Cats vs Dogs- Which makes a better pet?
Cats vs Dogs
It has always been perhaps the most common debate amongst pet owners, the whole "Which makes a better pet, a cat or a dog?", but is there any validity in this argument? Is one animal considerably better than the other or is it merely an issue of opinion. In my seaches on this subject, I have found valid arguments for both sides demonstrated in a very scientific manner and others which take on a much more comical opproach to validate their side. I will take the former approach rather than the latter as it is difficult to take someone seriously when their discussion is laden in sarcasm and insults towards the other side. This is, without a doubt, a classic example of the proverbial "apples and oranges" comparison, of which I am unable to fully understand as they are both delicious fruits and both have there place in a balanced diet. Likewise, cats and dogs are both intelligent mammals that make wonderful pets and have their place in any loving family. With all the above being considered, a search on this topic is usually not for the purpose of helping one to decide which animal they would prefer as a pet. Instead it is mostly for the purpose of strengthening their opinion towards one side or the other. Being that cats and dogs are the two most common household pets, most people have been around them their whole lives and already know the differences between the two. We're not talking rocket science here, we're taking common sense, but it's still enjoyable to make the comparison anyway. However, if you are one of those people that greatly dislikes one and loves the other, you are more than likely dismissing the positives of the other, unless of course your experience is limited. If that is the case than it is unfair to make judgement when you have no basis for an accurate comparison.
TRAINING AND HOUSEBREAKING
Personally, I grew up with both dogs and cats and currently have a dog and two cats (and six fish) and absolutely love them all, even so I still do have an opinion of preference backed by valid arguments. First, I will start with the subject of training and housebreaking. Dogs, on one hand, have an advantage here as they are able to be trained with relative ease compared to a cat. Dogs can be trained to do "tricks" and be obedient in order to appease their master(s), a welcoming asset indeed. While it's great to have a dog that obeys and can do tricks, I don't think of this as being an advantage necessarily as compared to cats. Where a dog requires training in order to be a good pet and can become ruined without it, a cat, on the other hand, doesn't have those same requirements. Housebreaking a dog can often be a long and messy process, whereas a cat will instinctively find a place to dig and bury their refuse. In general, all that is required to do with a cat is show it the litterbox and the rest is history. Even after housebreaking a dog, there may be the occasional "accident" which can be quite an annoyance, especially if it becomes more than occasional. In my dog's case, the door to the patio is always open and there appears to be absolutely no reason for this type of behaviour, thankfully it's not an issue any more. Perhaps it's a plea for attention or a spiteful act but despite the reason, it's an annoyance to say the least, one that you should never encounter with a cat (as long as you keep a clean litterbox). The other side to this is that dogs can be trained far more easily than a cat which can be considered a sign of respect. In my house, I am the alpha male and my dog Kiko respects that and (usually) obeys my commands. It is this respect and obedience that makes dogs so desirable. Cats do whatever it is that they want to do with no regards to you as they are much more independent and see you as more of an equal than a master. However, it is their independence that often makes cats so desirable, they are low maintenance. I'm going to have to give this round to cats for their low maintenance, instinctive litterbox behavior, and for the fact that they don't require training. While you may have to coax your cat to use the scratching post instead of your couch, this is a minor offset in my opinion. You may argue that since this is the subject of training and certainly dogs being more trainable should win this category hands-down, it does take time and patience to achieve a proper-mannered pup. All that is required for cats is a little attention and a clean litterbox.
I feel that the personality of a cat is closer to our own personalities and cover a wider gamut of emotion (emotional intelligence) than a dog. This can be seen by the various, and almost schizophrenic, mood changes that a cat shows thoughout the day. A dog's mood and personality seems to be more predictable as they are either placid and relaxed or energetic and playful most of the time. Yes, I know that they experience fear, sadness, boredom, etc. but with less shades of grey in between as compared to a cat. This is not my opinion but my observations and I am not alone on this. This diverse emotional intelligence gives cats an edge when it comes to communication. A dog barks in only a few given scenarios at most whereas a cat will actually talk to you, the question is "Do you know how to listen?" If you only use your ears than "I'm hungry" will sound the same as "pick me up Daddy" but the clues are in the body language. Sometimes it's hard to tell what cats are saying or what they want but I find their communication far easier to understand than trying to read the blank stares of a dog. Some people may consider this to be ludicrous and disagree with my observations but you may take this with a grain of salt, it is coming from my personal experience and from that I derive that cats are easier to understand. Of course, it may be taken into account that this is no fault of the dog, I may not be able to read them as well as other's can. One thing that scares me about dogs is that they have an irratic side that comes out when they feel threatened, you just don't know what they'll do next. When you offer your hand to a dog to greet them so they can get to know your scent, are they going to bite you or offer you their paw? This is a threat that you will likely never encounter with a cat because when a cat is scared or threatened, they will run away or give a tell-tale sign (hissing, arched back with raised hair, etc.) that they want to be left alone. Being that dogs are pack animals, it is imperative that they are able to communicate with other dogs and it is this social behavior that makes dogs so vastly different than cats. With a dog you get huge doses of unconditional love and affection, often times too much, but this is part of why they are considered to be man's best friend. A dog's attention, affection, and loyalty are second to none. Also, it is much easier to gain a dog's trust than a cat's, cat's are very picky and spread their love and affection carefully and evenly. Again, I think this makes a cat's personality closer to that of a human's. I have met some people with dog-like personalities and let me tell you, it's annoying to have a loud, over-excited person constantly in your face, trying to get your attention- most people are not like that and with good reason. I admire the independence and communication skills of a cat but also love the playfulness and loyalty of a dog. I am going to have to call this one a draw. This is one of those categories that is entirely dependent on the personality of the owner. I have always considered myself a cat person but dog's are more fun in general even if their affection and playfulness is excessive at times.
