Dog and cat
As an example of threefoldness of carnivores we will discuss dog and
cat and their relatives wolf, red fox and lynx. We will follow Schad's Mammals and man.
The carnivores are characterized in a threefold way
as the heart-lung animals (see:
mouse - lion - cow).
of dog and cat
When we go to a farm, the first being we meet is the dog, who sees us
coming from afar. It comes directly towards us, barking and
perhaps trying to jump at us as well. This may be unpleasant or
pleasant, depending on the
character and upbringing of the dog and the relationship we have
with it. As we walk to the house, the dog will accompany us, either
leading of following and eager to know what will happen. As we approach
the house, the dog may bark louder, trying to defend its
territory. It often tries out who's in control: itself or we.
Once we have been invited in by the farmer or his wife, when we have
coats and are drinking a cup of coffee, we become aware of the
dozing in a corner or next to the stove. It may come to us for a hug,
or to sit on our lap. It will not seek us out; it shows signs of
activity only after we have been in the house for a
This brief description clarifies some
differences between the dog and the cat. The dog is outside a
roams the yard or the area that it is granted (by the boss or
other dogs). It walks along the perimetre, guards the grounds and barks
when an unknown person enters. If it recognizes someone
the greeting can be friendly or sometimes unfriendly. A dog tries
to see who's the boss: it or we. When it is given a command, the dog
follows it and often will not let go. A dog is not often in
the house, mostly just
to eat and rest (in its own basket). Dogs that live inside,
are walked (on a leash) by their owners several times a day. A dog is
easily trained, it can learn a lot and is a social animal.
A cat, given the choice, will go out a lot, too, but
only when it wants to. A cat is not walked on a leash. For hours on end
a cat may lie curled up, dozing in a self-selected warm spot. It will
not let itself be limited by its owner or by other
cats, although it will defend its territory. Regularly you may
find a cat in a tree or on the roof. It catches mice and other
animals that it takes inside. Sometimes it wants to curl up on our
lap. A cat can hardly be trained, it remains itself. By
nature it is a solitary
animal. It is said that a cat allows you to live with it and also: a
dog has a master, a cat servants.
point and circle
A cat can be compared with a point, a dog with a circle. The cat is the
point because it lies next to the stove, in the centre. That is how it
behaves: keeping to itself, keeping control. What it does,
comes from within. It is an obstinate, individual animal. In
the point is rest, everything comes to a halt and it is
closed, we have no access.
The dog is the circle, guarding the boundaries. In the
circle is movement and activity. It is open, we have access to
it. The dog learns easily and can be educated and trained. What
the dog does, is a reaction to what comes from outside.
Dog and wolf
The dog was domesticated from the (gray) wolf.
It is likely that domestication took place
approximately 15,000 to 30,000 years ago in East Asia, when man
gave up his nomadic existence, settled and became a farmer.
At that time wolves started to seek the proximity of
man and to eat from the food they wasted. Wolves
howl when an enemy approaches, so they also protected
the farmers. They tamed the wolf and the wolf adapted to the
farmers. During domestication, the facial skull
became shorter. In ancient Egypt dogs were often
used for hunting. Even species that we no longer know as
domesticated nowadays, such as cheetahs and hyenas, were held by the
Until 100 years ago dogs had to stay outside, where they slept in
doghouses. Especially in the last 200
years an explosive multiplication of breeding varieties has
Dogs have retained the social characteristics of wolves. They have a
social hierarchy, the pack, in which the place of each animal is fixed.
Because of that, dogs listen to their masters. And dogs can
learn a lot and adapt to many situations.
Cat and wildcat
The cat was domesticated from the (African) wildcat. Domestication
occurred in Asia
Minor, about 10,000 years ago. Cats were probably attracted by mice,
who did well on the grain of the newly settled farmers. The farmers
took kittens as pets in their houses and took care of them. The cats
got used to being fed by people and they domesticated themselves.
During this process the cat became tamer, but did not change
anatomically, nor its behaviour. Feral
cats can easily survive in the wild.
Dogs are domesticated, cats domesticated themselves. Through its
behaviour the dog is focused on its master
and wants to serve him. The cat moved in with man. The many
different breeds of dogs differ much more among themselves
than breeds of cats. Cats are what
they are, they do not change. Dogs respond to selection.
Variation in dog
and cat breeds
Norwegian forest cat
There is a wonderful story by Rudyard Kipling from his Just so stories
about the cat and the dog (and the horse and the cow) called The
that walked by himself.
