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Speed. Cats are natural sprinters, coiling and uncoiling their spines to blast off after prey or away from predators. For about the length of a suburban backyard, a cat can outrun and out jump a dog and can get over the fence before a dog can catch him. But that dash is going to take everything the cat has — he needs to rest after. Dogs such as Greyhounds can maintain speeds of 40 mph for a pretty good distance and can catch up to and pass a cat pretty quickly. Have to give this one to the dogs, by a nose.
Endurance. Dogs are natural marathoners, and a fit dog such as a working sled dog can cover ground at a trot for hours. The only endurance sport a cat would win is napping, since the overwhelming majority of the feline day planner is filled with a single notation: “Zzzzzzzzzz.” That’s not a dig on cats, though: When they need to hunt for food they don’t waste any time. They find, they kill, they eat … and they nap.
Intelligence. Cat lovers can argue very effectively that cats are smart enough to get people to feed and care for them with little more than purring in return. Measured that way, it’s hard to argue that dogs are smarter. But then you start listing all the jobs dogs have been trained to do, from smelling malignant tumors to taking down criminals, from finding and fetching birds to running an intricate agility course at top speed. And then there’s the matter of language recognition: Many dogs know more than 100 words, and a few know almost twice that many. Cats? If they know more than the words you use to call them for dinner, they’re not saying. Winner: dogs.
By human standards, a dog is “better,” but that doesn’t really matter at all. We love our cats, and they love us, and it’s a relationship that works well on both sides. The same is true of dogs, of course. And as a veterinarian, I don’t really care which pet is “better” as long as I can help make them “better,” as in keep each one healthy for a long life as a well-loved companion.
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