Tuesday, August 30, 2011

About Cats Vs. Dogs

Cats Vs. Dogs

You may be wondering what my thoughts are on dogs, given my unwavering fixation with cats. Today, I will be exploring some fundamental questions and touching on a few common misconceptions about the topic.


Throughout my entire life, almost everyone I’ve met has been a dog person. What is it about cats that compels the majority of the general public to develop such an aversion towards them? Is it their connection to witchcraft? The superstition that black cats are bad luck? Through my years of seeing cats on the street, I have never found any reason at all to dislike them. Some were distant and avoided strangers, but that would be considered normal behaviour even for many humans. Other cats I’ve met have been very friendly, happily receiving pats from anyone who passed by.

An avid dog lover once asked me if I was a dog or a cat person. Upon finding out I was into cats, they recoiled in horror and immediately labelled me as ‘evil’ despite knowing absolutely nothing else about me. If the roles had been reversed, I would never have made such a hasty negative judgement against a dog person. But apparently the misconception that cat people are evil is a common one.

Personally, I cannot see any key reason why anyone would consider a dog to be the more superior pet to own over a cat, given that the two individual animals being compared were of a sociable nature. The only defining characteristic used to describe dogs seems to be loyalty, which is a rather complicated concept. If the definition of pet loyalty is to show devotion towards the owner, there are both cats and dogs which demonstrate this. A dog may sleep by an owner’s side every night, but then so does my cat. A dog may rush to greet an owner upon their return from work, but again, so does my cat. 

Loyalty is a very difficult notion to define when applied to animals. What is the factor that cements an expression of faithfulness from a dog or a cat? How long-lived is that loyalty? Is there such thing as unconditional loyalty from an animal? If so, how much time does it take to gain that long-term loyalty? If you and another family member took turns in feeding and caring for your pet, which one of you would it run to if you both called for it at the same time? Let’s say you tried this test and the dog ran to the other person. You might feel betrayed, but you would never be able to pinpoint the true reasons behind why the dog chose someone else. Part of it could be because the dog really did feel more affection for the other person, or it may have been due to something else entirely. A few trivial factors could be that the other family member had biscuit crumbs in their pocket, or that the dog just felt like running against the direction of the breeze. 

When a dog visits the grave of his dead master for years on end, does he actually miss the companionship, or is he just repeating an old habit? If we looked at a hundred dog owners who collapsed and needed medical attention, how many of their dogs would actually run to get help? And of those dogs that did go to find help, were they doing it out of concern for their owners? Or were they trained to run to people on command earlier on? Given this scenario, a dog would only have an opportunity to go for help in the first place if A) the owner happened to be walking with the dog, B) the owner happened to be alone at the time, C) the owner had left a way for the dog to run off their property if at home and D) the owner was not within earshot or unable to communicate with any other humans at the time. This is a very rare circumstance, as is the possibility of someone attempting to break into your house. A high fence, video surveillance and alarm system would do just as well. The problem with a functional guard dog is that it also runs the risk of attacking visitors and new family members. 

It is much the same with cats, except a cat has the ongoing minor role of eliminating pests. This could be accomplished more easily with chemical controls or traps depending on the hunting efficiency of the particular cat in question. A cat that takes pride in hunting may also kill off local wildlife, while a cat that refuses to hunt no longer has a practical function in the household. 

Aside from loyalty, the only other main attribute that sets dogs and cats apart is the ability to train them. Most dogs have an inherent desire to please, and can be readily trained. On the other hand, cats have the desire to do as they wish at all times, and most refuse to be trained. Because of these behavioural differences, ease of training is not a reliable measure of overall intelligence. It has been demonstrated that both dogs and cats are able to learn behaviour from training depending on their willingness to participate.

Dogs seem to fetch on instinct, bringing the object back to the owner. Cats can also fetch when they feel like playing, but they tend to bring the object elsewhere due to their instinct to drag prey away and eat it under private conditions. Dogs can also be safely walked outside of their home, which also goes against a cat’s sense of territory. This difference in behavioural impulse also prevents cats from running around set routes at animal shows. They are instead confined to cages to be judged on physical attributes only. 

I have found that my cat only learns new behaviour if it is relevant. Examples include pushing open doors because it wants to go inside, standing near what it wants while making a particular vocal noise, paw tapping me when it wants something I’m eating, and leaning up against the door if it wants to go outside. There are some owners who have managed to teach their cats to use the toilet, which is something that I don’t think my cat will ever do. In contrast, well trained dogs are able to pick up and obey many commands. However, such dogs would need to be very obedient and dedicated.

