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Pet Tips from a Purina Vet: Should Cats Be Treated Differently than Dogs?

Do you treat your cat like a dog? Discover just how different cats and dogs really are. and what that means when it comes to how we should treat them.

We often humorously draw comparisons between cats and dogs. But how truly different are they from one another? And how does that affect how we treat them?

Are we guilty of treating our cats too much like dogs or our dogs too much like cats?

We asked veterinarian Grace Long, DVM, MS, MBA, what she thought about treating dogs and cats differently. Here are some of her interesting and helpful pet tips.

No Major Physiological Differences

Here's a surprise. According to Dr. Long, there is no significant physiological difference between dogs and cats. We often view cats and dogs as polar opposites, but when you view them from a physiological standpoint, they aren't much different. This means that there isn't any real underlying reason why we should treat them differently.

However, dogs and cats do differ drastically in terms of nutrition. Cats require much more protein than dogs. While dogs can handle large amounts of grains, cats need meat protein — and lots of it. Be sure to only feed your pet the type of food specific to their species, and never feed your cat dog food or vice versa.

Can You Train a Cat?

Do you think that cats are impossible to train? "In my experience cats may be more difficult to train than dogs, not because they aren't intelligent, but because they're more independent and not as concerned with pleasing people," says Dr. Long. However, that doesn't mean that cats can't be trained. Cats' personalities vary widely and some may love training just as much as dogs. In fact, activities like setting up cat agility courses are quickly gaining in popularity as more people begin to realize that cats really enjoy them.

What about taking your cat for walks? While Dr. Long admits that cats aren't typically taken for walks, some cats may enjoy it — and if they do, there is no reason that they shouldn't go for walks. If you decide you'd like to take your cat for a walk, be sure to avoid anything that could easily startle your kitty and cause her to panic.

Social Characteristics

You may have heard that dogs tend to travel in packs while cats are more solitary. However, Dr. Long warns against making such generalizations. As with training, social behaviors can be specific to each individual animal. In fact, the ease of adding a new pet member to the family depends on the personalities of the pets rather than their species. Your best bet is to follow pet tips, such as introducing new pets gradually and keeping interactions positive. Or, you can "borrow" a pet from a friend for a few days to see how your own pet adjusts to having another animal around.

Cats and dogs aren't as different as you may think. Any differences in pet personalities aren't hardwired into their species so much as they are individual affectations. When it comes down to it, we should treat our pets — cat or dog — with all the love and affection they deserve.

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