The Bond Between Pet and Owner
Much has been written about the bond between humans and animals and its benefits to companion animal owners. Pets can be described as interchangeable. It doesn’t matter if the pet is a cat or a dog.
Although the emotional attachments that pet owners have to their animals may vary depending on the species, the feelings of animals towards their owners are different. These differences can have a profound impact on the health of animals who are in less-than-ideal relationships.
Dogs and cats are not the same. The differences will reflect in the contributions they make to a relationship. Dog owners will benefit from social interaction and physical activity more than cat owners. Dogs are easier to train and more tolerant than cats. Both differences result from the animals’ different origins and give us clues about how they view their relationship with humans.
Domestic cats are solitary, territorial animals that, contrary to appearances, have not been domesticated. It is believed that the wild cat Felis Lybica of North Africa/Middle East was first associated with humans around 10,000 years ago. Domestication, in the sense that it was turned into a pet, did not begin until around 2,000 B.C. and hasn’t been a smooth process since then.
Cats have been popular pets for centuries. However, they are only recently as popular as dog breeds. Most kittens are not the result of owners’ matings but the cat’s owner. This practice takes cats out of the definition of a strictly domesticated animal. Domestication requires that breeding is at least primarily under human control.
Many cats enjoy hunting. This habit, which was a part of their raison de tre until recently, now disgusts their owners and angers wildlife lovers. Cats are likely unable to give up this habit because they have similar nutritional needs to all other cat family members, including lions. Before these nutritional requirements were fully understood, many cat owners provided inadequate food, forcing cats to hunt for the nutrients needed to breed successfully. Since balanced cat food is now available in all supermarkets, cats should no longer need to track, but time has not passed to eliminate this instinct.
Dogs are much more domesticated than cats. They are also descended from the grey wolf, which, by that time, had developed a highly complex social brain, ready for adaptation to life with humans. Dogs had diverged by eight thousand years ago when cats began to take their first tentative steps toward eventual domestication. They were adapted as guarding animals, hunters, or status symbols.
Two significant changes to their behavior were essential to their adaptation to a domestic environment. They became more tolerant towards other dogs of the same species. Wolves are aggressive only to their kind. The dogs also developed a particular sensitivity to human body language, gaze, and gestures, which taught them to perform various tasks, from guarding to herding to guiding. Unfortunately, cats haven’t made much progress in either area. They still view other cats with suspicion and understand human behavior much less than dogs.
Most cats are pleased to spend most of the day alone. Cats’ attachment to their owners is more than just simple cupboard love. It’s based on behaviors such as licking, rubbing, and purring that strengthen bonds between cat and cat. Many owners, however, put their cats under stress because they cannot communicate with cats, not in their immediate family.
The two cats do not “get along” by nature, and many owners purchase a second pet hoping it will “company” their first cat. However, they are shocked to find their home divided into two distinct territories. Even a cat relaxed in its owner’s house may be terrified by the neighbor’s cat when it comes out through the cat flap.
The attachment that dogs feel to their owners is essential for their well-being. The selection of easy-to-train and biddable animals over thousands of years has led to dogs that enjoy each other’s company but crave humans. Unfortunately, dogs cannot switch off this instinct, and the modern practice of leaving them alone for long periods can cause them great distress. It can be used to train dogs to relax when they are left alone. This is provided that they haven’t already been through the cycle of fear due to repeated abandonment.
The well-being and happiness of cats and dogs directly relate to how their owners perceive that relationship. The management by their owners of the interactions between their cats and other cats may be more critical to most cats than the subtleties of their relationship with their owners. On the other hand, dogs are so attached to their owner that they can’t be happy if left alone.