Cats and Dogs: Mortal Enemies or Indifferent?

When I got a cat for my shy golden retriever, I thought they would either love or hate each other. I was wrong.

“What’s the opposite of dog?”  Most people will answer, “Cat.”  In reality, there is no opposite to dog.  There are many things out there which are far more different from a dog than a cat is.  Cats and dogs, it seems, are relatively similar.  But because they often find themselves in the same households together, they are known as mortal enemies within suburbia.  Situations where dogs and cats are friends are always heartwarming, and when dogs and cats fight, it’s funny.

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I asked my parents for a dog when I was seven, but I didn’t get one until I was eleven.  Her name was Daphne (a nickname for “Daffodil”) and her personality became clear to us immediately: she was shy, anxious, and overall, sweet.  Daphne was incredibly social with people, often rubbing her wet face on everyone’s pants she came into contact with.  But when it came to other dogs, she was hostile and scared.  We regularly took her to a park for dogs, separated into a “Large Dog Area” and a “Small Dog Area”.  While Daphne begged to be let out of the large dog area (especially after a male dog greeted her by promptly mounting her and humping away), we noticed she seemed comfortable playing in the small dog area.  Those dogs, it seemed, were less likely to harm her, and therefore she felt more comfortable playing with them, or at least being in the same vicinity.

Around this time, Daphne started engaging in bizarre habits.  She would chew her fur off of her arms.  It got so bad that when she had to get a shot, the doctor couldn’t find a vein in her arm.  She gnawed at the pads on the bottoms of her paws, ahem–”groomed” herself more than any dog should, and most disturbingly, began ripping up plots of grass outside and then leaving them there, after rubbing her face in the dirt.  A few times, when we had forgotten to feed her at the right time, Daphne would pee and poop on her bed, but in such small, controlled amounts that it really seemed as though it came from spite, as opposed to not being able to control herself.  She had never been so badly behaved and we started to worry.

It occurred to my younger brother, who was eleven at the time, to get Daphne a playmate.  She was getting a little older (eight years old) and we also knew that she could possibly end up very lonely in her old years, and as senile as she was getting, we thought it would be a good idea to present her with a playmate.  At around the same time, my younger brother told me he wanted a cat.  He had seen a few cats in a pet store when we went to New Jersey that summer, and he was convinced he wanted his own.  We took these two facts–Daphne’s odd social behavior and my brother’s need for a cat–and combined them to come to the conclusion that Daphne needed a cat.  We couldn’t have been more wrong.

We bought a Siberian cat for Daphne.  Those cats have a reputation for being “playful and doglike”.  We kept them apart for two weeks, as we were instructed, locking the cat in my brother’s room and having him eat there as well.  Daphne would curiously smell the door, wondering what (or who) was inside.  Eventually we put Daphne on a leash because we knew she would get excited, and let her into my brother’s room where the cat was.

The little kitten, completely unfazed, looked at Daphne as though she was a large hulking oaf with no manners, as she slobbered all over herself in confusion. She tried to chase him, but he understood that she was on a leash, and didn’t react.  Eventually, Daphne became equally unfazed by the cat, and the two of them just looked past each other as though they had somehow forgotten the other one was in the room.

Every now and then they would interact.  The cat would walk by the dog indifferently, then turn back around and whack the dog across the face.  The dog would just sit there with a blank look on her face, and then the cat would keep walking.  A few times, they smelled each other.  And once, the cat tried to steal food out of Daphne’s bowl while she was eating, so Daphne took some food in her mouth and placed it in front of the cat so he would leave her alone.  But other than these few occasions, they hardly ever noticed each other.  

The cat and the dog seemed to get jealous of each other, when one was getting more attention than the other, but when I put them together in the same room, they would look away from one another.  Even when I moved Daphne’s head to look at the cat, she clenched her neck muscles and refused.  The indifference was almost aggressive.

The strange thing is that the cat and dog had completely different capabilities.  Daphne was aware of when she was in trouble, and although she usually repeated the bad behavior she was in trouble for, she always responded to being yelled at.  The cat, however, would regularly pee on people in their sleep, and then when he was yelled at, he would sit there with a stupid look on his face.  While Daphne ignored her own reflection, the cat was fascinated by his reflection, and would sit in front of the stove, staring at himself.  Perhaps the two of them were just too different to have a relationship.

We would often pose them together for picture op’s, but found that it never lasted very long.  Once I tried to place the cat on top of Daphne, in hopes that he would ride her as though she were a horse. This was possibly the dumbest idea of mine ever.  Daphne just ran away from the cat, and the cat scratched me.

So I was shocked–the cat, who my family had bought for the company of our dog, hardly noticed her, and our dog seemed to regard the cat with disdainful ignorance.  The two of them lived like a married couple who were going through a divorce, but living in the same house for financial reasons.  The only times they interacted, it was generally negative, but for about ninety percent of the day, they ignored each other.

In a few years, we’re going to get the cat a puppy to play with.


(the one time Daphne and the cat “cuddled” was when we put them next to each other.  Even then, notice how Daphne refuses to look at him)

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  1. Marlene Damon

    On April 30, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    You write really well! When I had a dog and a cat living together with me, which has happened a few times over the years, they were best friends. In fact, the manner in which they played together was rather amazing and nearly always made me laugh.

    Most important is the fresh style you bring to your story.

    Good Luck with your launch!!!

  2. Lexi Borowitz

    On April 30, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Wow, I wish my dog and cat would play together! I forgot to mention that sometimes the dog chases the cat for like 10 seconds before freaking out and running in the other direction, but I don’t think that counts, haha. Thanks for reading, I hope I get more readers to bring my income up past 7 cents, what it currently is!

  3. Pete

    On October 30, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I enjoyed reading that until I got to “In a few years, we’re going to get the cat a puppy to play with.”

    Yeah, because the evidence suggests that would be a brilliant idea. Wow, really, I can’t believe you wrote a whole article on this subject and came to that conclusion!

  4. Jennifer Belleau

    On November 1, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Ah, I should have made it clearer that it was a joke. We’re not getting the cat a puppy playmate.

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