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Cats and dogs living together is not necessarily a sign of the end of times. These two species can actually get along quite well despite their significant differences. But how might those differences impact your relationship with your pet or your decision to adopt a companion if you can choose only one? Here's the scoop on the cat vs. dog dilemma to help you answer the question, "Which is the best pet for me?"
Dogs Are Pack Animals
In the wild, dogs form packs in which each member cooperates to find food and provide protection, says Veterinarians.com. The pack usually has an "alpha dog" that the other dogs look to for leadership. Domestic pups are hardwired with this pack instinct that generally makes them social, friendly, and all too happy to belong to a family or even a single person who can provide him with food and leadership. Dogs instinctively go wherever their pack goes, which makes them more readily accepting of experiences, such as travel or moving. This pack mentality also makes it really hard on dogs to be left alone, especially for long periods of time. Dogs crave closeness and attention. Having a dog may be comparable to having a young child.
Cats Are Lone Hunters
By contrast, with the exception of lions, most cats in the wild are solitary nocturnal hunters. Unlike dogs, cats are able to jump and climb, which aids them in hunting and makes it easier to flee from danger. Their sharp, retractable claws provide a distinct advantage when it comes to catching prey and defending themselves from bigger predators. Because of this, cats have no need to work together to care for themselves. It also makes them territorial.
For domestic cats, these instincts make them much more independent than dogs. This independence may make them seem aloof. They often sleep during the day and like to roam the house at night. Cats not only like their space, but they might be prone to marking their territory by spraying outside their litter box, especially prior to getting spayed or neutered. This territoriality makes big changes like moving or simply rearranging the furniture a source of stress. While a cat's independent nature generally helps them deal better than dogs with being left alone, it's important to remember that all cats are different. Some breeds are more sociable than others. Cats are capable of developing extremely strong bonds with their people. When a cat's favorite person disappears, she may develop separation anxiety, especially if she is passed from owner to owner. Cats are also highly intelligent creatures, and while they have a hunter's mentality encoded in their DNA they also know who feeds them and provides them with play. While cats might not be as affectionate as dogs at first, overtime cats can develop quite the liking to their human parent fully equipped with a snuggling purr machine movie night. Cats also tend to live longer than dogs, which is sometimes a consideration when searching for a lifelong furry companion.
Pet Training: Cat vs. Dog
When it comes to cat vs. dog training, dogs are generally the easier of the two to train. A dog's pack mentality makes him ready to follow a leader and makes him generally more obedient by nature. Typically, dog training is a process of teaching and reinforcing commands that help you communicate your desires to your dog. Dogs are so eager to please that they're happy to meet those desires. However every dog is different, and some breeds have temperaments and learning aptitudes that take more readily to training than others.
Cats can be trained, but not as thoroughly as dogs. It requires a lot of patience and consistent practice to get past their willful nature. With cats, it's best to focus training on establishing boundaries.
When it comes to house training, cats have the advantage over dogs. Cats use the litter box instinctively. It may only take showing them where the box is one time. If a cat is slow to catch on to using the litter box or appears to forget later on, this is often a sign of an underlying health issue, and you should consult your veterinarian.
Dogs, on the other hand, can be a lot tougher to potty train, especially puppies. Teaching them where it is and isn't acceptable to go usually takes a lot of repetition and positive reinforcement.
While dogs can be perfectly happy living in a small apartment, they still need their outdoor exercise. If you lead an active lifestyle and can take your dog on walks or let him out in the backyard to run around and play a dog can be a great fit. However, if you live in a small apartment a cat can be an excellent companion. Cats generally get their exercise through play (an excellent bonding opportunity between you and your cat) and through their general hunting nature where they will stalk prey (toys in this case) and leap up high in trees (cat trees that is). Because of this, cats don't usually need as much area to roam around. In fact, in a large house you might lose your cat for a while as they can be excellent hide-and-seek players.
It's true that cost should be considered when choosing to adopt a pet. Dogs often tend to be more expensive to care for than a cat between food, toys, training classes, daycare, and vet bills. Because cats are independent by nature they have learned to care for themselves and generally only rely on their human for food. Even play stimulation can be as simple and cost effective as a flashlight or a feather tied to a stick.
Which Is the Best Pet for Me?
Cats and dogs aren't the only ones with different temperament and personality traits. According to Psychology Today, cat parents and dog parents also differ significantly in these areas. The majority of people who keep cats exclusively tend to be more introverted, less sociable, and more self-contained, whereas dog parents are more social, interactive, and open to new experiences.
Whether your personality more closely aligns with that of the typical dog person or the typical cat person, the main thing to keep in mind is that a dog will likely require quite a bit more of your time and attention than a cat. If you're looking for a companion that will sit by your side, then a dog might be your best bet. Cats can be quite affectionate and attentive, but only up to a point. They tend to become bored or overstimulated much more easily than dogs, and at that point they want to escape for a while. So, if you prefer a pet to keep you company but isn't especially needy, consider a cat.
Again, these are all generalities. Remember that cats and dogs are not only different species, but they're individuals within each of their species and some of these generalities might not apply to individual pets. Factors such as genetics, breed, breed temperament, and the animal's history all play a part as to how friendly, sociable, and teachable he will be. Wherever you side on the cat vs. dog debate, it's important to research your choice of pet before welcoming him to his forever home. Consider dog or cat sitting for a friend or family member to see if you prefer the companionship of one over the other. Then, make sure to go spend some time at your local animal shelter before you make the ultimate decision to adopt. You might find out that it is not the species that helps you make up your mind, but rather the bond you form with one of the animals. No matter which species you choose to adopt, with enough love and affection, you will surely find a forever friend.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.