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My Dog Thinks He's a Cat!

Lazarus, a stout Pit Bull, displays a host of catlike behaviors. It's getting a little weird.

 |  Jan 9th 2013  |   9 Contributions


By now, you may feel like you're on intimate terms with my dog, Lazarus, as he's been the subject of not just one, or two, but three recent Dogster articles. Well, um, there's more. In the interest of full TMI disclosure, indulge me while I tell you some Laz lore you didn't know: He's a closet feline impersonator.

Yes, my Spanish-speaking perro seems to think he's a gato.

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Cat and dog look out of window by Shutterstock

When I first brought Lazarus home with a hardcore case of heartworm disease and a bit of a dog-aggression issue, I kept him apart from my other dogs. He was sequestered in the cat wing of my apartment to keep him calm and enable his parasite-infested ticker to heal as quickly as possible.

I suppose that spending all that quality time with the pussy posse taught Laz a thing or two. For starters, how to "go" in the apartment (it took me a long time to reprogram this dog to stop believing that, where elimination is concerned, what's okay for the cats is also okay for him).

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Lazarus in his crate, playing with a cat toy and a marrow bone.

From his feline role models, Laz also learned how to groom himself fastidiously, how to curl up on tucked forepaws like a dainty nesting hen ... and how to saunter casually across the coffee table. He values the cats' organic catnip toys on par with his own beef marrow bones, curling up with both playthings as his twin security blanket. He's a funny one.

Then, just the other day, Laz outdid himself by jumping up onto the windowsill, which happens to be wide enough to accommodate his cute canine behind. I was charmed -- but the development did give me pause.

Is Laz hoping to be a candidate for species reassignment surgery? Does his catlike behavior indicate an identity crisis or a case of doggie dementia? For an answer, I went to the expert: the renowned Dr. Peter Borchelt of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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Laz perched on the windowsill, doing his best cat impersonation.

"Some dogs that live with cats will start displaying catlike behavior -- it's a form of mimicry or social synchrony," Borchelt explains. "Dogs, after all, evolved from highly social animals, and going with the flow is, to some extent, good for social cohesion. In the absence of other dogs, or in the presence of a cat that the dog really likes, a dog may sometimes start acting a bit, at times, somewhat like that cat. Moreover, a really smart or observant dog might figure out that the cats' sitting on the owner's lap looks like a nice thing to do, and so joins in."

Aha! No wonder Laz has been pouncing on my lap more than usual of late. It's just part of his carefully crafted feline drag routine.

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Lazarus with one of his feline siblings.

"Cats, having evolved from a less social carnivore, may be less likely to mimic dogs," Borchelt adds, "but if they really like a dog, they may show catlike play, grooming or 'cuddling' behavior." Unhappily for poor Laz, as we've seen, the cats aren't cozying up to his canine energy.

So, now for the $64,000 question: Has Latino Laz lost his mind? I was relieved to hear the doc's diagnosis: "A cat or dog only needs to be 'adjusted' if there is a real problem," Borchelt concludes. "[What you describe] is not such a problem." Phew!

Does your dog have catlike quirks? Please share in the comments!

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