7 top differences between cats and dogs

Most people would describe themselves as either a ‘dog person’ or a ‘cat person’. I used to be a ‘cat person’, but now,  I’m both! And most people who own a cat or a dog could tell you the real and perceived differences between the species – knowledge often gained from cartoons and lists shared on social media. Well I am here to tell you that most of those ‘perceived’ differences are actually true! So here are is what I have observed to be the most obvious differences between cats and dogs, from my scientific (ahem..) observations of Coco and Sadie (our cats) and Ivy (our dog)!

1. Emotions

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Dogs and cats show their emotions in very different ways. In fact, to be honest, cats don’t show much emotion in an obvious way at all. I know when Sadie and Coco are happy and content by their loud purrs when they come for a cuddle. I can also guess they are happy when they are stretched out blissfully in a sunny patch. But that’s about it. Their inscrutable stares don’t give much away. Dogs are different. Dogs put it all out there! Every morning when I come downstairs, Ivy greets me as if I have been away for a year! She jumps up and down, tail wagging frantically – her enthusiasm makes me feel like a superstar! She rolls over for tummy tickles, scampers after balls and barks with excitement at anything that moves. She even makes little satisfied noises when she’s asleep or when we give her a cuddle. Ivy is pretty much permanently happy, except when we leave the room, when she then lets us know her displeasure by continuous barking.

2. Unconditional love

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Dogs love their humans. Unconditionally. They love you if you are happy. They love you if you are sad. They love you when you are a bit cross with them. They love you when you are asleep. They love you when you are awake. They just LOVE you SO much! Ivy loves me so much she even growled at my husband this morning when he tried to kiss me goodbye! Cats? Well, they do show their love, but they also show their displeasure. And it doesn’t take much. If they are on your lap and you so much as sneeze.. whoosh! They are gone! They love you when you are doing exactly what they want to you to do and the way they want you to do it. Otherwise, they are having none of it! Sadie will ‘accept’ my attentions and even enjoy it, but one wrong move, one stroke of her fur in the wrong direction.. game over!

3. Personal hygiene

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Ivy loves mud. She also loves rubbish – discarded wrappers, half a sandwich, an orange peel, a squashed banana.. but most of all she loves mud. She will dig holes and then dash through soggy muddy puddles and rub her whole face in it just for good measure and to ensure maximum coverage. If she had her choice, life would be one great big mud bath! And when she is done, she feels no need to clean off the mud. One of her favourite pastimes is doing the pre-wash in our dishwasher. Open the door and she’s in, licking the plates and saucepans, cups and saucers, knives and forks. On New Year’s Eve we had sticky toffee pudding. It has taken me a week to get the toffee out of her fringe, because she didn’t seem bothered by it at all! Coco and Sadie however are fastidious with their cleanliness. They can spend hours licking and washing and preening themselves. One hair out of place or one bit of dust or moisture heralds thorough all over ablutions!

4. Licks for their humans

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Dog’s tongue smooth as silk. Cat’s tongue rough as sandpaper. That is all!

5. Toilet habits

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In the same way that cats are fastidious about their cleanliness, so they are equally careful with their toilet habits. I don’t think I have ever actually seen a Coco or Sadie poo (sorry neighbours!). But I am sure they are very careful to relieve themselves in a flower bed and bury the evidence immediately. And God forbid you ever catch them in action. Awkward! Our dog Ivy? Well, anything goes. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go and your human will pick up after you, so why bury it?

6. Training

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Dogs love to be trained. It keeps their brains active and they are every eager to please. And if there is a tasty reward at the end of it, all the better. However, training dogs can take time, since we don’t speak Dog and they don’t speak Human. However, eventually they get the hang of what every you are trying to teach them if you do it right. Cat’s on the other hand do what they want! It’s easy to think that you have trained your new kitten to use their litter tray, but they only use it because they want to and you have shown them where it is!

7. Independence

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I love Ivy and she loves me. But while I can cope if she goes into another room without me, Ivy does not feel the same. The minute I stand up, so does she. I imagine the word ‘Whats up?’ racing through her head when she hears my chair scrape back. And as I begin to climb the stairs, so I hear the pitter patter of her little feet as she follows me like a.. well, like a dog! Ivy is my little shadow, following me wherever I go. Coco and Sadie on the other hand consider themselves to be free agents. They have a cat flap and come and go as they please. Generally I don’t see much of them during the day, but come evening they will grace us with their presence.. or not!

And there you have it. My definitive, although not exhaustive guide to the difference between cats and dogs.

Sadie and Coco meet Ivy..

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The prospect of introducing Ivy to our cats Coco and Sadie was almost certainly the most nerve-wracking aspect of getting a puppy. I mean let’s face it, dogs and cats are the most notorious of adversaries. And while I’m a sucker for pictures of cats and dogs snuggled in perfect harmony on Facebook (see above), I was under no illusions that this was going to be an instant cat/dog love-fest!

And I was right! Ivy’s first encounters with either cat was brief.. very brief! Ivy would spot Coco or Sadie, her little tail would begin to wag and her eyes light up at the prospect of a new playmate. Her absolute confidence that they would feel the same way saw her bounding across the garden to greet them, only for them to leap 10 feet into the air, turn tail and scarper as fast as their furry feline feet would carry them!