(some data are from dogs)
A wolf is about 130 cm long, its shoulderheight is about 75 cm and it
has a tail of 40 cm. It weighs about 50 kg (all sizes and weights are
averages). The fur is gray-brown, darker on the back and pale gray
underneath. The colour is variable; light and dark subspecies
occur. There are 39 subspecies.
A wolf has a remarkably long body. Both head and skull, chest and tail
are long and narrow. The tail is held quite straight and is not very
flexible. The head is held high. It is fairly high on its legs and the
legs are quite apart
from the body. The legs with their relatively large, hard,
non-retractable claws are well suited for running. Wolves do not run
the exterior of wolves
wolves in the snow
They have an excellent sense of smell. They smell one million times
better than we do and they can perceive in which nostril the
scent is stronger and thus from which direction the scent comes. Smell
gives a quick response because there is a direct connection with the
brains. The smellbrains of a wolf represent approximately 10% of
the brains (in humans 1%). Because the smell is so strongly sensed,
wolves are led by their smell. Their hearing is also well
developed. The sense of sight is aimed at moving objects, and they do
not see red. Their color spectrum is shifted towards blue-violet,
compared with man. Taste is not well developed.
A dog has a bigger heart and much bigger lungs than a cat.
Wolves are carnivores and hunt medium to large animals such as deer,
elk, wild boar, sheep and ibex. Smaller animals like rabbits and mice
are caught, too. They start eating the viscera and organs, followed by
the muscles. In times of scarcity wolves will also eat carrion
and sometimes manure. Plants and berries are eaten as supplements to
diet. The digestive tract of wolves is 5 to 6 times the body length.
The blind gut is 8 to 30 cm long, much longer than that of the cat.
The jaw is relatively long. The canines are heavy and rather short.
Besides carnassials there are a few molars, that are blunter as those
A wolf hunts on scent, stalks its prey and tries to pounce on it.
If that does not succeed, it will pursue, usually no more than
a few km. The pack can also hunt indefatigably, but rarely does.
Wolves have great endurance. They like to swim.
Wolves live in packs - family groups consisting of one male and one
female with their
offspring. The pack lives and works together, all members help each
other when hunting. There is hierarchy in the pack; only the
leading animals can reproduce, although the lower-ranking animals will
seize the opportunity if it arises (when the leading animals are out of
sight). The lower animals are resigned
to their subordinate position. It is on this fact that the
coexistence of dogs with humans is based. A dog recognizes its master
or is its own. If leadership is not clear, it must be established
over and over again.
The European wildcat is a grey, lightly striped animal of about 60 cm
long with a shoulderheight of 35 cm. The tail of 30 cm is relatively
long. It weighs 6 kilos. There are five subspecies.
The body is agile. The skull is oval-round. A cat has relatively short
legs, that are somewhat inside the body. Cats move stealthily and stalk
They sprint and run for short distances only.
Their claws are retractable
and the pads of their feet are soft and sensitive which is why cats
move inaudibly. The tail is flexible and often moving.
wildcat with kittens
Cats have a very good sense of hearing, one of the best
among mammals. The
range is more than 10 octaves and goes higher than that of dogs. They
hear the ultrasonic sounds rodents make. The good hearing is enhanced
by the movable ears. The sense of sight is strong too.
They see well in the dark, because the light is reflected in
their eyes. Cats are red-green colourblind,
and they see moving objects best. The sense of smell is better
developed than in
humans, but less than in dogs. They have long whiskers on
their heads, with which they register the flow of air. Their sense of
balance is also well developed. They climb trees well and run
effortlessly along thin ridges and branches.
Cats eat pure animal food:
fresh meat and fish. They do not touch rotten meat, nor eat carrion.
Plant-material is eaten via the gut contents of prey. Sometimes cats
eat grass. They hunt mainly small birds and rodents, such as
mice. A cat
has a very short blind gut (2 to 4 cm). They have sharp carnassials in
the jaw, which is shorter than that of dogs. Cats have 2 molars per
half jaw less than dogs (the simplified
formula for the cat is: 3-1-3-1, and for the dog: 3-1-4-2).
Prey is mostly hunted through stalking. When a prey is sighted, the cat
stands still and can focus on it for a long time. From standstill
or from an ambush the cat jumps on its prey. The reflexes are fast. A
cat is a good jumper. It is a good climber, too, and comes down again
half sliding and falling. They can survive falling over great
distances. During the fall the legs always turn down. It is
said that a cat has nine lives.
