Sunday, August 2, 2009
Differences and Similarities.
As Carol and I were driving toward the high desert of California yesterday, I heard an announcement of a running and walking event which was called something like Paws for the Cause. The sponsors were asking that people bring their dogs on this walk/run, pay the entry fees and support the cause. I don't recall which cause it was. That got me thinking about my not being able to bring my cat to the event, and those thoughts led to my thinking again about the differences between cats and dogs, which got me thinking about their similarities as well. Wild dogs and wild cats don't necessarily conform to my list of characteristics, though some of these traits seem to be hard-wired into each species.
Love to play.
Are attached to their human companions.
Can be trained.
Use their mouth as a "hand."
Can communicate some basic concepts to their human companions.
Will play by themselves, though cats are better at it.
Will peacefully interact with close same-species family members.
Dogs are pack hunters.
Most cats are solitary hunters. Lions are the exception.
Cats can hold and lift things with a single paw, dogs cannot.
Normally, cats will not overeat. They will leave food in their bowls to be consumed later.
Dogs will eat everything in their bowls and then look for more.
Dogs dig holes (dens), cats do not.
Dogs like to live in dens/caves.
Cats normally only go into caves when they are afraid or very sick.
Most dogs are social animals, most cats are not.
Dogs are much more easily trained than cats.
Cats are sprinters, dogs are runners.
Cats can climb.
Cats use a litterbox.
Of course there's more to this than just the above lists. Early-in-life conditions and relationships play an enormous role in later adult behavior. If Quint had never been adopted by humans, he would have grown up with a much different personality. If we hadn't started playing with him early on, he'd probably be less of a social being then he is. I don't think that cats are more intelligent than dogs, though that sometimes seems to be true. I think, to some degree, it depends upon what we expect of our dog and cat companions. Stereotypes play a role, I'm sure, as in "dumb dogs", and "sneaky cats." If a dog-owner has a basic distrust of strangers and an aversion to trespassers, his/her dog will probably reflect that attitude. Thus you have the overly guardy and aggressive dog. On the other hand, a warm, open, friendly dog-owner usually has a dog that behaves similarly. I know cats that are very distrustful of strangers and will run from anyone but their own people. I have even met a couple of cats that are very aggressive in defense of their territory. I think cats are inherently wary of strangers and of anything new, but, at the same time, they have an insatiable curiosity that drives them to explore, in spite of the possible danger. This internal conflict makes the cat a cautious, but persistent explorer. Most dogs, I think, are rather fearless when it comes to new things and strangers and will just rush on in to see what's going on. Seemingly, dogs can be trained to do almost anything. They make great companions and helpers for people with physical limitations. Cats are not so easily trained. I've never heard of a cat that will go to the kitchen, open the refrigerator door and fetch you a beer. A dog will do that. I've never heard of a guide-cat, whereas dogs make wonderful guides for the visually impaired. Cats don't seem to be bored to the degree that dogs do. A bored cat will just lay down and take a nap. A bored dog has a tendency to chew on things. You can usually leave your cat at home alone with a minimum amount of care. If they have food and water and a couple of cat toys they seem to do alright. Cats enjoy having their humans companions around, but they don't seem to need their humans quite as much as dogs do. I think dogs are more dependent on their humans than cats are for their entertainment and social needs.
And yet, I love my cat. He fits the way I live. If I get home late, the house is still in much the same condition that it was when I left it. In the middle part of the day, Quint naps while I work. In the evening, he wants to play and so do I. When Carol is home he plays with her, when I'm home he plays with me. When we are both home we all play together, or nap together, or he sits on Carol's desk near her hand and then comes in a visits me for awhile. He's perfect.
So, I guess the reason my cat and I don't get to go on the 5K Fun Run is a reflection of the fundamental differences between the two species. I suppose it's a lot more fun to run with a animal that runs right alongside of you, rather than have to carry your animal in a large plastic box as if it were luggage. Still, I might try it sometime. I'll be the one showing up at the 5K Run/Walk with Quint in his carrier.