Stangl

Last week, we visited about politics. I figured I would push the envelope a bit more this week to get some serious buzz from a controversial topic.

Cat or dog?

Which companion animal is better? Which species loves you more? Who is more devoted? Which species is smarter?

Like many things in life, your life experiences will color the answers to these questions.

As a child, we were cat people. Lived in town and my father didn’t like to see dogs tied up or in pens. We had one dog that eventually was given to a farmer. I believe he was given to a farm and not “sent to the farm” (a euphemism for being killed) because my dad spoke about Rex, the dog in question, several times, including when he died.

As an adult, I have had the privilege of having both dogs and cats in my homes. I have a hard time answering these questions about which one is better because I believe it depends on the individual animal.

I have had wonderful dogs who were fiercely loyal and great with my children. I’ve also had wonderful, patient cats. I believe the way we interact with them has a huge impact on how they respond.

I saw an interesting article last week from Scientific American about the ability of cats to recognize their names.

A Japanese researcher has shown that cats recognize their owner’s voices and even their own names, but choose not to let us know they know.

The researchers had owners repeatedly say four words that sounded similar to their cats’ names until the animals habituated to those words and stopped responding. Next the owners said the actual names, and the researchers looked at whether individual cats (when living among other cats) appeared able to distinguish their monikers. The cats had more pronounced responses to their own names—meowing or moving their ears, heads or tails—than to similar words or other cats’ names, according to the study.

The researchers also had people unfamiliar to the cats speak the names. Although the felines’ responses were less prominent than when their owners called them, they still appeared to recognize their names.

The lead researcher hypothesized that cats probably “associated their names with some rewards or punishments,” but unlikely don’t have the ability to identify with the names. Their sense of self is not the same as humans.

In the article, the researchers believe it may be possible to teach cats to recognize other words. Whether that could allow humans to train cats to respond to commands—as dogs readily do—is another matter.

Biologist John Bradshaw commented in the article: “Cats are just as good as dogs at learning,” Bradshaw says. “They’re just not as keen to show their owners what they’ve learned.”

Even though I had a cat that would play fetch with a paintbrush, bringing it back to me several times to throw again, I think the majority of cats really don’t care what we think.

That’s kind of their brand. You either love them or hate them for it, but it’s who they are.

I love them both and am happy when I have my recliner up and two or three animals in my lap, especially during the winter.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at tstangl@theameryfreepress.com, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.