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Dog vs. cat

In to the Wind

December 28, 2010
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

I had several false starts writing my column this week. Because Christmas is on Saturday, my deadline was pushed back a couple days. I have been really busy with other things and started writing a new column about my cats. It dawned on me the easy way out was to re-run the column which chronicled a cat’s first attempt at making me their human. The new column will run at a later date. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and your New Year brings all of your dreams!

My most faithful readers know me as a dog person, period. It seems there is a sort of polarization; either you’re a cat person, or like me, a dog person. But, for those people living in the country, such polarization might not be accurate.

Dogs, at least obedient ones, come when called, greet you when you arrive with wagging tail, and generally seem glad to see you.

Cats have a much different disposition. They seldom come when called. Cats respond to behavior corrections if they feel like it, and seem ambivalent when you arrive. Instead of a wagging mass of happy animal, the cat may just peer at you from a secret hiding place, at least long enough to ascertain if you’ve brought her some treat.

Dogs, when allowed in the house, will find a comfortable place to laze away the hours, and are predictably creatures of habit. Want to find them? Just look in the usual places.

Now cats are a different matter all together. When given free reign of the house will explore every inch and discover EVERY hiding place the home offers.

Dogs have several modes. While inside they generally adopt a passive behavior, and if not looking for their next meal, find that predictably comfortable place to lay and sleep. They wait for their master to return, and go into an energy saving mode. When let outside, they become the explorer, and hunter.

Dogs are able to shift their behavior from docile inside animal to full-speed-ahead adventurer, where every new smell and change in their environment becomes a thing of wonder.

Cats on the other hand are the consummate hunter; inside or out. They stalk, they slink, and they hide. They lay in waiting for some movement to attack; a mouse, a bug, or your foot. Cats don’t really need a human to entertain them like dogs do. They will explore and create their own time wasting diversions.

Here are a few things you might find interesting regarding cats.

Cats are born with blue eyes. They change at approximately 12 weeks of age.

Cats have a hard time seeing directly under their noses. They will have a hard time finding a treat you might have thrown on the floor for them.

Cats can jump 5 times as high as their tail.

A cat uses it's whiskers to tell if the space they are contemplating entering is big enough for them.

Cats not only walk on their toes but they have 5 toes on their front paws and 4 toes on their back paws. This is normal for cats. There are however a group of cats in Key West, Florida which are polydactyl, meaning they have extra toes.

Ernest Hemingway was the most famous Key West resident.

Ernest Hemingway was given a six-toed cat by a ship's captain and many of the cats who live there are descendants of that original cat. Key West is a small island and it is possible that many of the cats on the island are related. The polydactyl trait seems to be a dominant trait amongst these cats, even though they are of myriad variety and breeds.

Killing a cat was punishable by death in ancient Egypt.

Just like fingerprints on humans, the nose pad of cats is rigid in a pattern that is completely unique.

Sir Isaac Newton is credited for inventing the cat door.

Cats prefer their food at room temperature.

A little known fact about cats is that their ability for hunting vermin stems from the ability to hear ultra high-pitched frequencies used by these rodents. The human ear can’t hear sounds made by rodents. Cats also have an acutely directional sense of hearing, and can pinpoint the location of the undesired animal.

The more astute reader will have figured out by now there is a new cat at Gilly Hollow.

The girls, while picking apples at a friend’s house brought home one of the feral kittens found there.

I’m not sure this kitten was ready to be away from her mother. She has however adapted rather quickly to life here. It took only a day for her to learn where her kitty litter was and to use it. Beat that record when house training a puppy!

I believe the kitten; much to my chagrin has adopted ME as her surrogate mother. While at my computer writing, her favorite place is to sit on my lap and watch me type. It only took a few corrections to teach her not jump up on the keyboard. As a matter of fact, Kitty is sitting on my lap right now as I type this column.

Yeah, I’m a dog person. I didn’t think I liked cats. But this kitten is so cute and lovable, how could you NOT love her?

A good friend, a cat lover, upon hearing there was a kitten at Gilly Hollow had this to say, “Have you ever been bewitched by a kitten before? You will be her slave forever!”

I do however have some concern about her welfare in the presence of the dogs. Paris the three legged dog gets along with her just fine now and seems to tolerate the tail attacks and I have even seen the kitten lying next to her.

Frankie, the chocolate Labrador retriever just keeps his distance and avoids the fur ball with claws. Holly, the overweight yellow Labrador retriever is another story. She seems anxious when the kitten is around her. At first she hunched her shoulders and appeared to want to pounce on the kitty. I have been monitoring their interaction closely, and after she had a chance to sniff the kitten appears to have settled down.

She looked at me as if to ask why I was playing with such an animal. “I would pounce on that thing and eat it in a minute,” she seemed to worry. I think I have convinced her it is a family member and she has to behave and live with it.

The plan is, once the kitten gets a little bigger, we will banish her to the garage. The thought is she will keep the garage and outside of the house clear of mice. We’ll see. Every day she spends in the house endears her more to her humans.

Until next time—

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2010 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342

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