In my childhood home, we had both cats and dogs, living harmoniously amongst each other. They stayed out of each other’s way for the most part, so I witnessed no scenes of fur-flying scuffles. For the last 30-plus years, I’ve lived with only dogs, and pretty much convinced myself that I didn’t want to have a cat in my home. There were a couple reasons for this: First, living in mountainous areas meant that a cat had a good chance of being picked off by a predator for simply wandering outside, just being a cat. I didn’t want that responsibility on my hands, nor did I want to sign up for a cycle of heartache and loss. And second, I do not like the idea of an animal first digging through a litter box and then jumping onto the kitchen counters—the very place where food is prepared.
There’s an irony in this line of thinking and I’ll tell you why: Our rescue dog, Daisy, has the very feline habit of jumping onto the counters, prancing around on every surface, just like a cat. There is no height beyond her reach, earning her a suspicious look at her lineage—part cat or goat perhaps? And because after leaving her alone in the house and returning home, I can tip my head and make out her full paw prints forming a path on every square inch of counter space, save the stove, I am constantly sanitizing the countertops. This is something I did not think I would be dealing with in adopting a dog. There’s another aspect to this dog on the countertops situation that we’ve been forced to deal with: Like a cat, our Daisy bats things off the counters. She doesn’t ruin things, for the most part, although there are exceptions—she just takes items of her choosing off the counters and leaves them scattered about for me to find. Just the other day, the new bag of Cara Caras was discovered in the bedroom, and the stack of napkins in the holder was disassembled on the living room rug. Seems like the scene a person with three cats might come home to. The other day, she dragged a dead mouse through the dog door and left it on the runner. She may or may not have killed it first. Maybe she’s a hybrid of dog, cat and goat. We’ll never know, but she is entertaining.
A friend of mine has, for decades, made her home one of several dogs and one cat. In a sad sequence of events, she lost her two remaining dogs within weeks of each other, leaving her in a spiral of grief and loneliness. Her eventual solution was to adopt two kittens simultaneously and to fill her house with the happy toys and distractions that go along with the package. She now regales me with short videos of the silliness going on in her house, which has obviously gone a long way to healing the hole in her heart. And, it’s a win-win. The kittens got a terrific home and she is infinitely entertained by their antics.
On the subject of cats and dogs, I heard an enlightened conversation at a pet store that made a lot of sense to me. The woman at the check-out counter admitted that she preferred dogs to cats, but her husband’s health issues made dog walking impractical, so they hadn’t replaced the one that passed. After a while, they missed having another living thing to take care of, so they settled on a cat and were pleasantly surprised at how much enjoyment they derived from that creature.
The comparison between dogs and cats is comical. They are, after all, personality polar opposites. Dogs are often eager to show their affection to their humans. They greet you at the door, tail wagging, with the body language that says, “I love you so… I could just eat you up with a spoon.” Whereas it’s a game of hide and seek for a cat. The human arrives home, has no trouble getting through the door, puts down their things and then begins to wonder where the cat is. “Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty,” comes the call, as the human begins going from room to room searching. Despite the fact that cats have excellent hearing, they will give no indication that you have arrived. After searching high and low, the human might find their cat taking a nap on top of the wardrobe or perhaps the refrigerator, but unless the cat wants to be found, it will not give away its location. You’re the one who left, so you can be the one to do the finding.
There are exceptions, however. A friend found a Maine Coon cat to join her family. Those are the giant cats that have tufts on their ears and gigantic paws. So large are their paws, as kittens, they appear to be wearing snowshoes. These cats are known to behave more like dogs—playing fetch and being drawn to water. Perhaps they even crowd the door at their human’s arrival—I couldn’t say. My friend named her Maine Coon cat Moose, and each time we see a photo, it has grown by leaps and bounds. Her family adores Moose and keeps him safe by creating a ‘cat run.’ This is the solution to living in an area where cats have many predators. Basically, it is a large, lidded kennel connected to the house by a cat door. This enables the cat to safely go outside and enjoy the sunshine without danger of being eaten. God help the tiny creature foolish enough to go through the fence, as the cat confined to a cat run will pounce immediately.
It’s a peculiar thing to aim for a cat that behaves more like a dog, which makes me wonder if there are people aiming for dogs that act more like cats. If so, I have a Daisy dog whose accidental lineage just so happens to have produced some very feline characteristics. We could swab her cheek and get her lineage pretty easily, but where’s the fun in that? I guess I’ll just enjoy the strange combination that is our puppy/cat/goat creature that walks on countertops, leaps onto any height, greets us at the door with enthusiasm, and brings us the occasional mouse as a gift.