Unlike the personality argument, this one is much easier to measure in scientific terms. Sorry dog lovers, cats are measurably more intelligent- yup, it's true. I'm not just talking about the higher emotional intelligence of a cat, but actual IQ which has been proven in a battery of different tests. Ok dog lovers, before you get yourselves in an uproar you must consider the definition of intelligence to which I am referring. When I say measurably, I am talking about how we, as humans, measure intelligence through traditional IQ tests, those concerned with memory and problem solving. A cat is very adaptive and can quicky adjust to it's situation and surroundings using some of the keenest set of senses with perhaps the broadest perceptive ability in the animal kingdom, stronger even than our own. This not only makes for a better solitary hunter but allows a cat to know where they are at all times. It is not unusual for a cat to find it's way home from miles away and I have even read about a cat that did so from nearly 3,000 miles away. I don't think that this story was an exception, I believe every cat has this same ability. Dogs, on the other hand, can get lost on the same street that they live on and would really only be able to find their way home after seeing something they've encountered numerous times or catching a familiar scent. This is because a dog's greatest sense is that of smell, a cat's greatest sense is the sum of the whole, all senses working in perfect balance and harmony. To be more precise on what I mean by "measurably", I will include a quote from http://www.itchmo.com/thanks-for-the-memories-cats-and-their-ability-to-remember-2423 stating; "A test comparing memory retention of cats versus dogs (that age old rivalry) was conducted by Dr. Maier, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and Dr. Schneirla, curator at the Dept. of Animal Behavior, American Museum of Natural History. Both species were shown a number of boxes and taught that food could only be found under one box with a lighted lamp on top. When the training was completed, researchers lighted the lamp briefly. To test the animal’s memory, the researchers prevented them from going to the box for a period of time. Cats returned to the correct box as much as 16 hours later, exhibiting a power of recall superior to that of monkeys and orangutans. The dogs’ recall lasted no more than five minutes." This is just one example of a cat's superior memory but the problem-solving side of the debate proves to be a bit harder to measure. My cats have always been able to open doors and will go for the handle if the door is latched while my dog will just sit there and whine, waiting for either me or my wife to open it. There is no doubt that intelligence can be measured any number of ways but as far as tangible intelligence as we know it goes, cats definitely have the upper hand. I have read arguments in favor of dogs and they just aren't convincing enough to me. Some psychologists say that dogs are more intelligent because they have a more complex social structure. We as humans have both loners and social butterflies and agreeing with the above hypothesis would be like saying that a party girl is smarter than a writer who spends their days inhabiting a cabin in the middle of the woods. To be fair and not totally go off the beaten path, many species of fish live in schools and I don't think that they are any smarter than the species that don't, it's merely a survival instinct and nothing more. Common sense is another area of intelligence which can be interpreted as instinct and both cats and dogs have there respective instincts which cannot be compared, both are winners for different reasons. To sum it all up, cats are better problem solvers with better memories and dogs are better at understanding people and their emotions. Dogs have been with humans much longer than cats and have a better understanding of us in general but I don't think cat's will change with time, cats are cats and they aren't going to change their ways for us, we will change for them if anything. Again, the advantage here goes to the cats for conclusive evidence showing their superior memory and problem solving skills.
