Difference Between Dogs and Cats
That Can Help in a Multi-Species Household

Are you a cat or a dog person? Are you looking up the difference between dogs and cats to win an argument with your room-mate/partner/friend? You will learn some amazing things reading this article...

Maybe you want a pet but don't know what to get? Or perhaps you love both, own both but need information to help care for them appropriately.

There are many reasons to learn the differences between cats and dogs. This article lists them one by one, to help you on your decision, argument or household pet problem.

Both species have their uniqueness, and I personally love them both. I grew up with many dogs and cats and saw them interact in very interesting ways, some of them hated each other and other, literally, loved each other.

In the phylogenetic tree, both dogs and cats belong to the Carnivora Order; humans belong to the Primate order. This means that dogs and cats are more closely related to each other than either are to us. However, they immediately separate into the two main groups of the Carnivora order, which are defined by their cat-like (Feliformia suborder) and dog-like (Caniformia suborder) characteristics.

difference between dogs and and cats, cat and dog evolution

But lets stop the science chat and go onto the fun stuff...

First difference between dogs and cats:
Dogs are social while cats are territorial

The first difference between dogs and cats has to do with attachment.

In the wild wolves are usually part of a pack, a family unit, a group. They live together, hunt together and protect each other.

Felines on the other hand can be (but this is not a must) solitary. Cats need their own territory though, a safe place, more than a group.

How would this help improve the relationship between you and your pets?

Cats need their own space, give your cat a unique area (preferably high) were no-one else is allowed. Give her a litter box that is away from a high traffic area and doesn't have to be shared. These little things will ensure your cat feels comfortable and happy.

It doesn't mean your cat doesn't care about you! On the contrary, your cat can form very strong bonds with you. Has your cat ever rubbed his body against your leg? lick your arm or feet? These are bonding behaviors in cats. So, cuddling will make your cat happy too.

Note: If you ever have to move homes, pay special attention to your cat, this can be a very stressful time. At your new home, do not let your cat leave the new house for the first 5-7 days. During this time your cat will settle and mark his new home, make it his. If your cat escapes, and you moved only a few blocks away, you are likely to find him in the old house.

Mischa at the old summer house

I had a cat once, his name was Mischa. We always took our pets for vacation (we usually spent 3 months on the beach) and rented the same house for 2 summers in a row. The third summer we rented a different house. My cat was missing for several days and I was so sad, we thought we had lost him…but then, my mom who is an animal guru, thought about visiting the house we had rented the previous year. Guess what? Yes! he had been visiting every night, meowing for food! We were so happy to have him back!

Let's turn to dogs. Dogs will also benefit from a special safe place (like a crate). But they mostly want social interactions. Give your canine friend plenty of play time, walking time and cuddling time. Obedience training is also a great way to bond that will teach both of you how to communicate with each other. Dogs are social animals, if your dog is anxious when left alone in the house, another companion pet might help him feel better. Teach your dog and cat to play together so when you have to leave home for work, they won't feel lonely. 

Second difference between dogs and cats:
Dog training is easy, cat training is harder

Cute cat and dog cartoon, difference between dogs and cats

Clarification. BOTH dogs and cats can be trained! Yes, even cats.
Now, why do people think that cats can't be trained?

Because what is often rewarding for cats, is not intuitive for us, people. While what is often rewarding for dogs is always intuitive for us (social time, play, food, etc).

This website is mainly concerned about dogs, but if you want to learn about training methods, they are the same for any species. The key is to find what motivates each animal.

I have trained my cat to come when called, sit, "high five" and signal to go outside by scratching a cat-post. You can do it too! Using food rewards is the easiest way, but cats usually get more than enough food each day, which makes them indifferent to "working for it".

Yes, you got it. Instead of giving your cat free food, ask for something in return! And be patient, because unless they are extremely hungry they won't move as fast as dogs do for food.

In my opinion this is the least "different" of the difference between dogs and cats. Because both can be trained with patience, practice, knowledge and love.

Third difference between dogs and cats:
Cat house-training is easy, dog house-training is harder

Of all the differences between cats and dogs this is to me the most pronounced. To housetrain a cat all you need to do is set a litter box in a safe place and clean it often. On the other hand housetraining dogs can be a time consuming task that drives a lot of people crazy!

difference between dogs and cats, dog potty training problems, cat litter box

This actually makes sense if you remember what I told you in difference #1. Cats are territorial, if you live in the same place, you are likely to find a specific spot to relieve yourself and not make the rest of your dwelling a mess! Dogs on the contrary like to use their urine to mark their territory, so your job is to teach them not too. This can be really hard because their behavior is engrained in them strongly. But with patience and practice it can be done nicely.

Fourth difference between dogs and cats:
Dogs and cats react differently to danger

Cats are very agile animals that can run very fast and climb swiftly. These abilities ensure that when they encounter a dangerous situation fleeing or escaping are the primary choice responses. On the contrary hounds are more likely to engage in an aggressive response to defend themselves.

Make sure your cat/cats always have a safe place to escape to. A cat tree, high shelf or special room are good places. Cats will often want to escape when there are visitors in the house or loud noises (thunder or vacuum cleaner). Having a safe place will keep your cat calm and secure.

For your dog you must always provide protection. You are his leader and must be aware of any possible threat to him. When you are out for walks avoid putting your dog in stressful situations like forcing interactions with aggressive dogs or letting kids rough-pet him without your permission and supervision. Learn about dog body language to understand how your canine friend feels in different situation.

When it comes to danger, knowing the difference between dogs and cats can help you keep your pet safe.

Fifth difference between dogs and cats:
Cat claws are retractable, dog claws are not

This is one of the anatomical differences between cats and dogs. Cat claws are usually sharp and ready to be used. If you have a cat, you might have experienced their "love" at some point. Cat claws are retractable, this means that while they walk they can keep them inside their paws protected from getting blunt. That is why you should clip your kitties fingernails often. To make this task easy, let your cat lick a spoon of something yummy (spray cheese) while doing the task. Also provide plenty of scratching surfaces!

Dog claws are not retractable and will become blunt by rubbing against the floor while walking. It is important that you take your dog for walks at least twice a day to make sure his claws stay short. If they become too long, take your dog to a groomer for clipping.

They are both our beloved pets

I wanted to tell you about the difference between dogs and cats that can help you deal with each species problems. But the truth is that both dogs and cats are our wonderful and lovable pets, you know your canine and feline friend more than anybody and with keen observations, patience and a little knowledge about training and behavior you will have a harmonious animal home.

For more information about how to keep the peace between canines and felines read this article on dog and cat fight.

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