Cats and dogs help us live long | Sunday Observer

Cats and dogs help us live long

Only cats and dogs enjoy the maximum freedom in our homes. It is an unassailable fact in human history. We seem to have signed an unwritten pact with them from the day man brought them home from the wild. The pact is so strong that we are compelled to feed them in exchange of certain duties imposed on them.

Unlike cats, dogs have a wide variety of duties. They have to accompany their masters on their hunting expeditions. Even other dogs have a duty to guard their master’s house and property. They also defend their master and his family members against attacks from robbers. Thieves are mortally scared of dogs. In cold countries dogs have an unusual duty of pulling carts and sleighs on ice.

Cats have a lesser number of duties. They are excellent pest controllers and household pets. Sometimes we keep dogs in kennels or tie them to posts. However, we allow cats to roam anywhere they like without restrictions. I have never seen cats in cages or tied to the legs of chairs or tables. Probably they have a better relationship with man than dogs. Both kittens and puppies live with humans. They may be under the impression that humans are their pseudo parents.

Variety of dogs

There is a variety of dogs. Top dogs belong to the highest breed. You have to spend heavily to maintain them. They are usually taken for dog shows. Once, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was the chief guest at a dog show held in Colombo. When a journalist noted that he was wearing the full suit, he asked why he was doing so without wearing his normal national suit. Being a witty politician he said, “I have to wear the dog suit for dog shows.” Then there are lap dogs that are cute and portable. Most of our household dogs belong to the class of ‘Middle dogs’ as they are not very expensive or difficult to maintain. Stray dogs are known as ‘bottom dogs’ as no one cares for them except those who feed them occasionally. Almost all dogs kept in homes think that their masters are kings. Some dogs, especially, lap dogs, consider themselves as family members. They have the privilege of travelling in comfortable vehicles along with their master’s family members. Some middle dogs do not have a good pedigree but they also serve their masters well. Bottom dogs are sometimes considered a public nuisance as they roam the streets barking at pedestrians and biting some of them occasionally. The average dog, despite his class, has a reputation for obedience and loyalty.

Most cats have forgotten how their ancestors spent time in solitary hunting. But a domestic cat does not have to hunt for food as everything is provided for it. If it really wants to hunt, it can chase after a mouse and kill it. Cats can be trained to obey our commands. However, they cannot be disciplined easily. Once, a man trained a cat to hold a lighted candle while he was reading a book. One day the cat saw a mouse and ran after it neglecting its duty. Therefore, most people do not take the trouble to train cats to perform different tasks. Although you can be pretty sure that your dog will follow you wherever you go, you cannot depend on cats. They are so unpredictable that they will disappear without a backward glance.

I asked a zoologist why cats purr. I thought that they do so out of contentment. The zoologist disagreed. He said cats purred when they were in great pain, injured or in labour and even dying. A purr can be a signal to a veterinary surgeon from an injured cat or it may be an indication of friendship. Sometimes cats purr when they want to thank you for something you have done.

Pseudo parents

Cats and dogs prefer to lie on beds, sofas, and chairs. This is because they consider their owners as pseudo parents. They always love to curl up next to their human ‘mothers’ or ‘fathers’. Greet a cat and see how it responds in a friendly way. It will roll over on its back, stretch out its legs, yawn and show its claws in a gentle way. When a cat rolls over on its back, it is a sign that it trusts you.

As far as cats and dogs are concerned, they behave differently. A cat would not greet a stranger with a belly-up posture. Even a dog is very suspicious of strangers who come to its master’s home. When it sees a stranger, it would bark loudly and when he comes close sniff him as if to check whether he is a friend or foe. If a stranger behaves in a funny way, a dog will show its canine aggression immediately.

They say barking dogs seldom bite. There is some truth in it. When a dog barks, it is not threatening you. A dog bark is an alarm to members of the house and other dogs in the vicinity. A dog would bark as if to say “Be on the alert. A stranger has come.” However, an aggressive dog may not bark at strangers. It will rush straight at the stranger and bite him. Dog trainers say a barking dog usually does not bite a stranger.

When a dog is afraid of someone or something, it will snarl baring its teeth. This usually happens when a postman or a meter reader visits a house. If a dog growls while barking, there is a likelihood of attacking a stranger.

Spitting and hissing

The cat is a different kettle fish. It defends itself against enemies by spitting and hissing like a snake. Cats usually react in such a way when dogs try to harass them. Cats try to give the impression that they are not cowards, but brave animals. Dogs, more than cats, demarcate their area by urinating in certain places. After doing so they do not allow other dogs to trespass their controlled area. On the other hand, cats rub against their owners’ legs to show their feelings of friendship. By doing so, they also feel at home.

Cats very often sharpen their claws. For such activities they choose various items of furniture or trees. By doing so, they strip off worn out claw sheaths. Sharpening the claws also acts as a scent marking function. Puppies on the other hand, give us another headache by chewing our shoes, toys, newspapers, and letters. They do so due to the playfulness of puppyhood and also to help the adult teeth to break through. Adult dogs bring various items such as chunks of meat or bones for their puppies to bite at leisure. When puppies see a slipper they think that it has been left there as a welcome gift.

According to medical opinion, if we keep cats and dogs as pets, they will help us to live longer than others who do not have such pets. Their presence and pranks reduce our blood pressure and take away the tension and stress of modern life.

American writer Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) said, “A dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.” He also said if you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. That is the principal difference between a dog and a man!

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