Well, here's an easy one. Cats are definitely cleaner than dogs, almost to a point of compulsiveness. Dogs are wonderful creatures but damn they're dirty. If you have cats, you will notice that they are always cleaning themselves and it shows. Indoor cats never have any offensive odors eminating from their bodies aside from their stinky breath. Dogs however, require bathing at least twice a month (we bathe Kiko once a week or more) or else they will just plain stink with greasy textured hair instead of soft. Even if your dog never rolls around in the grass or in waste (which they absolutely love doing), they will still developed an offensive odor. I believe that this is because a dog, much like a cat, will bath themselves with their tongues. Why cats don't stink because of this is beyond me but it may have a lot to do with the content of their saliva. A dog's saliva contains natural anitbiotics which help heal open wounds and repel parasites, perhaps this is the single cause for the offensive odor- a great evolutionary adaptation if not the most pleasant. Dogs also are living garbage disposal units, they eat anything and everything. I can't say that this is always a bad thing but I have caught Kiko eating cat vomit, hairballs, droppings out of the litter, dirt and plastic. Indeed, dogs are disgusting creatures. Some people will say that cats smell worse, more specifically their litter, but if the litterbox stinks than the obvious solution would be to scoop it or change it- problem solved. Hair can also be a problem with both cats and dogs and I don't think that either one has any advantage over the other in this department but I do find more cat hair on the floor, funiture and my clothes than dog hair. This is, however, a breed specific issue as Kiko is a short-haired breed that sheds very little. Obviously, longer haired breeds will be much more problematic. One last problem to be considered is that of drooling, dogs generally drool more than cats. This is usually minor except in some breeds, like Saint Bernards for example, whose mouths flow like small rivers. My cat Manny does drool but it is rarely anything more than a drip or two. On the topic of cleanliness, cat's can celebrate an overwhelming victory.
This area goes to the dogs, exclusively. Dogs are natural born protectors, guards if you will. Your dog will instinctively protect you and your house 'til the day they die and are happy to do so. I mean, who needs a security system when you have a dog, that would be overkill in most cases. Dogs have been used for generations to serve and protect and have a vast range of breed-specific talents that benefit mankind. With dogs, the master's wellbeing comes before their own, a demonstration of selflessness to the extreme. Cats are only looking out for themselves, except in rare cases- very rare cases. A cat will only help you if it benefits them in some way but that's not to say that they wouldn't if they knew how, it just isn't in their instinctual behavior. I live in the Philippines which is a very dirty, trash-ridden country with an overwhelming cockroach and rat problem but in my house, it's no problem at all. This is where cats have their purpose, keeping out unwanted intruders of the smaller kind. I have had cats give me baths on my head, arms, and legs and it is truly an honor to know that a cat cares for you and views you as one of their own but this really isn't a benefit of service and falls into the personality category- a trait that they share with dogs. Again, this is a no-brainer, dogs win this one with ease as their service-oriented and protective benefits are very numerous to say the least.
By looking online you will find that this is an endless and futile debate and some people just plain have it all wrong. From what I can see, people seem to think that cats are anti-social and pretentious but I have rarely encountered this in most of the cats I've owned. In fact, I think quite the opposite. I've had fun cats, shy cats, smart cats, etc. and while each and every cat or dog has their own unique personality, I think that cats are much more diverse and are as different from one another as humans are from one another. Most of my cats are home at my parents house and I miss them dearly but the two that live with me here are no slouches. In fact, my cat Manny is, without a doubt, the coolest and most interesting cat I have ever encountered. I would be as bold as to say that his personality is head and shoulders above ANY dog I have ever known. He plays fetch, tag, hide and seek, play fights with Kiko, can fish change out of the change jar, sleeps in my pants when I'm on the toilet, verbally alerts me when Homer (my other cat) escapes from the patio, climbs up doors and windows and even wrestles with me without getting pissed off- been doing that one since he was a kitten (see video "Psycho kitten" @ http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.myvideos. Not only that but he is also more talkative than any other cat I've known. If you think that cats only meow when they want food, well...you're wrong. My cats usually want to say hello and often they make great alarm clocks and rarely let us sleep in. They are truly exceptional cats but take into consideration that I raised them by hand and spend all day, every day with them. If you want to see the full potential of your cat, you must spend as much time with him/her as you would a dog. It's often not a fair playing field for cats because people seem to think that because cats are so independent, they don't need as much attention. This attitude could be the very reason why people think cats are snobby and anti-social. Homer, my other cat, was nowhere near as playful and friendly as Manny when he was a kitten and finally after several months, all of my love and attention has paid off- he is a total sweetheart, following me around, rubbing against my legs and talking to me throughout the day. In fact, he pays more attention to me than even my dog Kiko, as strange as that may sound. None of this should be taken as an insult to Kiko, he is a great dog and my wife and I always feel that we've been blessed to have him. Of course, we spend a lot of time with each and every one of our animals (even our fish) and they gladly return the favor. With animal care you simply must follow the "What you give is what you get" ideology or otherwise you will have a sub-par pet and wonder why you were cursed with a dud. In conclusion, both cats and dogs have their strengths and weaknesses and it really comes down to personal preferrence. I am a cat person but I definitely love Kiko equally as much as Manny and Homer. What dogs lack in grace and cleanliness, they more than make up for in friendliness and dependability. What cats lack in playfulness (with people) and obedience, they more than make up for in gentle affection and intelligence. Whichever pet you choose, be happy with your choice and give them all the love and attention they deserve. If you choose to have both, do not show favoritism and always remember, what you give is what you get.