Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cats are from Saturn, Dogs are from Pluto Part I

A Practical Guide for Improving Communication
With the Opposite Pet

1. How runaway-proof is your household? 

I'd like to address cats and dogs who live in the same household. Whether they have just started their life together, have had an acknowledged living arrangement for a number of years, or "fight like cats and dogs," they can learn to become aware of each other's needs and learn to meet them

Communication with the opposite pet is a complex relationship. When dogs and cats are domesticated, they share high expectations. They commit themselves to meeting certain intense and intimate needs with their owners on an exclusive basis. Each pet agrees to "forsake all other" owners, giving their master the exclusive right to meet their needs. That does not imply that all needs are to be met by the master, but that there are a few basic needs that most cats and dogs strictly reserve for the pet-master bond. Most dogs agree to serve as life-long companion to their masters and most cats allow their masters to pet them.

The Cat's Needs Are Not The Dog's Needs

Obviously, any interspecies relationship has other potential trouble spots besides the cat's basic need for independence. Although each pet may perceive his or her needs differently, the consistency with which these two sets of five categories have surfaced to explain interspecies problems tend to be the deepest ones when it comes to the domesticated relationship. These needs include: 

Cat's Needs

1. Need for independence 
2. Admiration
3. Domestic support (food, treats, litter box, intervention grooming, vet care)
4. Recreational companionship (jungle gyms, laser pointer games, feathers on a stick)
5. Petting (on an invitational basis only) 

Dog's Needs

1. Affection
2. Domestic support (food, treats, grooming, vet care)
3. Loyalty
4. Walks in the park
5. Dress up

If the needs of cats and dogs are so different, no wonder they have difficulty adjusting to codomestication. A cat can have the best intentions to coexist with a dog, but if he thinks the dog's needs are similar to his own, he will fail miserably. When dog's assume that cat's appreciate affectionate gestures they like, dogs, too, fail. 

Often the failure of cats and dogs to meet each other's domesticated needs is simply due to ignorance of each's needs by their owners. Fulfilling those needs does not mean you have to play marriage counselor to your pets; it means preparing yourself and the environment to meet the needs of cats and dogs both. 

In domesticated relationships whereby there are cats and dogs living in the same household fail to have their needs met, how consistently animals choose the same pattern to satisfy their unmet needs: straying away from home. People wonder why dog's run away or why Fluffy doesn't return after a night of hunting, despite the fact that food, affection, and the comfort of a soft cozy bed awaits. Why? Once a pet lacks fulfillment in any of the five needs, it creates a thirst that must be quenched. If changes do not take place in the master's domain, the pet will face the powerful temptation to fill it outside the domesticated environment. 

In order to make our households runaway-proof, we cannot pretend that cats and dogs are mere "pets," we need to recognize their individuality and differences. The pet owner who believes his or her pets are "different" and, despite unmet needs, would never run away may receive a devastating shock someday. 

Instead, we need to understand the warning signs that a pet might flee the coup, how such occurrences begin, and how to strengthen the weak areas of an interspecies environment in the face of such a domesticated relationship. 

Part 2: Why is running away so tempting? 

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