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Archive for Sunday, July 28, 2002

Cats can provide an extra challenge for their owners

July 28, 2002

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Cats. Aloof, moody, selfish and megalomaniacs who want to rule the world.

That's why folks love 'em.

"With a cat, it's pretty simple. You give in to all their demands," says cat owner Pam Solins.

Not that she has anything against dogs she loves dogs. But for all their virtues, dogs are predictable, she says.

With a cat, there's just something about that extra challenge, where you have to earn the animal's affection, she says. And even then, the cat is the one who cuts things short when it decides you've been allowed to worship it long enough.

"With a cat, you may or may not get any affection," agrees cat owner Bob Herbert.

"Dog people are very needy. They need to have that reassurance from their pets," he says. "Cat people aren't needy at all, and they get no reassurance at all from their pets."

Theron Bambeck, who has three cats, says he thinks cat owners tend to accept things as they are, since the cat is going to do what it wants anyway.

"Cat people are like their cats they just sit back and enjoy life," he says. "People with dogs seem to be more energetic and outgoing."

We all know the stereotypes about dogs and cats: Dogs are loyal, cats are standoffish, dogs can be trained, cats can't be bothered, and so on.

There are exceptions the performing cat in the commercial, the mean dog down the street but fundamentally, their basic natures follow the script, says Dr. Stan Coren, a Canadian psychologist and dog trainer who studies how people interact with their pets.

"Think of the things you'll never hear: 'Seeing Eye cat, police cat, sled cat,"' he says.

"We've always had this love/hate relationship with cats," he says.

Humans domesticated the dog about 14,000 years ago long before we got into the agriculture business, Coren says.

Cats didn't come into the picture until about 7,000 years later, when humans began storing grain, which attracted rodents, which attracted cats.

So basically, cats tolerated us because we laid out a nice buffet. Any affection was a bonus.

Coren surveyed more than 6,000 people, including dog-only people, cat-only people, dog-and-cat people and the petless.

Dog people tend to be dominant and sociable, while cat people tend to be trusting and more introverted.

Dog folks are also more likely to bring a cat into their household than cat folks are to bring in a dog, he says.

"The cat owner profile is more extreme. Dog people tend to get as soppy over their cats as they do over their dogs, and that's pretty soppy," Coren says.

Herbert, a computer analyst who also volunteers at the Operation Kindness shelter in Carrollton, Tex., says cats are a lot less forgiving than dogs.

He has seen terribly abused dogs, including one that was burned on the head, wag their tails and cuddle up to people as soon as they come in. Mistreated cats, on the other hand, take weeks or months to accept humans again.

In the shelter's cat room, a space where cats roam freely, prospective owners come in and sit down, then see which cats will accept them. "It's a wonderful thing to find a match," Herbert says.

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