In the end, both animals are primarily kept as pets for companionship, and it is really up to the individual owner to decide which one can provide the company he or she wishes for. Whether cats or dogs reign supreme boils entirely down to subjective opinion.
… Or, you can just watch this video:



Q1. Why do you like cats?

A1. I can’t think of a single major reason why I should dislike them.

Q2. Any cat breeds you like?

A2. I especially love the long-haired, fluffy varieties. The basic physical build of a cat doesn’t differ nearly as much from breed to breed, unlike the huge variation seen in different dogs. Instead, cats offer a greater selection of colour and pattern combinations. 

A few of my favourite breeds include the Norwegian Forest Cat, Birman, Ragdoll and Maine Coon. However, there are many mixed breeds and regular domestic cats which I think are equally beautiful in appearance.


Regarding colours, I like most patterns in combination with white, as long as the patterns around the facial features are symmetrical. My more favoured coat varieties would be black, ginger, and grey colours with the Mask + Mantle or Cap + Saddle pattern. See below for some descriptions and images of cat colours.

Q3. Any cat breeds you dislike?

A3. I am not fond of hairless cats or the overly thin varieties. Such breeds include the Sphynx and Siamese. The other feature I’d rather not see are squashed faces, like those in the Persian.

Q4. What’s the best thing about cats?

A4. Their preference for sitting with or sleeping on people whilst purring.

Q5. What’s the worst thing about cats?

A5. The smell of a soiled litterbox.

Q6. What do cats smell like?

A6. Generally, cats smell like sun-dried doona covers. There is sometimes also an underlying faint scent which varies in accordance to where the cat has been sitting. It is always a pleasant or neutral aroma, ranging from the smell of marshmallows to dusty soy sauce. Their coats are usually sufficiently clean enough for you to plant your face into at any moment.

Cat breath reeks quite heavily of fish. The good news is you can only catch a whiff of it when the cat yawns directly in your face.

Q7. What sort of cat would you consider getting if you had to get another one?

A7. I would be looking for one with a gentle and well mannered personality. Purebreds such as Ragdolls spring to mind because they have been selectively bred for this trait, but any friendly cat would be fine. 

Preferably, I would want to raise the cat from a kitten myself. The bonds seem to run deeper that way. It would also be better to adopt the kitten from a loving home which it was born into.

Q8. What differences have you noticed with cats?

A8. Each cat seems to like and dislike specific things, and have their own distinct personality or behavioural quirks.

Q9. What does the cat usually do when you come home?

A9. It runs out to greet you, purrs, rubs itself around your legs, rolls about on the floor in contentment, follows you around for about 5 minutes and then goes to sleep somewhere in close proximity to you.

Q10. What are the cat’s favourite activities?

A10. Sleeping or sitting on you, hunting insects, playing with Da Bird, sprinting around the house, monitoring your activities, following you, and sniffing things.

Q11. Can cats hurt people?

A11. They can scratch with their claws or bite. Scratching can result in bloody line cuts which take forever to fade, and biting can cause small puncture wounds. Generally the cat will not pierce the skin by biting, unless it is very angry.

Q12. Will my cat hunt native wildlife?

A12. Apparently, most cats do hunt local wildlife. Some owners have managed to put an end to this by adding bells to the cat’s collar, while in other cases this has only made the cat even more skilled at hunting. Indoor cats don’t seem to kill off much wildlife, especially if kept inside through the night.

My cat does not hunt wildlife, aside from insects. Being raised indoors and conditioned to sleep through the night has caused her to watch and chat to birds rather than try to hunt them. Kora has too small of a build to successfully hunt any wildlife, since her jaw is less than half the size of my fist.

I have also heard of the ‘presents’ problem, where the cat decides to contribute to the family by dragging in dead prey. Fortunately, I only get occasional gifts of half-mangled butterflies and dragonflies. As far as I can tell, the local birds are not the least bit threatened by my little cat.

Q1. Do you hate dogs? 

A1. Of course not. There are some very intelligent and well trained dogs out there. The reason why I don’t speak more positively about dogs is due to a lack of good experiences with them. Most of the dogs I have known have been both disobedient and smelly.

Q2. Any dog breeds you like?

A2. I like the appearance of fluffy, fox-like breeds. Examples include the Japanese Spitz, Samoyed, Shetland Sheepdog and Border Collie.


 Q3. Any dog breeds you dislike?

A3. I am somewhat fearful of most large and intimidating breeds. I actively try to avoid any dog with a jaw powerful enough to rip off my limbs. Pit bulls and vicious guard dogs come to mind. 

I am also not a fan of dogs with flat faces, particularly those with loose facial features. Some examples of dogs which I find very unattractive are bulldogs and pugs.

Q4. What’s the best thing about dogs?

