Everyone knows the phrase “Man’s Best Friend” and automatically knows it refers to dogs. Cats, on the other hand, definitely tend to get the short end of the stick.
I personally grew up in a household that only loved dogs, so when I fell in love with a tiny kitten that needed adopting, I asked if I could foster him first to make sure I could even be a “cat mom.” Needless to say, he stayed with me, and he now has a cat brother.
It can be daunting to switch from dogs to cats or vise versa, so here are the ten things I’ve learned from owning both a dog and a cat.
1. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks; a cat, on the other hand …
Dogs aim to please. They are genuinely motivated to please their owners, and treats help with that motivation. I was always able to teach dogs tricks no matter their age by repeating the action wanted, followed by a reward (treat)—my cats, on the other hand, totally different story. While my dog knew as many tricks as I could think of, my cats maybe know one (if they feel like doing it).
So, can cats be trained? Absolutely! It just takes learning what truly motivates them and catching them at the “right time.” Some cats love treats, other love cuddles - so after you can determine their specific motivating factor, you can work on teaching them a trick. However, don’t be surprised if they do it five times in a row, one day on command, and then the next day, look at you like you’re crazy.
I’ve learned you have to have patience with both cats and dogs when teaching new tricks, but even more patience with cats.
2. Once you are a cat person, you’ll always be a cat person
I was anxious I wouldn’t love the sweet little kitten I took home as much as a puppy because I had never been around cats much before. However, after only having the kitten for a few weeks, I was already laughing at cat videos, purchasing “meow” shirts, and planning to adopt another one in the future. Having a cat as a pet automatically opens the door to this secret world of understanding and loving cats. So if you’re planning to adopt just one, prepare yourself for more in your future.
3. Don’t judge a pet by its category
All pets, including both cats and dogs, are different. Each one has their unique personality, even if they may carry certain traits from their label. I had this preconceived notion that all cats will suddenly turn on a dime and hiss, scratch, or attack even their loved ones. People also have preconceived ideas about dogs, significantly if they never grew up with them. I’ve learned that training, environment, and education are critical factors in understanding or impacting a particular pet’s behavior.
4. Dog breeds vs. cat breeds
While it is typical for people to focus on the breed of the dog when purchasing or adopting, the emphasis on breed is less important for cat owners. The most common cat breeds are short/long/medium-haired domestic, with an occasional Maine coon or siamese. Then within those cat breeds are other defining categories such as tuxedo, tortoiseshell, and calico. This organizational structure for cat breeds can be confusing when comparing it to dogs because dogs don’t have categories within breeds; dog breeds are within categories. For example, the West Highland White Terrier breed is within the Terrier category. Don’t be mistaken, though; just like with dogs, there are popular cat breeds out there that cost thousands of dollars. In the end, no matter what type of pet you are purchasing, you have to determine if their breed is significant for you.
As a previous dog mom to a white dog, baths were a frequent occurrence, along with trips to the groomer for hair cuts and nail trims. Daily or weekly brushing was also a must to help avoid any matting of the hair. So, when I became a proud cat mom, I was surprised to learn that I didn’t have to bathe or schedule grooming.
Cats groom themselves, and they take pride in keeping their coat clean, so baths by you are generally not needed. Cats also only require trips to the groomers if they are long-haired and/or have issues maintaining their coat (health problems, age, weight, etc.). Also, grooming a cat is much more dangerous than grooming a dog because a cat’s skin is very thin and can be easily cut - so make sure the groomer has experience.
Although you may not have to schedule a trip to the groomers with your cat, you will still want to brush them frequently and trim their nails at home like dog owners. Because cats have retractile claws, you will need to push the nail out to view when cutting. Whether you are trimming cat or dog claws, please speak with your vet so they can show you the proper way to do it to avoid injuring your pet. Frequent brushing for your cat also helps with the number of hairballs - which will not only benefit your cat but your floors.
6. Exercise differences
No matter what breed dog you have, daily exercise, including walks, is essential. A dog’s nature is to travel long distances over long periods, so expect to exercise your dog for a much longer time needed than a cat. In contrast, a cat’s nature is to exercise in short bursts - exerting a lot of energy at once and then resting the rest of the day. The easiest way to relate is to think of a lion in the wild stalking his prey, quickly running, pouncing, and then sleeping the rest of the time (there’s a reason the big cats are always sleeping at the zoo, and the wolves in their enclosure are pacing). Regardless of the type of pet you own, it is vital to spend the time needed to make sure your furry friend gets daily exercise; otherwise, your pet may start to display adverse behavioral problems.
7. Life expectancy
As much as we wish our pets wouldn’t have to cross the rainbow bridge, it is inevitable. Dogs seem to have varying life expectancies based on their size (the smaller the breed, the longer the life expectancy). Cats’ life expectancies tend to be varied based on their living conditions (an indoor cat’s life expectancy is more than doubled compared to an outdoor cat’s). Proper exercise, diet, and regular veterinary care help your furry companion live their best life.
8. "Potty" training
Once puppies are using "the bathroom" on their own, you can begin potty training with puppy pads or frequent outside visits. It can take a few weeks for a puppy to learn what you are asking of them, but similar to the “tricks” section, treats are a great incentive to help speed up the process.
Kittens, on the other hand, have an instinct to want to “cover or hide” their business, so using a litter box is entirely instinctual and requires very little or no training at all. Keep all of this in mind when determining what type of pet you would like and the amount of time you are willing to dedicate to potty training.
Because most cats use a litter box inside and are relatively independent by nature, leaving your cat home alone for a day or two is doable if you are traveling. Just make sure the litter box is clean and that the cat has access to plenty of food and fresh water. It never hurts to have someone swing by to check on them, though!
Dogs, however, require a little more maintenance, mainly because they go outside for the bathroom. Most dog owners will look into having a dog sitter, boarding, or having the pet travel with them.
If you decide to travel with your cat or dog, make sure you pack your SlumberPod Pet, so they have a familiar space to relax.
10. Love is love
If you’re unsure about adopting a particular type of pet, fostering is a great answer, plus it benefits the animal as well! Reach out to your local shelter to determine the requirements needed to become a foster and prepare your heart and home for a “foster fail.”
Whether you are a lover of purrs or wagging tails, all pets deserve love at the end of the day.
Lindsey Negard is the Marketing Manager at SlumberPod and SlumberPod Pet. She lives in Columbus, GA, with her son Michael and two cats Tuxedo and Tigger. Lindsey volunteered for a veterinary clinic for a few years and was a volunteer photographer for a local animal shelter. She hopes to one day adopt a Golden Retriever.
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod Pet (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.