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Cats vs. dogs is a big deal. People can debate this for hours. And no one would win, except the cats and dogs. More than 49,000 pets were licensed here last year, but, alas, that number is not broken down by cats and dogs — so no telling which is more popular.
Regardless of where you fall, we counsel you to get one… or the other… or one of each. Hit one of the local cat cafes perhaps. Or look up Louisville Metro Animal Services, which has a new shelter and a great way to meet your next pet. The good news is that LMAS has euthanized zero animals for time or space for three consecutive years. And that is no small accomplishment, given that last year it took in 2,168 cats, 1,078 kittens, 3,807 dogs and 436 puppies. LMAS found homes for 2,975 pets vs. 2,785 in 2018 (including more than cats and dogs).
But which is for you? If you are not sure, LMAS also has plenty of opportunities to foster a cat or dog, and adoption fees are waived in some cases, so ask.
If you still are unsure, maybe this will help. We assembled a group to write about their cats and dogs, including a woman who thought she was a cat person but now has a dog; someone who didn’t like any pets but now has two cats; and a veterinarian who was reluctant to take sides, given that she treats cats and dogs (spoiler alert: she is a cat person).
As Dr. Julie Michalski said, “Truthfully, though, if someone asked for a single reason I may gravitate toward cats over dogs, it falls into the category of emotion.”
Find out why below.
The Veterinarian’s dilemma, but… a case for Cats
By Julie Michalski
Whenever people ask me what kind of animals I have at home, I say, happily, “Two and a half cats!” (More on the half in a moment). But then they gasp and ask, “But you’re a veterinarian, why don’t you like dogs?” First of all, I never said I don’t like dogs (I do), but for some reason this is the assumption if you don’t have one at home. Second, just because I’m a veterinarian doesn’t mean I have an entire zoo — do all ophthalmologists have four kids with glasses?
People choose cats or dogs for various reasons — some of the time it’s practical, most of the time emotional. If you don’t have a large living space, or a yard, or the real kicker — time — that 50-pound, ball-of-energy dog is probably not for you.
Do people ever listen to this advice? Of course not.
Do you like hiking and outdoor exercise? Great! Please don’t adopt a hot dog-loving basset hound. Obviously, dogs are wonderful companions and great family additions. If someone does have the time to train and take their pup on daily walks, I would never counsel against adopting the right dog. My canine clients are some of the best patients, and I always have fun watching them eat their snacks and bounce happily around the exam room.
On the other hand, if you lead a busier life, need more flexibility in leaving the home for a night or a weekend and enjoy cute purrs and a soft cuddle, then a cat may be your best friend. Having grown up with cats my whole life I will acknowledge that you cat people also endure frequent glaring, destruction of toilet paper and 5 a.m. wake-ups for no particular reason, and kudos to you.
Certainly, not all cats are going to be social, just like not all dogs are meant for the dog park.
The most common response I hear when I ask why they do not like cats is they had a bad experience when they were a kid, usually with grandma’s aloof cat who hissed and glowered. If this is a valid argument, then I would still be opposed to broccoli, chickens and all girls named Colleen. (I have gotten over two of those).
My rebuttal is you just haven’t met the right cat. My tuxedo boy Turtle is obnoxiously social, loves strangers and wins over every person who visits. He’s also rather dumb, but that’s all right because he’s my cute feline ambassador.
Truthfully, though, if someone asked for a single reason I may gravitate toward cats over dogs, it falls into the category of emotion. Cats tend to be selective, calculating and discreet, and I respect that. I want to work for their love! That relaxed, unassuming golden retriever at the park or goofy labrador in exam room three? Too easy.
Now the cat that “doesn’t like many people,” that you have to whisper sweet nothings to for weeks at your friend’s house before it willingly sits in your lap? Challenge accepted. Think of your elated ego when you win! Smug smile deserved. This is how most people have to approach my other cat, Sadie, who is a much better judge of character than Turtle. Most of the time, cats just need time, and if we regard them like dogs, we’ll never accept their quirks.
Take for example my half-a-cat, Frosty. He is our old, very arthritic, diabetic clinic cat. I take him home on the weekends because he used to go on food strikes. His normal attitude is a bit crotchety in nature, so of course I fell in love, and I succeeded! He’s been with me on weekends for almost three years now, and he’s a very good boy and does in fact cuddle. He also steals my pancakes.
The cats vs. dogs debate will never have a winner.
Research shows that the best way for the veterinary team to communicate with clients is to acknowledge that owners are going to be different. Cat people tend to be analytical, detail-oriented and introverts, while dog owners are more social, spontaneous and accepting of change. This is a broad generalization, but it highlights the core attitude that most people may not realize leads to their side of the debate. Whether we pick our furry friends based on practicality, emotion, or Myers Briggs, one is not better than the other. Eventually, a three-legged, one-eyed abandoned dog will walk into the clinic and join my family. Until then, I will stick with loud purring and a daily dose of judgy stares, and this seems to suit me.