A4. They are normally always so enthusiastically happy, no matter what.   

Q5. What’s the worst thing about dogs?

A5. Lack of obedience and cleanliness.

Q6. What do dogs smell like?

A6. A combination of old socks and rusty metal, as far as I can gather. Some breeds appear to smell much worse than others, while others only give off a faint scent.

Dog breath doesn’t seem to smell as strongly as cat breath. However, dogs have a tendency to sniff and eat things they shouldn’t. And then lick your face.

Q7. What sort of dog would you consider getting if you had to get one?

A7. Firstly, I would not be looking at keeping any breed with the ability to cause serious physical injury. This core requirement rules out most large dogs.

Secondly, the temperament of the individual dog is important. I would avoid dogs that were hyperactive or difficult to control. Frequently yapping or barking dogs would also be out.

Thirdly, I place significant value in aesthetics. That means I cannot accept a dog (or any pet) which I find visually challenging. If this sounds shallow, I can freely admit to you that it is. In all honesty, I can’t bring myself to wake up to a hideous lug of a dog hovering over my face every morning. 

Q8. What differences have you noticed with dogs?

A8. They seem to love everything around them, and their personalities are less complex.

Q9. What does the dog usually do when you come home?

A9. It rushes out to greet you, jumps up onto you, attempts to lick your face and then follows you around excitedly for the rest of the day.

Q10. What are the dog’s favourite activities?

A10. Jumping about when people are near it, following you, sprinting about the yard, going on walks, chewing on everything it can, fetching anything you throw, and eating food off your plate.

Q11. Can dogs hurt people?

A11. They can bite, which tends to draw blood. Depending on the jaw power of the breed, some dogs have the capacity to maim or kill. Smaller dogs appear to prefer barking to biting.

Q12. Do you believe some dog breeds should be banned?

A12. With regards to recent (and past) cases of dog attacks here, I think there is some justification for banning dangerous breeds. While it is true that not every dog of that breed will attack humans, there is a valid ‘better to be safe than sorry’ mentality behind the idea. This reasoning is adequate because dangerous dog breeds are the result of selective pressure over many generations in favour of traits associated with aggression. 

I do think that it should be mandatory to keep potentially dangerous dogs securely confined to the owner’s property and muzzled in public at all times. Keeping restricted breeds should require registration and for owners to earn a licence beforehand. If a dog seriously injures or causes the death of another pet or human, the owner should also be legally responsible. 


Q12. Which one should I get?

A12. I present to you the pros and cons of both, and you can pick out the points which appeal to you the most:

More independent, low maintenance
More social, high maintenance
Hunts and kills pests.
Guards your property.
Less cost to keep.
More cost to keep.
Arrives already toilet trained.
Needs litterbox, cleaning and changing.
Must be toilet trained, or goes everywhere.
Needs cleaning and pick up bags.
Demands less attention and time.
Demands more attention and time.
Does and gets whatever it wants.
Does and gets whatever you want, if trained to.
May scratch furniture. Throws up hairballs.
May chew cables, plants, and toys. Digs holes.
Requires sleep and enjoys playing at times.
Requires exercise and regular walking.
Territory fights with other cats.
Barking at other dogs and people.
May hunt wildlife or smaller pets.
May kill wildlife or smaller pets.
More coat colours and patterns, distinct personality quirks.
More choice in physical build, more general personality (usually happy).
Always smells pleasant.
Has that weird dog smell.
May play fetch if it feels like it, but probably will not.
Plays fetch.
Eats meat and possibly cheese.
Eats anything you eat, plus more.
Sleeps in your lap and purrs.
Jumps onto you and licks your face.
Hisses at the dog, growls at most other cats. Chatters to owners and chirps at birds.
Chases the cat, and anything else that moves.
Stay put when it sits on you.
Get exercise by taking it for walks.
Sits on your keyboard to discourage online communication.
Helps you meet people on the street.
Is afraid of the big, green bowl.
Loves everything.
Crawls under a blanket when visitors first arrive.
Loves everyone after 3 minutes.
Excellent at hide and seek.
Terrible at hide and seek.
Can stay in the same spot for hours.
Cannot stay in the same spot at all unless asleep or resting.
Has the ability to climb over the furniture.
Restricted to roaming the floor.
Self cleaning.
Needs frequent bathing.
Usually has soft, silky fur.
Ranges from being rubbery to having thick fur.
Primary defence: Claws
Primary defence: Jaws
Yawns and mews if you stare at it.
Wags tail and barks if you stare at it.
Plays with junk around the house.
Needs someone to play with it.

*Disclaimer: Pictures/media are all courtesy of Google searching and their respective owners.

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