Odie and Garfield. Tom and Spike. CatDog. Snowball and Santa’s Little Helper. The cats and dogs in the entire Cats & Dogs movie franchise. These are just some examples of the “cat vs dog” dichotomy we often see on our TV and movie screens. In fact, this rivalry happens to be one of the oldest and most popular animal tropes in media. Comparing cats to dogs (or vice versa) would be like comparing apples to oranges; it serves no purpose other than to illustrate just how vastly different they are. Yet cats and dogs are constantly pitted against one another in media. Dogs are usually associated with kind-hearted heroes while cats are seated on the laps of villains. Another common example used for the cat/dog dichotomy is to portray dogs as dumb creatures while cats are seen as cunning and hostile.
As with most tropes in popular culture, there is some truth to the cliche. While cats and dogs make great pets on their own, having both animals living together is another matter altogether. Cats and dogs are so different, personality-wise, that it is easy to understand why they would have a difficult time getting along. If you are someone who is planning to have a cat-and-dog household, you may want to think again.
If you have not already done so, now would be a good time to reflect on the kind of pet owner you are and ask yourself this simple question: “Am I really ready to own a cat and a dog?” In the moment, it might seem like the easiest question in the world, but take a moment to let the question sink in and then look at it critically.
Getting a pet is a lot of work in and of itself, but getting another literally doubles the responsibility, not to mention the cost. Think about it: will you be able to meet their needs separately and fairly? Do you have security and precautions in place like insurance just in case your pet gets ill or lost? In the event of a sudden illness or an accident, would you be able to afford their treatments? Can you truly give them the proper love and care that they deserve?
Here are other important points to consider before owning a cat and a dog at the same time:
- Cats and dogs suit different lifestyles.
There’s a reason why it is not uncommon to hear the question, “Are you a cat person or a dog person?” Cats and dogs tend to be emblematic of their owners. Are you the outdoorsy type? If yes, then dogs are a perfect fit for you, cats less so. Do you want your relationship with your pet to be that of equals, with your pet free to roam around the house and seek your affection on their own terms? If yes, you will love cats; a properly trained dog understands that you are the “alpha”.
Cats are generally more laidback and self-sufficient creatures who prefer to socialize only when they feel like it. They need a “safe room” in the house to retreat to and rest and do not mind being left alone for days so long as you leave them with enough provisions. Cats are resourceful creatures and will find a way to thrive no matter the conditions. After all, these are animals that basically domesticated themselves when they realized it would make their (nine) lives easier if they gave a show of deference and meowed.
Dogs, on the other hand, are a little more high-maintenance: they require exercise regularly and are entirely dependent on their human for food, water and bathroom breaks so they will need daily supervision. On the upside, they are generous with their affection and would die protecting you without a doubt. Dogs, when properly socialized, are very open and friendly, but do not let that fool you: they are also good judges of character and can go from wagging their tails to a crouching attack stance at the first hint of danger.
These are merely generalized traits of cats and dogs. In reality, it varies from breed to breed and only serves to give you an idea of the kind of pet owners that would best suit these animals. Another way to put it would be to say that there is a significant difference in the care each pet requires of its human. In other words, getting both a cat and a dog would mean twice as much responsibility, but you knew that already. Or did you…?
- Cats and dogs are natural enemies.
It is widely recognized by all that cats and dogs have a long, drawn-out history of being natural enemies. When cats and dogs encounter one another, their natural instinct is to revert into an aggressive fight mode. It’s just biological and something you cannot totally eliminate. Facilitating a cat and dog’s first encounter is tricky, especially on the cat’s part. You will need to have an escape route prepared for your cat in case they feel uncomfortable, and you may want to keep your dog on a leash for their first encounter.
- Cats and dogs have different styles of play.
It may seem like a minor detail, but this is actually a large factor to consider as these different styles of play may result in frequent altercations between your cat and your dog. Cats and dogs have distinguished preferences for games that are wholly different: cats prefer to stalk and pounce while dogs like to chase and run after things. Why does this matter so much, you ask? Well, for one, this means there are bound to be misunderstandings between the two. A dog chasing after a cat may think he and his new friend are just playing, but the cat might be absolutely terrified. On the other hand, a dog might be confused and hurt as to why the cat keeps on swiping him whenever he approaches, but what he doesn’t realize is that he’s getting too close into the cat’s personal space and the cat is trying to tell him to back off. These misinterpretations could go on forever and the only way to fix them would be set some ground rules in the household and train both pets.
These are just some reasons why you should not get a cat and a dog. There’s too much risk involved not just for both animals, but also to the peace and harmony in your household. Should you decide to go ahead and get a dog and a cat anyway, just be aware that you have got your work cut out for you.
Eva Sykes is a Content & Partnership manager by day and avid dog lover by night. She spends most of her time working with people who love to help pets in need or just need a bit of extra love, spending countless hours helping stray and lost dogs find new homes to avoid being put down. Eva’s hobbies include climbing (or bouldering) as well as playing squash, while at the same time seeking the sun on travel adventures. Eva is currently working to spread the word about why people should adopt pets as a way to improve their health and lifestyle.
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