We could spend years debating why cats and dogs are so different, but the answer is easy. They are different species. While it can take weeks to train a cat to “come” or “sit”, dogs can learn this behavior in just about five minutes. On the other hand, cats learn to use a litter box with almost no training, but it can take tons of persistence to do the same with a small dog. It’s obvious that what’s important for dogs is not important for cats and vice versa.
The main difference is this: dogs are pack animals; cats tend to be more independent, though not solitary animals as some perceive them.
Dogs are social creatures and are happy and content in a group situation. If an owner provides proper leadership, he or she becomes the pack leader and the dogs will view them with respect. However, if they are treated badly, they will still remain in the pack because they are attached to their people.
Cats form groups, but there is not a structure of leadership. They are very territorial but they will share their territory, as long as their needs are met and they’re not treated badly.
Dogs normally attach to its group, and not their surroundings. You can take your dog to work with you or move to another house, and the dog will be happy as long as he’s with you. Although cats also get attached to people, if you take your cat away from its regular surroundings, he or she will develop fear and anxiety.
Dogs learn everything from observing other pack members. They learn by interacting with their owners. When the leader uses rewards to get behaviors that will ‘group the pack’, such as “come” or “sit”, dogs respond promptly. It’s embedded in their DNA. Dogs can be trained because they desire to please their owners. Cats…. well, it’s not the same with them.
Dogs also learn what not to do when another member of the pack growls or snips at them. The dog will avoid repeating the situation, especially to please a high ranking member of the pack. That negative reinforcement works with dogs, but a cat, will avoid the source of the punishment, clearly, their owner, so punishment will not work on a cat.
Picture a hunting situation in the wild with a cat: she goes out hunting alone, stalks her pray, and in case of danger, she can jump and climb to get away. Now picture a dog in the same situation. He follows his pray through scent, but he’s not very stealthy. If confronted, he will have to fight. Dogs use fighting to defend themselves; cats are agile enough to escape. The concept of ‘flight or fight’ is very important for dogs. That’s why hunting in a pack is what’s effective for them.
What does all this mean?
The difference between cats and dogs can be summarized beautifully with this statement: “My dog looks at all the things I provide for her and says ‘You must be God.’ My cat looks at all the things I provide for him and says ‘I must be God’.”