ANIMAL MAGIC: A weekly column from Alder Veterinary Practice, of Spalding and Bourne
Most animal lovers tend to fall into one of two camps – they either prefer dogs or cats and as any pet owner can tell you it is certainly true that cats are not small dogs.
The relationship between owners and their cats is very different from that between owners and dogs and this reflects the behaviour of each species in the wild.
Cats tend to be solitary hunters and are usually more active at night, whereas dogs are sociable, pack animals that are most active during the day.
Dogs get involved with our day to day activities and actively seek us out when they want to play, but cats can disappear a lot of the day and only start to interact with us in the evening especially at feeding time.
Most times, dogs will play with us obsessively for hours, but cats get bored and wander off. It has been suggested that the personality of the owners reflects the type of animal they keep, however, a lot of the time it comes down to personal circumstances.
Cats are less demanding pets than dogs. They are independent and roam freely from the home. A couple of years ago there was a fascinating television programme where domestic cats were filmed in their territories and it certainly surprised their owners the social interactions they had and the distances they roamed.
Being solitary individuals and nocturnal, they do not require the company of humans during the day and for people who work this is a huge advantage and allows us to have the company of a pet without the demands of time that dogs require.
Cats stalk their prey and in the wild will eat a fresh kill. Dogs on the other hand hunt as a pack but will also scavenge and so dogs usually eat anything put in front of them whereas cats are much more finicky eaters. Cats also prefer their food at room temperature and freshly opened just like a fresh mouse, and often turn their noses up at cold, old food from the fridge.
Cats enjoy dry biscuits too, but the pile of food in a bowl can turn some cats greedy so limit the amount you dispense at a time.
Remember, if you also give wet food you are doubling the quantity of food they need, and obesity can be a problem. A healthy cat is a slim cat.
No matter how independent a cat is, most enjoy human company especially the luxury of a warm lap. Not only is it great for your cat but it has been shown that stroking cats reduces blood pressure, stress and anxiety in owners.
However, as said, cats are not small dogs. They are obligate carnivores and must get their protein and fat from animal sources alone, so cats cannot survive on dog food.
In addition, they metabolise food and drugs differently to humans and dogs and many drugs that humans take that can be tolerated by dogs are extremely toxic to cats.
Never medicate them without first seeking veterinary advice. Also, a word of caution, canine flea preparations that contain permethrins will kill cats, so never de-flea your cat with a dog product.
Cats make fabulous pets, especially for those of us with busy lives. They look after themselves and train us to look after them as well.