My family has always included cats and dogs, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see that silly interactions between the two species don’t happen just in movies. Our cats and dogs have been best friends, snappy siblings, comrades in arms, and co-conspirators in crime.
Take, for example, the relationship between my first cats, Castor and Pollux, and their fellow shelter adoptee, an Old English Sheepdog cross named Ruffle.
At least twice a week, Castor would show up at supper time with his head fur soaking wet and sticking up in little spikes. Despite his humiliating (and slimy) hairdo, Castor would do his best to look dignified as he strutted over to his dish and tried to pretend that nothing was out of the ordinary.
We all wondered what he kept getting into, until one day my mother was looking out the window as Castor walked by Ruffle, who was outside on his run. Ruffle leaped up, trapped poor Castor between his front legs, and licked his head until he finally managed to escape from his canine brother’s grasp. From that day on, when Castor came home with his little Billy Idol hairdo, we’d say he’d been Ruffle-ized.
I’m quite sure Castor knew exactly how long Ruffle’s leash was, and the only reason he’d put up with having his hair done by a dog is because he liked it.
Ruffle was the subject of another cat story, this one featuring Iris, my family’s beloved calico kitty. But this time, he was the guardian.
One summer day, Iris came home for supper showing signs that she was just about ready to have a litter of kittens. We were really excited; we’d been following her pregnancy since the day we saw her conceive. But when she disappeared with her delivery date imminent, we were all concerned. My brother and I took turns looking all over the house and the garage for Iris, but we couldn’t find her or the kittens we knew she was about to have.
A few days later, my mother was hanging laundry when she noticed that Ruffle was paying a lot of attention to an indentation in the tall grass, just past the end of his leash. He looked at Mom and barked once. She went over to investigate and found Iris and her kittens in a little nest, just far enough from Ruffle to avoid being stepped on by an overeager dog, but close enough to take advantage of the fact that he could easily ward off any critter who might think newborn kittens would be a tasty snack.
Many years later, another dog had come into our family’s lives. Aki Moonheart was a huge white Akita–Samoyed cross. My cats, Sin├®ad and Siouxsie, had known Aki since they were kittens, and had come to love her like a biological sister. Aki loved them, too, and she seemed to know instinctively that she should let the cats approach her when they were ready to do so.
One winter, I was taking care of Aki and her son, an even bigger white dog called Cu├ín (an Irish name that, very roughly translated, means "little dog" — never let it be said that the Kelley family doesn’t appreciate irony), while my mother and brother were out of town. Sin├®ad and Siouxsie had met Aki plenty of times before, but this was the first time they’d met Cu├ín, and they weren’t quite sure what to make of him.
The first evening the dogs were at my house and sprawled asleep on the cold tile floor next to my door, Sin├®ad and Siouxsie decided it was time to investigate this intruder. Sin├®ad tentatively stepped to within about five feet of Cu├ín, every nerve and muscle in her body on high alert, stopped for a second, and then darted away.
A few seconds later, Siouxsie approached in an equally wound-up state, and stopped about one pace closer to Cu├ín than Sin├®ad had.
This continued for a few minutes, each cat getting one step closer and then running away, until Sin├®ad finally got close enough to raise a paw and touch him on the nose.
The whole time the girls were playing "I dare you," Cu├ín didn’t even twitch a whisker. It was all I could do not to bust a gut laughing at this scene. As I recall, even Aki was watching, although she was doing a yeomanly job at pretending to be asleep (and presumably laughing her little doggy heart out).
What about you? Have you seen any awesome interactions between the dogs and cats in your life? Please share your silly — or sweet — stories in the comments.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, professional cat sitter, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.