Dr. Julie Michalski, 32, is a veterinarian at St. Matthews Animal Clinic.
She went from Cats to Dogs
By Samantha Batchelor
Growing up, I had a motley crew of pets. My first pet was a calico named Xena (yes, after the famous TV princess warrior), and that is where my love of cats started.
Cats are fiercely independent but also do not mind the occasional chin scratch. A mix of sass and resilience. Xena’s personality was one that could not be easily forgotten. Just to name a few of her traits, she loved to be outside, could hunt down a jackrabbit and very much loved to cuddle up on our floor vents to stay warm.
Even in her later years, the vent was her place. She was the first family pet… before we adopted dogs. When we adopted our first dogs, Zeus and Leta, their love and individuality was something I had not seen before. I never knew the true meaning of companionship till those dogs came into my life. Zeus was solely my brother’s dog, and it was known that Zeus and my brother were each other’s best friends. Leta did everything on her own terms: where she would lay down, when she wanted attention and when to make Zeus aware that her food was hers and hers alone was all her call. Xena reluctantly accepted both of them as part of the family. It was this mesh of different personalities that ultimately solidified my fondness for animals.
Fast forward to December 2018, my husband and I adopted our first dog together. A corgi with more attitude than a short, stubby body should hold, and his name was Harvey. Harvey coming into our lives was not expected but when the option presented itself, we knew it was time to step up. Before Harvey, we had two cats named Lulu and Marley, and then adopted another cat named Nacho later on.
Even though I had affections mainly for cats, my heart was always open to more. Seeing Harvey and taking him in felt right. He has continued to be a unique experience. He will let you know when he wants attention and will give you attitude until the attention is given. He is also a little spoiled from the occasional table scraps. If you say “walk” or “are you ready” his ears immediately perk up, and the enthusiasm from those words is unmatched. His nub wiggles a mile a minute, and he does a little foot shuffle until his harness is put on.
What is so different for me is that dogs are more dependent. Cats are individualistic and can provide basic needs for themselves. Harvey depends on us for exercise, bathing, bathroom time and reassurance. While I do not always appreciate the dependence, it has taught me about caring for those that cannot do it for themselves. We make sure Harvey is bathed when he rolls around in mud, let him outside or be walked daily. Cats can bathe themselves and often do not require reassurance from us when we leave the house. It is not to make reassurance sound negative by any means. The level of affection and excitement that Harvey gives when we come home makes all the difference. He feels safe once more as we walk through the door, while our three cats are still asleep. It is a true bond between human and dog. Harvey and our cats do not always get along, but they recognize what a family is and show it every day.
I would not have it any other way…well, except without all the pet hair.
Samantha Batchelor, 27, is a hazmat training specialist with UPS and lives in Louisville.
No — no pets! now, 2 cats
By Megan Campbell Smith
Without my conspiratorial besties, I’d never have gotten a real pet. Sure, I had a hamster or two, some fishes, and maybe there was sorta a pet cat somewhere in my childhood… but nothing like my beloved Smokey and The Bandit.
Before I turned 40, I thought pets were a nuisance. Something to be tolerated at other people’s houses, perhaps, but nothing you want in your own home. I had all the aversions. To the time, to the attention, to the fur and poop and dander. They’re expensive. They need constant care, and most days I felt pretty tapped out in the caring department.
Until I let myself crack just an inch. I started to entertain the idea of having a pet when I moved to Louisville after a string of upheavals, and I sought counsel with my friends about whether they thought a pet might help make our new house a home. They insisted. They cajoled.
They advised I would most certainly want a cat, and I’d want two of them, so they could keep each other company whilst I was working long hours, away. It was mostly talk. I briefly considered a Yorkshire Terrier till I learned how much they cost and was reminded about the poo. Ew!
On a sunny morning in August 2016, I brought these sweet brothers into my home and into my life. At the climax of the conspiracy to bring cats into my life, my daughter and besties hatched a plan. First, my cat-whispering sweetie insisted that bonded cats would be the ideal pet because I work a lot, am out late and I travel, and no one wants to pick up dog poo. Daughter suggested that if we got cats, they should be gray. And a few days after I mentioned that trivial detail to my bestie in Lexington, she texted me a photo of these scruffy lovies who’d been waiting for adoption for weeks and were getting desperate.
Gray, bonded cats… brothers! They even came with names: Smokey and The Bandit.
I forwarded the photo of the bois to my cat whisperer who confirmed, yes, these were the ones. Within a few hours, he, me, daughter and cats were getting to know each other in our new home in Louisville.
