You met the person of your dreams. She has a cat and you have a dog and the four of you are about to share one home. Think of this as a furry Brady Bunch situation. Your dog listens to your every word. Sits and stay on cue, and greets you each time you return home like you’re a rock star. On the other hand, her cat ignores you when you call her name (unless you rattle kibble in her food bowl) and delivers a wide-eyed look of indifference as she proceed to walk across the kitchen counter top despite your protests.
Feeling a bit frustrated, right? You may be thinking to yourself, “If only that darn cat acted more like a dog.” Time for a reality check. Cats are not small dogs. When I give talks around the country about how to achieve harmony in a household with cats and dogs, I gently remind my audiences of the distinct differences between America’s top two most popular pets by sharing these acronyms I’ve created for each:
Dogs puts the “d” in drool, the “o” in obey, the “g” in goofy and the “s” in seconds, please. By comparison, cats put the “c” in candid, the “a” in attitude, the “t” in tenacious and the “s” in…so what.
Dogs and cats have been hard-wired differently. For centuries, cats have been independent hunters while dogs have worked in packs to score food. Early man saw the value of the obey-nature in dogs to help them get out of the Stone Age. Cats waited an extra 10,000 years or so after dogs were domesticated before agreeing to hang out with humans. Their talents for ridding ships, barns and homes of rodents proved to be valuable.
Now zip forward to today where the 21st century dog and cat both enjoy lots of pet amenities and plenty of affection from us. Millions of both species are living a pampered life inside our homes—and our hearts. So what draws some people to dogs and others to cats?
There have been studies conducted in attempts to identify personality trait differences between people who love cats and those who dig dogs. In a recent survey of 600 college students, Denise Guastello, an associate professor of psychology at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI, unleashed a slew of questions to pinpoint personality traits in dog people versus cat people. One key finding she presented at the 2014 annual Association for Psychological Science conference is that, dog people declare companionship as the supreme reason they adore their dogs. In contrast, feline fans regard affection from their cats as the most attractive quality in their pets.
In a 2010 study involving more than 4,500 people, researchers noted that dog people, in general, tend to be more outgoing and lively—and more willing to follow rules. Cat people are more apt to be introverted, cautious and sensitive—and more apt to break the rules if they deem their approach is more practical.
What both of these research pursuits demonstrate is the need for diversity to make this a better planet. As a person who happily shares her home with two dogs and two cats—all of whom get along without a growl or a hiss—I say it is time to extinguish the saying, “fighting like cats and dogs” and embrace the power of purrs and tail wags.
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