As a currently dogless dog person who happens to have two cats (still following?), I feel I’m in a good position to offer some advice to fellow dog people who, for whatever reason (don’t worry, I won’t judge… you poor bastards), find themselves adopting or wanting to adopt a cat.
Cats are furry four-legged companions, but their resemblance to dogs often ends there. So here’s what you should be prepared for when you bring kitty home…
How to Love Your Cat Without Sustaining Personal Injury
Dogs want to please you, but cats want to be pleased by you. Hint: cats find inconveniencing you to be incredibly pleasurable. For example, Sir William wants attention only when I’m otherwise occupied. As I started this post, he started meowing and looking intently at the top of the entertainment unit, threatening to jump up there (and possibly knock over the TV). This was my cue to get up and pay some attention to him (“Sir William! Don’t you dare jump up there, don’t you even think about it!”). Satisfied, he sauntered off.
Another tip: beware a cat who innocently exposes his tummy to you. You might think, “Aw, he wants tummy rubs, just like a puppy!” But there are two options: either he wants tummy rubs, or he wants to attack your hand. You won’t know which it is until your hand reaches his belly, and by then it could be too late. You’ve got a 50/50 chance in our house: one enjoys tummy rubs; one enjoys hand-ambushes (complete with fangs and claws).
Can you tell which of these kitties wants tummy rubs and which wants to sink his teeth into your soft, fleshy hand?
Oh, and remember: both dogs and cats have teeth and claws, but cats are far more willing to use them on you. And not by accident.
Some cats are just like dogs and will wolf down their food right away, but many cats will nibble throughout the day instead. As a former dog owner, it was fascinating to give the cats their kibble and watch them eat for a while, then saunter off while there was still kibble left. Trust me, that did NOT happen with my yellow lab. His policy was “eat first, determine whether it was edible later.”
On the other hand, if you drop food on the floor, a cat will sniff it, then give it a little taste, then spit it out, then repeat until they decide whether they like it or not. So unlike a dog, a cat makes a poor vacuum cleaner replacement.
Exercise is for Suckers
Dogs need to run around outside or they will drive you absolutely nuts. Cats can go either way–some (especially as kittens) need exercise and will love chasing a laser pointer or a bit of string. Others are lazy and think exercise is for suckers. Our cats enjoy a rousing game of catch-the-laser-dot or mouse-on-a-string, and they also enjoy tearing through the house around midnight or one a.m. (I think they give themselves bonus points for keeping us up at night). At least we don’t have to go out in the cold or rain just so they can pee. Advantage: cats.
Toys, Toys, Toys
Don’t waste your money. Cats like boxes, paper (seriously, shred a few sheets of paper and watch them go nuts), bags, empty toilet paper rolls, pens (or anything that they can roll, like chapstick and USB sticks), laser pointers, string/ribbon*, tinfoil balls*, and attacking anything that moves under a blanket. (Confession: I buy my cats toys all the time. Especially little stuffed mice with catnip in them, and little balls they can chase.) *Note: do not leave your cats alone all day with string, ribbon, or tinfoil balls–they may eat them, and that could means a pricey vet bill.
Sometimes, my kittens even play fetch. It’s all on their terms, though: they bring the toy, drop it at my feet, and stare at me until I throw it. They only bring it back until they lose interest (usually two to seven times).
Training Your Feline
No, really. You can train a dog because they want to please you. Good luck with cats. The best you can hope for is that you’ll be able to get them to behave when you’re around. They’ll still wreck your shit the moment you leave.
We prevent our cats from jumping up on the counters by yelling, “NO!” but I’ve heard some people find spray bottles (with plain water) to be effective. The trick is to catch the cat in the act so that they associate their asshole behaviour with the punishment. Anyway, just keep in mind that your cat’s desire to do something is often stronger than your patience to prevent him from doing it. Pick your battles.
Protecting Your Stuff
Dogs may be able to get up on couches and beds, but cats can go ANYWHERE. Have you seen how high some of them can jump? It’s insane. You will quickly learn to cat-proof your house as if you were baby-proofing for a toddler Spiderman. They can climb anywhere and squeeze into the smallest spaces (behind the refrigerator, for example). Anything light enough to be pushed over will be pushed over. Anything that dangles will be batted at and possibly severed. Anything on a ledge or shelf will end up pushed off said surface.
Like puppies, they also tend to chew stuff. Bitter apple spray may deter wire-chewing, but unless you want to coat your entire wardrobe in the stuff, just keep your clothes out of reach. (Some favourite chew toys: tank top straps, headphones, drawstrings.)
Moody Little Buggers
What can I say… cats can be assholes. With time, you’ll learn to recognize what kind of mood your cat is in, and that will probably save you from a few bites and scratches. But still: expect cats to be unpredictable. They can go from purring as you stroke them to biting your hand.
If your cat seems pretty focused on you and his eyes are dilated, he’s probably all amped up and ready to Attack The Shit Out Of Anything That Moves. Exhibit A:
Some cats also hold grudges. I’ve heard of cats who display their displeasure with their owners by ignoring them or pooping in their shoes or on their bed. What jerks.
Your cat will be at his most adorable when he’s exhausted from terrorizing you and passes out. Take pictures.
Don’t bother buying an expensive cat bed. Your cat will curl up in your laundry hamper amidst your dirty clothes instead, just to spite you.
Oh, and cats are nocturnal. So expect to be woken up at three a.m. by your cat doing one or more of the following: jumping on you, sitting on your chest, sitting on your head and chewing your hair, scratching you “by mistake” as he tears across the bed in pursuit of your other cat or one of his toys (or because he’s possessed), scratching your legs on purpose because they moved while he was stalking them, or meowing loudly about something.
Really, considering how long they’ve been domesticated, why aren’t there any diurnal cats? Get on that, cat breeders!
The Holy Grail: Dog-Like Cats
If you’re lucky, you’ll get a dog-like cat that runs to greet you when you come home, like tummy rubs and fetch, and doesn’t hold grudges. The best way to do this is to adopt an older cat so you can get a better sense of his personality (because it’s hard to really get a sense of a kitten’s personality beyond “hyper,” “insane,” and “sickeningly cute”). Or choose by breed–some breeds are more easy-going than others (I don’t know which… ask a cat person).
Any other dog people out there with cat-ownership tips to share? TELL ME. Or I will sic my cats on you at three a.m.