All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dog's vs. Cats


Dear Marie,
 I have a male friend at work who insists that dogs make better companions than cats because dogs are more social and love their owners and other people. He backs this up by saying his dog will happily approach anyone, even total strangers, and wag his tail and give kisses. He says the only reason cats ever act affectionate is because they want something - like food. He thinks I’m living in denial about believing my cats love me. This gets me so mad. I know that you have both cats and dogs in your home and seem to love both equally, so I think you can put an end to this argument with an unbiased answer. 
Angie, Huntington Beach

Dear Angie,
This debate between dog and cat owners has been raging for a long time. What most people don’t understand is that dogs and cats, just like people, are individuals and respond to us in their own unique manner. Some dogs are extremely shy and are so adverse to meeting new people, that they will bite strangers. Some cats are so outgoing that they will follow anyone who stops a moment to give them a pat on the head. (This is obviously a problem for overly friendly outdoor cats.) It is between these two extremes where most pets can be categorized. 

The average dog has no problem meeting new people and generally loves getting attention and affection. The average cat is more discerning in who she decides to bond with. However, most cats have very strong bonds with the people in their homes and desire interaction completely unrelated to food. Let me give an example of the type of bond cats form with humans. 

My daughter is a design major in college. From time to time, she works on assignments in her room and has to keep her cat from coming in. He weighs 22 pounds and has a habit of sitting on her very delicate projects, which is never a good thing. When her door is closed, he sits outside and whines. This is not because he is hungry or thirsty - his dishes are in the kitchen. It’s also not because he especially likes to be in my daughter’s room - most daytime hours or when my daughter is at work or school, he sleeps on my bed or the living room couch. It’s simply because she is home and he wants to be with her. The moment she opens her door, he is all over her. And if she comes out and into another room, he follows her. The moment she sits down, he’s in her lap, rubbing his face against hers, licking her and purring. At night, he sleeps with his front legs (arms) around her and his head buried in her neck. Call me an anthropomorphizer - but if that’s not love, I don’t know what is! 

This same cat is somewhat affectionate with everyone else in the household; but truthfully, he can take us or leave us. He wants absolutely nothing to do with strangers, however, and will run and hide if anyone he doesn't know comes in. Interesting enough though, he is “best friends” with my other daughter’s dog. These two play together, groom each other and sleep together. It’s quite remarkable. I think most people who have shared their homes with felines would testify to the fact that their cats do indeed love them and I can assure your friend that these people are not living in denial.

My oldest cat, now 18, is by far my friendliest. This is funny because she began her life with me as a feral kitten who wouldn't think twice about shredding anyone to pieces if he or she dared to be affectionate with her. But now, she’ll gladly cozy up with just about anybody who drops by for a visit. She loves attention and she loves being “motherly.” If you let her, she’ll wash your hands until you have no skin left! 

The reason that the dog versus cat question comes up so frequently is simply that some of us are “dog people” and some of us are “cat people” - and then, of course there are people like me who are just “animal people.” Unless you have really opened up your heart to the various different species, you can’t really understand what they are capable of and I suspect that is where your friend is coming from. All higher animals bond with their human families to some degree. For both dogs and cats, I would definitely call this bond “love.”

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