How many times have we seen this question posted or have we been asked it ourselves?
Becoming a Dog Family
In my own family my husband developed cat allergies as an adult. He once stopped to see what had been thrown out of the car in front of him on his way home on a cold dark night. It was a kitten. We named him Buddy and he was the sweetest little guy – followed us around purring, so happy to have been found!
Dave’s eyes swelled up and he couldn’t breathe well after a few hours. I drove Buddy to a new welcoming home and shed a few tears that he couldn’t stay. He stayed on my lap as I drove. I imagined then that we were both heartsick.
My oldest daughter desperately wanted a cat and would ask if her dad could get allergy shots so that she could get her feline. Sadly, my oldest son developed these same allergies and had a terrible time when a college roommate brought home Tabby to be a third roommate.
So, over the years we became a dog family and when that question came up, we would happily bounce to the dog side of the conversation. I admit that I too would recite the many joys of being a dog person rather than a cat person. When I did though, I would feel something like…hmmmm? What was it? Guilt maybe. Feeling like I was betraying my first true love, who was a cat.
Rascal the Cat
Rascal was my love and confidante. Born to a feisty junkyard cat back in a different time. (In the 70’s dogs and cats often wandered and roamed. No one thought much about it. We can debate at another time if they felt more like natural dogs and cats back then.) Rascal was a long-haired, black and white, big guy. Tough enough to chase the German shepherd out of the yard and smart and tender enough to play marbles with me, carefully setting up his paw to aim it my way. He would allow me to hold him like a baby and even purr about it. (This should always be the cat’s choice of course.)
My mom didn’t love him on the couch but tolerated it. She would vacuum his long hair, which he loved, eyes closed and purring the entire time. My mom drew the line at cat hair in the bed. I will confide here that most nights Rascal would jump up onto my bed and give me the best cuddles and purrs. You may wonder about my ethics but when mom would open the door at night and ask if I’d seen Rascal, I would say that I had not. I was entering those preteen years and adored that he would swoop all the way under the covers, shut off his loud motor and stay purrfectly still until my mom had left. Wow! He was sooo smart!
I never stopped to think about my mom’s feelings of concern or worry about Rascal and where he could be, only that I couldn’t give him up. I told him all about my upsetting moments and happy stories of the day during those warm and fabulous intimate nights.
Hanging with Chloe
Three weeks ago, my daughter Sammi announced that she was going to the shelter to get a cat. She lives in a one-bedroom apartment. She works and goes to school and said she could give a kitty the love and home he or she needed.
Chloe arrived. Short-haired, black and white, petite girl with big green eyes. Her purrs are amazingly loud for her pint-sized self. She has six toes like my sweet Stella dog whom we lost two years ago. Maybe Chloe is Stella. Maybe she’s just Chloe.
Luckily, Sammi doesn’t live far. When she is working late, I’ll stop by and hang with Chloe if I can. She greets me so lovingly. I’ve taught her to play ‘find it’ which she enjoys! She purrs and rubs up to me affectionately. She sits in front of the special ‘find it’ treats and glances toward them and back at me telling me to start the game.
And… I remember how much I loved and adored being around my own Rascal, and Itsy Bitzy after that, and Mom Cat, and sweet sideways jumping Ben. Now I remember how much fun I had with them and how they each own a piece of my heart, just like the dogs of my past – Wolf and Wolf ll, Sampson, Pudgie, Lucky, Murphy, Bup, Stella – and my dear Fitzy and Sally who share my life today.
Let’s Love Them All
There’s no need to choose between cats and dogs. Currently, I see clients for many reasons, including trying to introduce the new dog to the cat or vice versa. (Slowly is always the best way – with lots of time to get used to each other’s scent first.)
Since Chloe has arrived, and I have fallen in love again, I realize how silly it is to pick a side, to be asked to pick a side. Dog or Cat? All. Let’s love them ALL the most. Love the ones you remember and the ones you are with. Love them for who they are. Themselves. Dog, cat, pig, whatever. One is not better than the other. Just love them.
The question will continue on at parties or during individual conversations and in articles. It will continue on forever. People will have opinions on which species makes a better companion. That’s not a bad thing I guess.
It took Chloe showing up to help me find my old big feelings. Thank you, Chloe! Sorry Rascal. I will never betray you again.
For myself; “Silly question” will be my answer next time.
About the Author
Debbie Sheridan is a proud Pet Professional Guild member, sitting on the Advocacy and Inclusivity committees. She is a certified Family Dog Mediator, applied animal behavior consultant, an end-of-life doula for companion animals and has completed Michael Shikashio’s Aggression in Dogs Master Course. She works primarily with fearful and anxious dogs who need extra understanding and cats too. You can find her at her Debbie’s 4 Dogs website or Facebook Page where she promotes kindness always for the win.