Why is the Greeting Ritual of Dogs Different from Cats?

January 18, 2016

greeting tonyBy Linda Cole

Cats and dogs both see the world with their own unique perspective as individuals and from the way they evolved to interact with us and other animals. A dog isn’t shy about racing to meet you at the door the minute you walk in. A feline is typically more subtle in the way she greets you; a twitch of the ears or flick of the tail will do for some kitties. Have you ever wondered why the greeting ritual of dogs and cats is so different when saying hi to their owner?

Dogs are social creatures who evolved to be comfortable living within a family unit, and prefer the social company of other dogs and humans. Because of that preference, your dog has a small degree of stress when you aren’t around. Some canines have a much harder time dealing with their stress and suffer from separation anxiety. The degree of stress your dog experiences depends on his personality and environment. When you leave your pet home alone, he is forced to accept a non-voluntary detachment from those he has a bond with. When you finally return home, your dog is filled with relief and welcomes you home in his own special way. His expression of joy is one way of telling you he has a special attachment to you and is really happy you’re home.

Boredom is another reason why your dog is relieved to see you. There aren’t a lot of fun things to do when human family members are gone. When you get home, he’s ready for some mental and physical stimulation and social interactions. A game of fetch or tug of Dog-Animated-no-offerwar, a walk, a potty break and most importantly – getting his CANIDAE meal.

Cats are more reserved in the way they greet their owner. They are just as happy to see you return home, but you’d never know it to look at most felines. She may appear unimpressed when you walk into the house, but it’s just an illusion. Cats have a different way of showing affection, and most kitties don’t go bonkers when your return. An appropriate greeting from a cat may include strolling up to you with her tail held high, rubbing her head against your legs, wrapping her tail around your calf, or meowing.

Most people think cats aren’t a social species, but research has shown they are. When your cat greets you with a head rub, nose-touching, or grooms you, she’s expressing her affection for someone who is very special to her. Furthermore, the degree of greeting you receive from a cat is equal to that of your dog – but in a more subtle and dignified way.

Our feline friends are hardwired to be self-sufficient and don’t really need us in order to survive. Technically, they are only semi-domesticated. Cats don’t look to us as a source of security or safety. As long as a kitten learns from her mother (or out of necessity) that hunting produces a meal, felines are well suited to live away from us. However, that doesn’t mean cats don’t form a bond with their owner. Affection from a cat is a special attachment to you. Some cats will run up to a stranger and interact with them, but the majority of felines avoid unfamiliar people until they are ready to greet someone. From the cat’s perspective, when uncertain about a meeting with humans or other animals, it’s best to maintain some distance. It’s actually a way of showing respect greeting sheilaand avoiding unnecessary confrontations. Since a cat isn’t dependent on humans, consider it’s a compliment when she chooses to interact with you.

Cats have the widest vocal communication range of all carnivores. Interestingly, your cat’s meows are a secret code of sounds unique only to her and understood only by you. If she greets you with a meow, it’s designed just for you.

Dogs let us know in no uncertain terms how happy they are to see us when we get home, whereas cats are more reserved. The way dogs and cats greet us is based on their own personality and is species-specific. The one thing you can be assured of is that when you walk into your home and find your dog or cat waiting, they are really happy to see you. They just show it in different ways.

Top photo by Tony Alter/Flickr
Bottom photo by Sheila Sund/Flickr

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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