Dog V Cat
Thursday, 07 June 2012

CAT OR DOG: who’s the fur-rest of them all?

It’s one of THE big questions – are you a puss or a pooch person? Here, two writers get their claws out for their favourite pets… and the fur flies


Let me introduce you to my own Tommy Thomson. He’s a prince among the neighbourhood felines – as dependable and loyal as any Labrador, but he purrs like a tractor and smells of warm sunshine. Dogs pant, bark, retrieve everything from balls to bones and… just smell.

Cats don’t require exercise three times a day, nor do they rush to the front door and return with their lead each time ‘walk’, ‘walky’ or any other word that sounds similar slips into the conversation. They won’t sulk, or eat the furniture, if you come home late.

Tommy Thomson greets me with a narrowing of his bright yellow eyes. (Cat version of a smile.) After staring at me, his distant bowl, and an invisible Timex watch on his right front paw, he will languorously stretch before leaving the sofa cushions to adopt the yoga cat position next to his food sachet cupboard. He is calm. I am calm. To paraphrase Alan Jay Lerner, ‘Why can’t a dog be more like a cat?’

Scenario: I meet man from the allotment accompanied by his black and white collie-cross.

‘How are you? Did the hernia right itself?’ I ask.

Before man has a chance to answer, collie-cross embraces me as if I am a long-lost relative, rearing up on to his back legs and planting two filthy wet paws on the chest of my new Per Una raincoat.

‘Now come on, Buster, leave the nice lady alone.’

But Buster, because dogs are generally obtuse unless saving their owners from burning buildings or pressing panic buttons when same owner falls in bath, continues to leap, lick and trample. I look like a woman who has just crawled out of a swamp.

Before I have a chance to say, ‘This coat is dry-clean only,’ man has spotted my ‘Save the Planet for Kittens’ carrier bag. His smile fades. I have become one of those women who prefer cats to puppies, babies and brassicas, in that order.

Step forward my other cat, Boysie Bruce-Willis, surname added after spending an afternoon and evening watching my box set of the Die Hard quadrilogy.

‘He’ll always be small,’ the woman wearing a fleece covered in cat hairs told me at the sanctuary. ‘He’s come from an elderly mother.’ (I’m talking about Boysie the cat now, not Bruce Willis the film star.)

Immediately, my eyes filled with tears. I almost wished I’d given birth to the little mite myself. I have never before liked a pink-nosed animal that resembles a rat, but now I’m smitten. The pads of his paws are as pink as his nose. They are scrunchable. Cat lovers will know exactly what I mean. Dog lovers will not. Dogs’ paws are like leather. They remind me of the soles of well-worn carpet slippers.

‘He may be deaf,’ the woman in the fleece warns.

Boysie is deaf but already he can lip-read ‘dinner’ and ‘grub-up’. How clever is that?

Dogs, on the other hand, have acute hearing. So why do their owners feel the need to shout all the time?

‘Sit! SIT! I TOLD YOU TO SIT!’ You don’t need to teach a cat to sit. Sitting is what they do all day when they’re not eating or lying down. It isn’t necessary to give a cat any order at all.

If a cat is snoozing on the kitchen table, walking across the cooker or thoughtfully bringing in a live bird for your supper, the magic word imprinted on every feline brain before birth is ‘biscuits’.

You can safely pop ‘risk it’ and ‘whisk it’ into any conversation and cats being so much cleverer than dogs, will recognise the difference.

Cats win paws down over dogs. But hang on, there has been one exception; Mr Woo, my aunt’s Pekingese. He had the face of a dark violet, fat, scrunchable paws and, yes, his fur did smell like warm sunshine, too.


I am a dog person. Don’t get me wrong, I like cats. I’ve lived with a few over the years, and we’ve always managed to come to some sort of arrangement. However, I am barking mad about dogs. I love them all, without exception.

When I walk down the street, I smile at canines, greet them with a breezy, ‘Hello dog, mate,’ and pay their owners a compliment about their companion, always meaning it. I can find something to appreciate in even the mangiest mutt.

The most curious thing about the dog/cat divide is the way cat owners praise their pets’ pride and independence, while decrying the stupidity and soppiness of dogs, chastising them for giving unconditional affection. Dogs do give love unconditionally, it’s true, but when you read or hear of a demented recluse surrounded by animals, do you visualise a pack of dogs or a clowder of cats? Exactly. Dogs are social creatures. Cats are antisocial.

This is nowhere more obvious than with our pets’ waste products. Dog owners are expected to pick up their pets’ mess and dispose of it. However, when someone else’s cat leaves a present in my garden, the cat’s business becomes my business and mine alone.

Dogs make people talk to each other. A single male friend of mine once asked to borrow my dog, seeing how many women said hello to me on a walk in the park. Also, if you say nice things to a taciturn young Herbert about their massive, apparently vicious hound, it really annoys them, while the dog loves the attention and affection.

‘You wanna be careful,’ he says. ‘My dog’ll have ya.’ The expression on the animal’s face tells another story. It says, ‘Thanks for the compliment. Take no notice of him. He’s disturbed.’

We hear constantly about the rising problem of obesity. Dogs are the answer. They get you out of the house in all weathers, like it or not.

I’m a bit of a porker, but, were it not for Lyttelton – my nine-year-old Jack Russell/Cavalier cross – I’d be the size of a bouncy castle.

Could you take a cat for a walk? Possibly, but only with great difficulty. I admit that I have the best of both worlds, a small dog with cat-like mannerisms. Lyttelton, a saintly creature without being smug or pious, has almost unanimously charmed cat lovers who claim to be unable to abide dogs.

Some years ago, a mad old friend of the family died and left an aged, evil-looking, foul-smelling blind Persian cat in our care. Tiger Lily’s last year on earth was enhanced greatly by Lyttelton’s help and kindness, following her around the house and nudging her gently in the right direction when she was about to walk straight into the skirting board. If the boot had been on the other paw, the dog would have been left to its own devices.

Cats can’t pull sledges. You never hear of a police sniffer cat. A big dog will rescue you in the mountains and give you some brandy. A big cat will maul you and enjoy you as a between-gazelles snack.

Dogs provide a handy pre-washing service for dinner plates, as well as making excellent feet warmers in bed, if you’re inclined to let your hound under the covers with you, which I am.

Which animal represents our national spirit? That’s right: the bulldog. Not a ginger tom. Doggedness is viewed as a positive attribute. Cattiness isn’t. Dogs are loyal to humans. Cats regard us merely as over-engineered tin-openers and a necessary evil in their lives.

If cats had opposable thumbs, we’d be no use to them at all. If cats were man’s best friend, the world would be in an even worse state than it is now, because we’d be truly on our own.

Are you a cat or a dog person? Cast your vote below...

Dog - they're man's (or rather woman's) best friend for a reason - 30.1%
Cat - they're just a superior kind of creature - 69.9%

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