Cats and dogs are definitely different, they’re kind of like democrats and republicans with fur. They can’t agree on anything, they don’t get along, they generally don’t like each other, and they have completely different philosophies on the way that life is to be run. For instance, if you take a cat for a walk, you’ll never see a cat attracted to one single fire hydrant, quivering with extreme jubilation and excitement, not one, let alone EVERY single fire hydrant you pass on your walk. For that reason, cats must be treated very differently than dogs, or any other pet for that matter.
Take teaching your pet tricks. A dog, for example, will sit down, see the cookie or treat, hear your garbled words, and with repetition, eventually decipher that when you utter a certain sound, if he gives you his paw, he will get the treat. The cat, under the same set of circumstances, will figure out after a while that for some stupid reason, you want to hold his paw so you can give him a tuna snap. He recognizes that within his paw lies razor-sharp claws. After looking at you like an idiot for a while and then yawning out of boredom, he will use the claws inside the paw that you covet so much to slice you to ribbons and take the tuna snap from you.
Just try it once, you’ll see. I still have the scar. Didn’t keep the tuna snap though.
The fact is, you can train a dog or most pets so that you can live your life with a certain continuity, you can come to expect things from a dog, things that you can count on. For instance, he will bark to go outside to relieve himself. Or she might stand in an ever so cute fashion on her hind legs to get her supper. You can train them to sit, to lie and to fetch. While you might have problems come bath time, you might get aggravated as you chase the wet dog around the house, you will not pry a dog from the ceiling or off of your back each and every time you turn a faucet on in the bathroom. Cats, on the other hand, are a different story completely. Giving them a bath is like going to the dentist…. If the dentist were a complete psychopath with machetes as fingers. Cats must be treated differently if you want to enjoy them… Hell, if you simply want to survive them.
You don’t train cats, they train you, and once you come to accept this fact and even learn to take advantage of it, your life will be the better for it.
First off, the cat’s perception is that you are there to please them. When they want you to pet them, they let you. When they don’t want you to pet them, just try catching and holding onto them without needing a blood transfusion. There’s a certain logic to a cat’s thinking that you can’t deny. While they are our pets (or so we think), we did choose them, find them, and bring them into our house. We owe them. We are responsible for them, and they know it. Dogs haven’t figured this out yet, they’re just happy to have a sofa to sleep on and a warm place to lick themselves.
So from day one, understand that you belong to your cat. That’s just the way it is. Learn from your cat, and if you obey him or her, your life will be fine. The cat will go in the litter box, the cat will play with your stupid ball of yarn to amuse you when it feels the urge. The cat will let you pet him when he itches and will let you feed him when he meows. The cat might even purr on occasion and warm up your heart.
Ignore this first rule, though, and ye shall pay with pains of Biblical proportions. Newspapers and magazines will mysteriously turn into confetti. Shoes will get sprayed. Plants will be chewed to bits. And that’s just a warm up act if you don’t get the hint.
So now that you know that you belong to the cat, how can you best serve your new master so as not to stir his or her temper?
Start like you do with any pet, spend time with them and let them know that you love them. Don’t try to get even by hiding their toys because they aggravated you. They will find the cat nip mouse and the jingling plastic ball and destroy the sock drawer you hid them in, and the pictures on top of the bureau and your pillow to boot.
Believe it or not, cats like routine behavior, so set a routine. Feed them at the same times each day. You’ll know if you make a mistake and miss feeding time when you find hair-balls in your soup. If you feed the cat at the same time each day and its belly is full, then you will be allowed to eat in peace.
Also, cats like to be groomed and to be petted when they are in the mood for it. They are really very clean creatures, they will actually train themselves to use a litter box and will clean their fur constantly. If you brush them, pet them and groom them, and keep the litter box clean, you will likely encounter very few problems with their hygiene. Eventually, you will have to bathe the cat, and that’s never easy, but if you routinely groom them, you won’t have to bathe them too often. The mist bottles they sell that give cats quick, gentle baths work, but the cat will still flee once he recognizes that the bottle sprays wet stuff. In fact, the cat might flee and hide whenever it sees ANY spray bottle once you bathe it with one, but this can be used to your advantage. The cat won’t stop meowing, break out the spray bottle. You won’t even have to spray the cat, you probably couldn’t if you wanted to because the little buggers are fast, the appearance of the bottle will do the work for you. Spray bottles can be good, gentle training tools. You can use them to keep cats off counters, off tables, and out of other places you don’t want them to go. Water is your friend, and it is your cat’s kryptonite.
Cat nip helps settle excitable cats down, but you can over-use it. Cat nip on occasion and in small amounts is okay, but it does get a cat intoxicated, that’s why they become so docile and playful. You wouldn’t give your teen whiskey to keep them in line, so keep that in mind. But cat nip isn’t bad at all for cats in small doses, they enjoy it, and it can give you some stress free time with your feline.
Lastly, cat sweaters are never a good idea. I don’t care how cute you think they’ll look, they’ll hate it, and you have to get that sucker on them. If you insist on dressing your cat for some reason, you’ll need the outfit, a tourniquet, and an ambulance on stand-by. It never hurts to keep a bowl of ice nearby too so that perhaps the surgeons can save whatever limb your cat slices off of you. Doctors can work miracles these days. Or better yet, leave the cat be, they’re already wearing a fur coat. Sheesh. Get a chihuahua or a Barbie doll if you have the need to dress something up so that it looks cute.
In all seriousness, treat your cat with love and respect, spend some quality time with it, and remember that you were put on this Earth to serve its every need, and you’ll be just fine. So will your happy, free-spirited feline friend! Good luck.