Our house is on four floors and we have placed a gate on at the bottom of the stairs to the top two floors, thus providing a safe haven for Coco and Sadie when they lose patience with Ivy (they seem to spend quite a lot of time up there.. just sayin’!) That said, they do seem to enjoy taunting her by sitting on the step just above the stair gate staring and then staring some more, driving her into a frenzy! Such fun!

We have now reached a state of.. I’m not sure I can call it peace and harmony, but I suppose ‘acceptance’ would be the best word to describe it. At least on the part of Coco and Sadie. They have learned that if Ivy is in the kitchen, the best way to cross the room to their food or the cat flap is up high. So they leap from table to chair to kitchen work surface – pretty impressive as it happens. And yes, I do see the irony of having spent two years trying to get them NOT to go on the work surfaces, now actively encouraging it!

Coco, who is a little dot of a cat, knows exactly how to put Ivy in her place. A carefully timed hiss and a flick of a sharp claw does the trick. Sadie simply C…B…A (‘can’t be arsed’ according to son Noah!). Ivy will chase her and she lollops away slowly to the safest spot.. but she takes her time. I am not sure ‘lollops’ is even a word, but it seems to be quite descriptive of Sadie’s gait. So the cats ‘get it’ – this ‘thing’ is here to stay and avoidance is key. Ivy not so much. Ever the optimist, she will bark and chase when she sees either cat – she just wants to play!

I sometimes wonder what the cats are thinking. Do they blame us for this new intruder? I don’t think so. They are still as affectionate as ever. Like I said, I think ‘acceptance’ pretty much sums it up. I do wonder more of a bond will form when Ivy calms down a bit.. but I’m not holding my breath!

How to choose a puppy or kitten

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Choosing to own a puppy or cat has to begin with making sure that everyone who lives in your house is on board. If one of you is not keen, the chances are that it is not going to be a happy experience, so it might be wise to shelve the idea for now.

It is also important in the case of buying a puppy, that at least one of you is around for some of the time on weekdays. Dogs are pack animals and will become anxious and unhappy if left on their own for long periods of time on a regular basis.

So assuming you have a full house of thumbs ups, it might be worth doing a bit of research into costs before you make a final decision. These costs can include:

  • Initial purchase price which can vary between breeds and pedigrees
  • Vaccinations – cats and dogs need to be vaccinated before they can go outside to avoid catching nasty diseases
  • Spaying and neutering should you decide to take this route
  • Ongoing costs of food, flea treatment and worming
  • Insurance – an absolute must to avoid expensive vet bills should your pet have an accident or develop a long term illness.

Once you have done your research and you are still keen to take the plunge, the following pointers should be taken into account. Some of these are more applicable to dogs than cats, but either way you want to make sure you are buying from a reputable breeder rather than a ‘breeding farm’.

Pointer 1 – Make sure you are confident that the person selling puppies or kittens is a responsible breeder. Ask questions such as ‘Can I meet the mother and father’, ‘Has the puppy been fully socialised?’ Ask to see photos so you can see the surroundings that they have been born into. Of course visiting is imperative and will give you a much better feel for the breeder as well.

Pointer 2 – If a puppy or kitten is being sold as a pedigree, ask to see the paper work of the parents first.

Pointer 3 – Don’t buy from a pet shop. While smaller animals might be well-cared for, larger animals may have come from trade farms and may have health and behavioural issues as a result. What’s more, you don’t want to be supporting this kind of cruel practice.

Pointer 4 – When you go to choose a puppy, be careful that your heart does not rule your head. Choose neither the timid runt of the litter, nor the gung-ho over-confident puppy. Both are likely to have behavioural issues and while these can be overcome an experienced trainer, it’s better to opt for the well-rounded middle pup if you have the choice.

Pointer 5 – Experts advise against buying two puppies at the same time, even if they are from the same litter. However cats will thrive with company, especially if you are out at work all day.

Pointer 6 – Make sure you research different breeds before making a choice. Both cats and dogs have very different temperaments and needs depending on their breed. This is more noticeable with dogs, some of whom need a lot more space and exercise than other and there are certainly differences in ease of training too.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Of course read around, but don’t become overwhelmed. Yes, it’s an important decision and yes there are certain rules you really must follow, but common sense and some research around should see you making the right choice for you.

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Breaking down barriers

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Everyone we know is getting a dog. E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E! I love it – I get the cuddles and licks and the adoring looks and tail wagging and dog walking… all without the responsibility. AND I don’t have to pick up their poo! Win-win!

“It’s fine picking up their poo”, says my friend Ems. “It’s like changing your own baby’s nappy.. it doesn’t bother you.”  Yeah, right!

I love animals. I’m constantly reposting videos of a cute row of ducklings following mother duck, the cat who’s adopted a mouse, the handsome dude who has rescued a baby deer (I am just looking at the baby deer, honest!). My husband has got used to me asking: “Can I have a baby elephant for Christmas?” or “I want an aardvark for my birthday!”. He knows it’s tongue in cheek, but plays along and responds with a very firm “NO!”.

But, this summer we were sat on the beach when a couple walked past with a gorgeous little puppy. As I melted into the sand, I turned to my husband and said “Can we get a puppy?”, fully expecting the usual resounding “No.”  But instead he said, “Sure. Why not?” Me: “What, really?” Him: “Yes, really!”

Squeeeeaaaal! We’re getting a puppy!