Can Cats and Dogs Get Along?

By Howard J. Bennett

Some of us love dogs. Some of us love cats. A few of us love both. My family falls into the latter category.

The Bennett household started off with a dog named Jessie, a 15-pound Havanese.

Two years later, we got Mojo, also a Havanese, to keep Jessie company while everyone was at work or school during the day. We rescued an 8-pound dog Havanese named Sadie three years after Mojo. Finally, because we’re crazy, we added two kittens to the mix—Griffin and Rosie—six months ago. (Would it surprise you to know that there are 70 million pet dogs and 74 million pet cats in the United States?)

Even though our pets get along, there’s no question that cats and dogs see the world differently.

Dogs greet each other nose to butt. They do this because dogs identify each other by the smell of their hindquarters.

Cats greet each other face to face. Because we don’t get on their hands and knees when we greet our cats, they compensate for that by rubbing their faces against our bodies. When cats do that, they are marking us with scent glands on the side their faces. This is their way of saying we are part of their territory.

Cats and dogs have different ways to show they like us.

  • Dogs wag their tails. Cats come to us with their tails sticking up in the air.
  • Dogs crouch down with their faces and front paws on the ground saying they want to play. Cats flop on their sides showing they trust us.
  • Dogs lick our faces when they are happy to see us. Cats purr.

Cats and dogs behave differently because dogs are pack animals and cats are usually loners.

  • Dogs learn their names quickly. Cats rarely do.
  • Dogs are easy to train. Cats, not so much.
  • Dogs mind their owners when they go for walks. If you took a cat for a walk, he wouldn’t accept that you were in charge.
  • When a dog stares out a window, he is watching for strangers to protect the den. When a cat stares out a window, he is looking for something to hunt.
  • If a dog gets frightened by thunder, he might jump on the bed so you could comfort him. A cat would hide under the bed.

Bonus Story: One time, Griffin pounced on Jessie when she was running into the house after peeing in the backyard. When Griffin does this to his sister Rosie, he knocks her over and they begin play fighting. At 15 pounds, Jessie is too big to be knocked over by a 6-month-old cat, but she kept running as Griffin “attacked” her. It looked like a scene from Animal Planet in which a lion was trying to take down a water buffalo. Eventually, Griffin realized Jessie was being a party-pooper, so he pounced on a toy mouse instead.

© 2013 Howard J. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.
(First published in the Washington Post 4/29/13.)

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