieve that kind of relationship. You can't ever forget to feed him, you can't ever step on him, and you try not to ever surprise him. If you treat your cat with the love and respect that he knows is his due, he will return it to you ten-fold. Quint is that kind of cat. He takes pretty good care of his humans and we sure do appreciate his concern.

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