Cats learn to hunt from their parents. The mothercat in our house came
in with a dead bird in her mouth when the kittens were a
little over 6 week old. She paraded in front of her kittens, put
the dead animal down and kept watching. At first the kittens were not
interested, but after a while one went over and tried
to get a hold on the bird. Without result. A while later, another
tried it and began to pluck the bird and began to eat a bit of it under
the approving eye of its mother. After that the mother brought in more
mice, sometimes a bird. When the kittens were 9 to 10 weeks, we heard a
half-dead mouse was brought in and the kittens played with it and
it. After that more half-dead mice followed, and a half-dead frog and a
squeaking bird. When the kittens were about 12 weeks, livings birds
were brought in. It was certainly intended that the kittens should kill
them, but they got no chance, as we rescued them and let them free
again. Outdoors the education goes on, not in our field of
educate their kittens in the same way, their task in hunting
Wildcats are animals that go their own way, for the most part they
live solitary. They spend a lot of time grooming themselves and getting
Cats have a larger brain volume, a smaller heart and smaller lungs than
dogs. The digestive tract is shorter and the stomach is bigger. The
blind gut (cecum) is very short. Cats have a lighter skeleton.
|length of intestines to body length
||5 - 6 x
||3 - 4 x
- small intestine - large intestine and cecum
||62 - 23 - 15%
||69 - 15 - 16%
Some data on dogs and
cats (in % or
‰ of bodymass, data from Flindt)
The skeleton of a
and a cat (right). The skeleton of the dog is straighter, that of the
cat more roundish (skull, spine, bent legs). The dog keeps its head
higher than the cat.
Dogs and cats are carnivores, animals that can be characterized as
rhythmical or heart-lung animals (see mouse
- lion - cow).
A cat stays itself, goes its own way, is obstinate and keeps its form
With the cat the roundness is visible: a round skull, a
round and agile body and tail and retractable claws. There are but a
few subspecies. Everything
seems to come from a centre.
A dog is open to its surroundings, is focused on its master, can learn
and we see much variation in breeds. The straightness is visible:
rigid body and tail, non-retractable claws, not very agile. A dog seems
react to what comes from the surroundings. Everything seems to come from the
When dog and cat are compared, we see that a cat lives out of its heart and
a dog out of its lungs. As the heart responds to inner
feelings and the lungs to what comes to us.
We also see that:
has features of the metabolic-limb system:
- a bigger, more rigid body, longer and more rigid
- a less agile way of moving, pursuer, greater
- a very good sense of smell,
- meat- and carrion eater, eats the bowels
- carnassials and not so sharp molars,
longer digestive tract.
The cat has
features of the nerve-sense system:
- a smaller, more agile body, round skull, short limbs,
- an agile way of moving, mobile tail, jumper, does not
- a very good sense of hearing and sight,
- pure meateater,
- scissorlike carnassials, bigger
We see also that the
cat climbs trees and the big dog/wolf likes to swim.
|head - rump length (cm)
|tail length (cm)
|sholder height (cm)
Measurements of wolf,
red fox, lynx and wildcat
and red fox
A relative of the wolf in Europe is the red fox. A red fox is 70 cm
long, with an extra 40 cm for the thick, bushy tail, which is
straight when the fox is moving. The shoulder height is 35 cm. On
average foxes weigh 6.5 kilo. Their colour is red-brown with a white
underside and white around the mouth. The lower parts of the legs
are partly black. There are 45 subspecies.
The body of a red fox is relatively long, compared to the wolf. The
snout is slender and
elongated. The tail is long and thick. The legs are shorter
and the claws are relatively smaller than those of the wolf. The
claws can be partially retracted.
red fox, overview
red fox buries prey
The heart of a red fox is relatively bigger than a wolf's heart.
The sense of hearing is well developed, the squeaking of a mouse can be
heard from a distance of a 100 meters, the flying of crows at 250-500
meters. They see well, but are mainly focused on moving objects. They
have a good smell, but less developed than that of dogs.
The canines are sharper and relatively longer than those of a wolf. The
digestive tract is relatively shorter.
A red fox is an opportunist and omnivore. It eats beetles, mice,
rabbits, chickens, eggs, fruit, carrion and garbage. Like the wolf, it
buries food and goes back to eat it.
A fox is a solitary hunter. It can run fast, but approaches its prey
stealthily and, just like a cat, can stand at a hole for a long
time, to jump on the prey when it appears. A fox is agile, hunts like a
cat, and is less of a pursuer than a wolf.