I have changed a lot since becoming woman-companion to my boys Smokey and The Bandit. In the first few months, I didn’t care for the feeling of them rubbing against my legs, for example. But now, we snuggle day and night, and the boys frequently star in my video conferences where I advocate for advanced neck scratching techniques (I am a consultant, after all).
I bought them harnesses with 20-foot leads, so we like to go on walks, er, hang out in the front yard and talk with cat-loving neighbors as they pass by. Some people are really good sports and bring their doggos over for Smokey to love on, because he’s a humongous fan of the canines. We imagine they must’ve come from a home with dogs because the interbreed affection is pretty serious.
I love helping my cats have an enriched life. Beyond the basics of a healthy diet and frequent litter changes, advanced screeches and tube chases, I especially try to provide them quality outdoor experiences (one of them came to us declawed, sadly). I built them a catio that they can access through a window anytime they want, and I have a large bird feeder outside another window. I got my entertainment center custom built to include the birding perch, and with my newest feeder that drops fat squrrls off in a flash, we’ve been having a great time quarantining and living our best lives together.
Do you want to see our catio or our birding perch? What about walking cats in our front yard? Cat-lovers and doggos are welcome to visit Smokey and The Bandit anytime.
Megan Campbell Smith, 43, is a business consultant who helps small businesses compete through digital innovation. She hasn’t yet made a cat app, but hit her up if you have one in mind.
All in for dogs
By Phelicia Ball
If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for babies and puppies. Yes, I’m that person who will drop everything I’m doing to run across the street to pet a dog. In the midst of a pandemic, don’t worry — I’ve controlled myself. I love all animals, but I adore dogs. I don’t think I’d ever adopt a cat. Dogs are just so much more loyal, and there’s something about the bond between a dog and their owner.
My coworker was fostering three chocolate lab puppies back in February. She brought them to our office and I couldn’t help myself. If it was up to me, I would’ve adopted all three of them. Luckily I didn’t do that, because quite frankly, one is plenty. I fell in love with the runt of the bunch and called her Little Bear. Her name has since changed to Oso, which translates to “bear” in Spanish.
Oso found her forever home just two weeks before quarantine. As you can imagine, we’re inseparable. She surely makes working from home much more appealing. With plenty of time on our hands after work hours, we had no choice but to learn all the tricks in the book. Within a month, she learned the basics: sit, lay down, “come here,” and of course, to use the bathroom outside. Shortly after, she advanced to speak, “leave it,” “paw” and “other paw.” I’m biased, but she’s pretty damn smart and oh, so cute! We’ll give all the credit to YouTube and not being able to go anywhere for the smart part of that equation.
Now, I get it when people say their dogs are like their kids. I’m that Dog Mom who panics when she eats something she’s not supposed to or gets the slightest scratch on her face. We’ve made more than a few visits to the vet, almost always due to my paranoia. Long story short, Oso is my baby. She greets me first thing in the morning with kisses and cuddles right beside me when it’s time for bed.
She will most definitely make it on the Christmas card this year. And I’m already thinking about the next dog I’m going to adopt.
Phelicia Ball, 25, is a dog enthusiast who travels everywhere with her pup.
Cat Around Town. Bond, James Bond Dead at 20… or 21, Lived a Large Life, Full of Fighting, Loving and Mice
By Keith Stone
Bond, James Bond, a noted cat about town who was known for his strikingly-good, Tuxedo looks, hunting prowess and penchant for bringing the fight to any cat he could find, has died. He was 20… or 21.
James was born in Los Angeles’ East San Fernando Valley, ending up in an animal shelter, where he was rescued by his man companion, Keith Stone. James lived with Stone in California, for several years, adroitly avoiding coyotes and the busy road, while finding many mice, squirrels, voles and other varmints to snack upon.
He quickly established himself as an expert lap-sitter and bed warmer, spending many hours ensconced on Stone’s lap in their barber chair by the wood stove.
James and Stone then moved near Lake Tahoe. (Cue the theme song to “Bonanza”). There, he also managed to avoid coyotes and owls, while making friends with wild horses that would come up on the property every day. He did not like the addition of Miss Moneypenny (who did not survive the coyotes), and then Muzzy (who later would move into another house in Louisville).
It was there that Stone began finding dismembered mice in the shower-tub and a few dead ones between its sliding glass doors. He soon discovered that James was bringing the mice into the tub to play with them before dispatching them as snacks. Sometimes, a mouse would make it to the rim and try to escape between the doors, only to die there. It was a habit that James would continue for the rest of his life, even dragging entire rabbits to the second floor bathtub, where he would eat everything but the liver.
