Dogs and cats. Or, cats and dogs, depending on which side you’re on. It’s one of the great rivalries of the ages, and everyone assumes that the two sides are completely different. However, there are some similarities thacat sleeping on dogt I’ve observed.

Before I begin, I must state that I’m not an expert in animal behavior, but I have a few credentials. For one thing, I have lived with at least one dog in my household for most of my life. On the other hand, my sister does own three cats, which I have had ample opportunity to observe. Plus, several of my friends own cats. So while I’m no expert, I have been able to form some theories. Here are a few of them.

The first major difference between dogs and cats can be seen when you get home from work each day. A dog will be waiting for you as soon as you walk in the door, and he will jump all over you and make you feel like a big shot. A cat, meanwhile, will continue in whatever pursuit he had going before you got home. “Oh, you’re back? I hadn’t even realized you were out.” The cat is happy that you are home, but he is not going to drop everything he’s doing to roll out the red carpet for you. There are pros and cons on both sides. While it can be a good stroke for the ego getting a huge welcome from your dog each day, sometimes it’s also good to have some alone time to unwind at the end of the day. Your cat respects your privacy enough to give you some space. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Another difference is in the way cats and dogs respond to what activities you are involved in. A dog wants to be involved in whatever you are doing and wants to know every detail. I could be unclogging my toilet, and my dog will be right there. “Hey, whatcha doing? Need some help? (Sniff sniff) What’s that in your hand?” A cat will show interest in what you’re doing, to a point. “What are you doing? Does it involve giving me any food? Or something cool I can play with? No? Never mind, then.” On the other hand, if you are eating something, a cat will become extremely interested in what you are doing.

This brings up a big similarity between dogs and cats: they both like to beg for food. If you have food, they want some. But cats and dogs have different ways of asking for food. A dog will give you the sad puppy dog eye routine. My dog is a master at this. He can even make it look like he’s about to cry if he wants your food badly enough. If the sad puppy dog eyes don’t work, then a dog might move on to other tactics, like resting his head on your leg, or even whining and barking. It is a very subtle routine, and your dog will continue to develop and refine his technique over the years. A cat meanwhile, prefers a more direct approach. If a cat really likes the smell of what you’re eating, she might jump on your head or maybe in your plate itself. You know, just to get your attention!

Dogs and cats both love to play with toys, but again, they play in different ways. A dog wants to include you in the fun. My dog will play by himself, but he loves it even more if I sit down and play with him, up to a certain point anyway. He wants me to play tug o’ war for a few seconds, and then he wants to be able to chew the toy to his heart’s content. He wants me to continue to sit there and watch him though. If I get bored and get up to do something else, he looks at me as if to say, “Where are you going? Aren’t you going to play?” Cats are more independent. They like to have plenty of personal exploration time with whatever catches their fancy: the couch, the garbage, important financial documents. They aren’t as concerned with your “rules” as they are with their personal amusement. They’re perfectly willing to let you come along for the ride, as long as you understand that they are your top priority.

Dogs wear their hearts on their sleeves. They want us to like them and approve of them. A dog is especially happy once he figures out what his job is. Usually a dog decides what these jobs are himself. My dog actually has several jobs. There is his job as watchdog, which he takes very seriously. He makes sure I am safe from every possible threat, including squirrels, the paper delivery guy, and the vacuum cleaner. In addition to this job, he is also chief food-taster, toy-tester, and tummy-rub tester. He wants to make sure I keep my tummy-rub skills sharp, and that is very considerate of him. Once a dog knows what his jobs are, he feels content. Cats, on the other hand, realize that their most important job is being cute. If the dog wants to do all that other stuff, he can knock himself out, although chief food-taster is a very desirable position. Cats are more cool and mellow than dogs. They might not always be as “lovey-dovey” as dogs, but they still crave love and affection. They just like to have it on their terms. They want you to give them affection when they need it and leave them alone when they need some “me” time. Cats are very mindful of boundaries; they respect your privacy as long as you respect theirs.

These are just a few of the differences between these age-old rivals. They both want love and affection, they just want them in different ways, so keep these in mind whenever you wonder what your pet wants from you. And remember, good food and tummy-rubs never hurt either.  — Lee Gruver