A fox can jump over fences of 2 meters. They are good
swimmers and climb trees well. Foxes have a burrow and
live in family groups of
6 animals, consisting of a leading male and female and a number of
subordinate females from previous litters.
The cunning of the fox is legendary. When a
fox wants to go into some place, he looks around until he finds a
place to go in, whether a hole in a fence or a place where he can dig
a tunnel, or he will find a place where he can jump in.
When we compare the red fox with the wolf, we see that the fox
has features that remind us of the cat, such as:
- sharper and longer canines
- a short digestive tract
- jumps and hunts as a cat
- climbs trees
- eats lighter digestible food
- small claws that are partially retractable
- a good sense of hearing
- a long tail
Hunting red fox
The lynx has a square
its measurements of
legs and body
The cat has a wild relative in the wooded parts of Europe: the lynx.
The Eurasian lynx has a body length of about 100 cm, a
shoulder height of 60 cm and a short "bobbed" tail of 15-20 cm. Its
weight is 22 kilo.
The back is just as long as the legs, so that a lynx has a square
The front legs are shorter than the hind legs. The claws are about
as big as those of the cat. The head is round and wide, partly due
to the broad whiskers. Compared with the cat, the lynx has longer
legs and a significantly shorter tail. The limbs are less withdrawn
into the body. There are 10 subspecies.
A lynx has a light reddish brown colour with a black tail end.
Scattered across its body are small dark spots. Especially the
limbs are clearly spotted. The chin and underside are light coloured.
Iberian lynx (no video of
a Eurasian or Canadian found)
Iberian lynx grooms itself
The sense of hearing is excellent. The sound of a mouse is
heard at 50 meters distance and a roe deer that passes by
is heard at 500 meters. On the ears are tufts of black hair, which play a
role in hearing (if they are removed, a lynx hears less and is
less able to determine where the sound comes from). The eyes are the
important sense organ. A lynx can spot a mouse at 75 meters, a hare at
300 and a roe deer at 500 meters. Like cats, lynx can see
well in the dark. Smell is not important when hunting. The lynx has a
good spatial memory.
Lynx live solitary and hunt primarily on birds, hares, roe deer and
chamois. Small animals are stalked and pounced, big ones are seized
from an ambush behind bushes or in trees. Large prey can be hidden and
eaten from for several days. Lynx also eat carrion. They pursue
more than cats to catch their prey. Chases of 200 to 300 meters of
rabbits and roe deer are often surprisingly successful.
When we compare lynx and wildcat, the lynx has features that
remind us of the wolf, such as:
- a shorter tail
- big claws
- long legs
- eating of carrion, heavier digestible food
- more a pursuer
Comparing wolf and
red fox as well as lynx and wildcat, we
see that the biggest animal has a shorter tail and relatively bigger
claws. The bigger animal is relatively shorter, and of
relatively bigger height.
Interestingly, wolf and lynx both have relatively larger claws than
red fox and cat. In the literature, the large claws of the lynx are
explained by the snow in which the lynx moves (much more than the cat)
and that the bigger claws make it easier to move about in snow. One can
reverse that. Because the lynx has larger claws it can move easier in
the snow than the cat. Why do wolf and lynx both have larger claws? The
lynx lives in snowy areas and the wolf often not; many foxes and
cats live in snowy areas, too. It turns out there is a rule
among felines and canines: the larger animal has relatively larger
When we enter the realm of a dog, he can bark considerably
Which can be friendly, too
It is only later that we detect the cat
It sometimes sits on our lap
In ancient Egypt people kept dogs and hyenas
Drawing of a cat in ancient Egypt
The fur is darker on the back than on the breast
The long skull of a dog
The canines are heavy
The nose is the most important sense organ
Wolves and dogs like to swim
a bison surrounded by a pack of wolves
Wildcats are grey with a few dark stripes and around the tail black
circles, the tip of the tail is black
The African wildcat has a more reddish colour than the European wildcat
Big ears, eyes that see well in the dusk, a wet nose and long whiskers
characterize the head of a cat
The round skull of a cat with long, thin canines
Cats like to groom themselves
Cats like to climb trees and to sit in them to watch birds
A red fox has a long body and tail. The upper parts are redbrown, the
underside is white, the legs are black at the claws
The slender head with big ears
Swimming red fox
Obvious are the tufts of black hair on the ears and the big claws
Wide whiskers make the head broad
The skull of a Eurazian lynx is round, in the jaw are big canines, that
are broad compared to the cat
The lynx swims too