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A Dog Owner's Guide to Getting Your First Cat
If you've been a dog owner all your life and have strayed into the unknown realm of felines, you might be in for a bit of a shock. Owning a cat isn't like owning a dog - although there are enough similarities to confuse the matter. Still, cat ownership is one of the pleasures a pet owner can truly experience.
When I first got Hailey, I marveled at the similarities and differences in behavior. I got Hailey to take care of the mice that infested my previous house. What I found was an animal who not only performed her job admirably but also became a favorite pet.
Dogs or Cats?
Which is your favorite pet?
Why Own a Cat?
If you're a dog lover, you may be wondering what possible advantage owning a cat can have. The first is size - many rentals frown on dogs but are okay with cats. While you and I can commiserate about what are obviously speciest rules, the fact remains that cats are more welcome than dogs.
Cats provide companionship. Yes, I know that you're thinking "yeah, right...", but many cats are loving and enjoy being around people. My two cats, Hailey and Sam, are actually clingier than my dogs and enjoy being petted and cuddled. They sleep with me at night, keeping me warm like furry hot water bottles with built-in white noise generators.
Cats come automatically litterboxed trained. "What?" you say. "I don't have to train them?" No, you don't. It's one of the secrets of cat owners that somehow didn't get passed onto those of us who own dogs. Cats instinctively know to use the litterbox once you show it to them.
You can train cats. (I'm hearing peals of incredulous laughter). Yes, you can. In fact, some cat breeds will do agility courses and play fetch - just like their canine counterparts.
Adult cats require less attention than dogs. Adult cats sleep a good portion of the day and are happy to be left to their own devices at least part of the day. Hailey and Sam both sleep between 14 and 20 hours each day. When I first got Hailey, I asked my cat expert friends if she was sleeping too much and I was met with chuckles. "No," they assured me. "Cats sleep a lot." This makes cats ideal for the working household. A person who might feel like they're neglecting their dog will be relieved to learn that the 12 to 14 hours you spend at home are fine for your kitty. Your cat will just nap while you're gone.
Old Wives' Tales
Now, that you know the benefits behind owning a cat, I'll address the concerns most dog owners have concerning cats and their objections:
1. Cats are too independent. Answer: Cats are only as independent as you make them. Cats mirror the owner's personality and will give as much as you will. If you don't spend time with your cat, she won't care to spend time with you. My cats are very affectionate and even pesky at times, which suggests that maybe I spend way too much time with them.
2. Cats are wild animals. Answer: Actually, they're not. Cats have been domesticated just like dogs and archaeological signs suggest that cats have been pets for at least 9000 years. However, cats can become feral, just like dogs can become feral. Feral cats are often generations of cats living in cat colonies that don't have contact with humans. However, their kittens can be raised in a domesticated environment and they can make good pets.
3. Cats claw up everything. Answer: Cats who aren't trained to use scratching posts claw up everything. You can keep your cat from scratching up your house with minimal amount of training and keeping their claws trimmed.
4. Cats need to go outside. Answer: Inside cats can be very happy and live safe and happy lives indoors.
5. Cat litter stinks. Answer: Cat litter stinks if you don't keep the box clean. Your cat wants a clean litterbox too.
6. Cats yowl and scream. Answer: Intact cats are very noisy - spaying and neutering reduces that noise. Also, certain breeds (Siamese and Asian breeds) tend to be more noisy than others.
In Part 2 of A Dog Owner's Guide to Getting Your First Cat, I talk about which cat is best for the dog owner.