Cats and Dogs, Living Together
Many if not most people believe a person is a “cat person” or a “dog person” due to the unique attributes of each kind of pet. It is possible to be both a cat and dog person. In fact, the odds a cat-owning household also owns a dog are 1 in 2.13. Cats and dogs that co-exist in my household have actually taken on some attributes of each other.
Though my large family of 10 siblings almost always had a cat and a dog (with various other pets) growing up, I did not consider any of those as my pets. That started when I purchased a first period farmhouse in New England. The house had first been constructed circa 1650 and expanded over the years. As it was in need of a lot of attention, I needed three visits to determine whether to take the leap and buy it. On the first visit, in the main barn, I looked up to the loft to see a black cat peering down. On the second visit, as I was walking by the garden, the cat came over and greeted me with “mrrrttt.” On the third, again, the cat approached with the same greeting.
The sales agent assured me this was one of the owner’s barn cats that would be moving with the owner to a home adjacent to the property. After the purchase, I realized no one had told “Mert” (nee Blackbird) about this, and after all, it was really her house. Although she supposedly had never been inside the house, she knew how to open all the Norfolk latches as well as the ins and outs of the attic and cellar. Furthermore, she behaved as if it were her duty to chase random dogs out of the yard and stand guard by household members while outside.
When I got my first dog, Spenser—a Samoyed/border collie mix—Mert further asserted her position in the household as the alpha animal. After Spenser, I adopted a sister and brother golden retriever/Irish setter mix (Brandy and Alex). When puppies, the two dogs would sleep together spooning. Mert would sleep on top of and between them. Both dogs deferred to her as long as she lived. Further, Brandy and Alex became fans of fresh catnip while Mert (and the other cats) came when called by name and became as affectionate as dogs.
In more recent times, the alpha has continued to be a female feline (Tabatha), as she and another cat (a Maine coon cat mix—Misha) come when called by name and stand guard by us while outside—just like dogs.