In 2003, James and Stone moved to Louisville, into a pink Victorian on a dead-end street. By then, James had grown into a 16-pound, sinewy lawn panther. Among his favorite activities was reclining in the sun and positioning himself next to chipmunk holes. When a chipmunk would emerge, he would pop it in his mouth like he was eating popcorn.
James quickly established himself as the toughest cat around. Upon his first medical checkup in Louisville, the veterinarian exclaimed: “So this is James Bond?! Your neighbors have all been bringing in their cats who fought with him!” True enough, James had gone up and down the street and on adjoining streets so he could fight all the cats — even going through cat doors into other people’s houses to fight their cats. To save on vet bills, Stone bought a clipper and stockpiled antibiotics so he could patch up James when he got into a fight. Later, James would face off with foxes (no one was hurt). James also loved antagonizing dogs by jumping up on fences or walls and sauntering past while they bayed helplessly.
Despite his pugnaciousness, James never laid a claw or tooth on a human, and he was always up for scratches on his back, under his chin and on his beautiful, white chest. But make no mistake — James was a serious cat with a mission.
He did not like human food, did not purr, preferred to crap in the neighbor’s flowers than in a box and learned only later in life the joys of drinking water out of a faucet. He also discovered in his last years that sleeping under the blankets with Stone in their drafty house was OK, if not wonderful.
Earlier this summer, James suffered an injury to his right rear leg, which Stone believes precipitated his decline. But James refused to give up and continued to spend as much time as possible on Stone’s lap and snuggled with him under the covers. In the end, James went out like he lived his life — loving, handsome and with a fight.
Keith Stone, ageless, is an editor and can always find a cat to pet when he is out on a walk.
Learning from dogs
By Taylor Bird
I’ve been an animal lover for my entire life, which, unfortunately for my family, meant a constant parade of pets in our household. Thinking about the many pets we’ve had and loved, my favorites have always been dogs. To this day, I can’t imagine life without one. As a kid I was so obsessed with dogs that I knew nearly every breed, enthusiastically watched dog shows, and in kindergarten, my actual Christmas wish was that Santa would turn me into a dog. Obviously, I was very disappointed to wake up on Christmas morning in my human form.
Our home was always filled with a little extra love from a dog until the summer of 2018. That summer, I visited home after graduating from college and moving to France. When I drove into the driveway and was not greeted by a chorus of barks, I realized that for the first time, we were dogless. As I dragged my suitcase up the stairs, I got a gentle nudge and heard the tiny squeaks from my cat, Maya, who had been a huge comfort to my mom when I was working abroad. And while she truly couldn’t be any sweeter, there is something about being greeted by a huge, wagging ball of energy that makes home feel like home.
As the bizarrely quiet summer rolled on, the Facebook gods aka algorithms were working on my side. An acquaintance posted a picture of a huge dog with loving, curious eyes she was hoping to re-home. I immediately messaged the girl saying I would take him and retroactively convinced my mom that we needed to fill the dog-shaped void in our home. By some miracle, Momma Bird agreed, even though it meant her looking after him for a year while I finished my contract abroad.
I later found out that she only agreed because she knew that I was considering permanently relocating abroad and that a dog would convince me to move back to the U.S….Well played, mom.
A few text exchanges and a couple weeks later, I met Zeke, my beautiful house cow. His bold black spots remind me of Chance from my favorite childhood movie, “Homeward Bound,” and after a few trips to the pet store with him, I discovered that he apparently resembles Petey from “The Little Rascals.” During his first week at home, the massive great dane, pit bull mix chased Maya around our house hoping to make a new friend. Unfortunately for him, that friendship stopped there. Two years later, he is still trying to regain her trust. Every day, I watch him approach her tentatively, laying down in an attempt to make his huge 85-pound body less threatening. Little does he know, a cat never forgives and they certainly do not forget especially when a strange dog suddenly appears in their house where they were finally enjoying some peace, quiet and everyone’s attention.
But dogs always hope to make amends. They, of course, believe in second chances. Zeke’s second chance at a family may mean that he gets hissed at by a rude cat he is trying to befriend, but that doesn’t stop him from being the happiest dog I’ve ever met. Every morning he stretches, gives a little howl, wags his tail and covers me in kisses that can make me hopeful about even the most dreaded day. His unconditional love and patience have helped me sleep every night through my struggles with anxiety and given me a reason to get up every morning. Zeke’s gentleness, his optimism, protective nature, cleverness, friendship and his kind heart have truly taught me how to love. Every day, he reminds me of the joy that comes with waking up in the morning. He shows me how to slow down and enjoy the simple things like an afternoon nap. He embraces the true delight of drinking water and enjoying a meal. Most importantly, he has shown me that even when times are tough, change is scary, and the road ahead is uncertain, life is always worth living. •
Taylor Bird is a 24-year-old account executive who loves travel, languages, bubble baths and her dog, Zeke.