Cats and dogs are very different in many ways, but both of them bond with their humans with their own special unique style.
I hear people asking others all the time, “Are you a cat person or a dog person?” In my opinion, choosing one over the other is a grey area that is almost impossible to navigate. Some cats are more “dog-like” (according to the common clichés) in their desire to want a lot of human interaction; depending on their people for play, for petting and for general companionship while some dogs are more “cat-like,” quieter, independent, approaching their humans when they want companionship and interaction while remaining intentionally aloof when they just want some alone time. The way I see it, you may click better with a particular dog than you would with a particular cat or you might click with a particular cat better than a particular dog, but unless you know every single dog and every single cat in existence, you can’t really say you prefer one species over the other!
Comfort level however is a very different thing. Some people grew up with only dogs and they’re not quite sure how to interact with cats, and some people grew up with cats and are unsure about the behavior cues of dogs. That’s not the same thing as liking one species more than the other, that’s just the experiences you’ve had!
Our cat playroom definitely has a different type of energy than our dog playroom, and that’s not just because we have fewer cats.
When adult cats are allotted their time in the playroom, I try to be very quiet when I enter. Our adult cats come to us from a variety of different situations. Some of them we pull from high-kill shelters like a lot of our dogs, others come to us because their owners passed away, others are brought to us as “strays” and others still have a history that is a mystery. (See what I did there? Rhyming is fun, ask anyone!) What most of them have in common though is a very reserved, vigilant way of observing and accepting their surroundings. Cats are territorial by nature, and if a cat has spent the majority of their life in one home it can be difficult for them to be used to being in a new type of environment. Difficult… but not even close to impossible! Overall, I have noticed that the adult cats often have a healthy respect for the boundaries of others, as well as establishing boundaries for themselves. IF two adult cats approach each other in the cat playroom and they don’t know each other yet (unless they’ve been extremely well socialized since kitten hood, they’re bound to hiss. But what I’ve noticed is that the hissing is not vicious, it’s often soft, ears back but not usually pinned to their head, tail swishing a bit on alert but it’s a hiss to establish a boundary. The other adult cat may return the soft hiss, or they may accept the boundary establishment and continue on their way to find their own spot in the playroom that they can safely establish their own boundary. Once they have picked their “spot” the adult cats are visibly more relaxed as they begin to take in their surroundings.
They maintain their reserved curiosity when humans; whether it be staff or volunteers, enter the playroom to spend some time with them. When I want some “kitty cuddles” I enter quietly and sit down on the bench. I look around to see which kitties are most curious about me. I gently raise my hand and I allow them to approach me and sniff. If they seem relaxed, I gently start with scratching their ears lightly, then their chin. Few things warm my heart more than when a cat who barely knows me crawls into my lap for cuddles because earning the trust of a cat is a big deal. Think of it like being accepted and valued by royalty. Let’s face it – all cats believe they are royalty! As the cliché goes, if you feed a dog they start to believe you are God, but when you feed a cat they start to believe they are God!
Every time I watch an adult cat gently head bump a potential adopter, staff member or volunteer because they would like their attention and cuddles, I feel like I’m watching a tiny miracle.
I have written a lot about the plethora of puppies we’ve had in our building lately, but have I mentioned we’ve had tons of kittens available for adoption as well? We give the kittens their own time in the playroom separate from the adults because the kittens are still learning about feline boundaries and they are considerably more rambunctious than most of the adults. Entering the kitten playroom is like playing Russian roulette, (okay, that was a little dramatic… haha) you never quite know what you’re in for! There have been many times where these brave little souls have jumped from the driftwood branches we have in our cat room right onto my shoulder! Other times, a kitten has raced up my pant leg without realizing how sharp their claws are! Aside from the occasional “ouch” or the surprise shoulder jumps, they are pure undeluded delight. They seem fearless, and their curiosity has no end in sight which is exactly how a kitten should be. I know that ECPR is just a stop for these cutie pies while they are on their journey to find their forever homes, but to see them having such a great time playing with each other while they are here brings me a lot of joy.
Would I recommend adopting a feline? Before the seven kittens I am currently fostering, I was fostering just two. One of them now sleeps on my head every night. He demands at least 45 minutes of ear scratches, chin scratches and even belly rubs every evening before the head-sleeping. He nuzzles up to me and purrs like a locomotive. Did I also mention that people who own cats tend to have lower blood pressure than non-cat owners? This is a fact, google it if you don’t believe me! ;). As a person who has both a dog and a cat, and who loves them both endlessly, I encourage all of you to stop by ECPR and take a look at the furr-ocious (not really though!) felines we have that are waiting for their destined humans to take them home. You won’t ever regret bringing a cat into your home… unless you are a mouse!