Dogs and cats living together
While my dogs and cats don’t have the snuggle-up-with-each other, lion-lies-down-with-a-lamb kind of relationships, they get along pretty well with members of the other species.
Elsa Clair mostly ignores the dogs; she’s too busy to pay attention to them.
Dawn rubs in among Jasper’s long legs at dinner time–like walking under a furry table. In turn, Jasper barks every time Dawn growls at the other cats; he’s doesn’t like strife in the house.
Calvin rubs all the dogs all the time. I think I’d vote him Most Likely To Snuggle.
Lilah cleans cat ears, if they’ll let her.
Athena…well, Athena would be happiest if the world truly did revolve around her and there were no icky dogs that she had to look at, let alone share living space with.
But even though Athena sometimes teases Tucker by holding his Ball for ransom, and sometimes swats whichever canine happens to be trotting by, for no particular reason other than the fact that they are dogs–they all respect each other.
Dogs and cats speak different languages
The funny thing about living with dogs and cats is they each have a completely different vocabulary. I learned Dog long before I learned Cat. I lived with pups nearly all my life; cats came to join our family four years ago. I’m a keen observer of animal interactions, and now I think I’m pretty fluent in both the canine and feline languages.
But the cats and dogs are still learning how to read each other, and misunderstandings occur.
Tucker will sometimes try to play with Athena, wagging his tail and bending low in what is obvious a very gentle invitation to a game of chase. He can’t understand why she turns around and swats him in the nose with a mean-spirited hiss.
And Athena cannot imagine that Tucker does not understand her when she is perfectly clear that he is In Her Space.
What happens when they try to communicate
I was lucky enough to have my camera on hand to witness one of those interactions.
Calvin was in the small cat tree. Athena had claimed the entire window seat. Because a cat needs all that space.
Tucker sauntered by, and was considering whether to jump up on the seat to do a squirrel inventory. Because you have to keep track of those twitchy little creatures.
Athena told Tucker very clearly that the bench was hers. She had it first, and she did not feel like sharing.
Of course, all this was said with eyes and body posture.
Tucker, who was in Squirrel Mode, didn’t “hear” a thing.
So he leaped onto the bench.
Calvin began cleaning himself. He wanted nothing to do with what was about to go down. Tucker was momentarily distracted by Calvin’s movement.
Meanwhile, Athena was staring daggers at Tucker. She did Not. Want. To. Move. Not for a stinky dog, anyway. If there were a cat translator, her language might not be suitable for a family-friendly blog.
The dog had no clue.
Tucker turned to look for squirrels. Athena was still shooting curses at the dog, telling him in no uncertain body language that he needs to remove his smelly self and stay outta her space.
Tucker never knew the kitty vitriol that was being hurled in his direction. Athena stomped off in a huff and went to clean herself.
Tucker lay down, stretched out and continued to look for squirrels.
During the entire encounter, Tucker thought he was being courteous. If Lilah were on the bench, Tucker would have been on top of her, using her as a pillow. And Lilah would have been totally cool with that. For Tucker, sitting an entire foot away from Athena was staying out of her space.
If I hadn’t understood the language of dogs and cats, I might not have noticed the little interaction. But here’s the thing: even though they don’t really “get” each other, my pets try. They do their best, even when it doesn’t exactly work.
Maybe we humans could learn a thing or two.
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