Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
S27 Ep8

Why We Love Cats and Dogs

Premiere: 11/30/2011 | 00:00:30 | NR

Join an in-depth investigation into the great divide between dog lovers and cat lovers. Animal behaviorists, psychologists, trainers and devoted owners all weigh in.



About the Episode

Some people are cat people, some are dog people.  But regardless of which camp they fall into, most people are simply crazy about their pets.  The connections people form with their cats and dogs are often the longest, strongest relationships in their lives.  They are our soul mates, our best friends, sometimes even our surrogate children.  What makes these creatures such key members of our families?

Perhaps it’s because our furry friends have long provided us with comfort, camaraderie, and unconditional love. Cats and dogs are our unending source of kisses, cuddles, slobber, claws, and laughs. Watch as NATURE shares the stories of pet owners and their beloved animals. From a very special dog named Jerry, to a cat that saved a man’s life, Why We Love Cats and Dogs presents a portrait of some of the most powerful and remarkable connections we experience as humans—the unbreakable bonds with our pets.

Four-time Emmy Award winner, filmmaker and director Ellen Goosenberg Kent kept the 10-month production of NATURE’s Why We Love Cats and Dogs on the right track. Ellen brings a strong visual sense to the art of storytelling and was able to illuminate the dynamic human-pet relationship, revealing how dogs and cats share our emotions in many significant ways.


Director and Producer


Associate Producer

Music By

Director of Photography


Additional Camera


Director of Photography, Studio


Lighting Director

Key Grip


Art Director

Make Up Stylist

Sound Editor

Audio Mixer

Post Production

Production Assistants

Additional Footage Provided By

Jim Nelson & Rene Agredano
Patricia B. McConnell, PhD
Jon Katz
Julia Szabo
Vicki Croke
Brian Hare
Leslie Irvine
Pam Johnson-Bennett
Debra Decker, TICA
Diane Mollaghan
Lucinda Woodward
Dr. Arnold Plotnick
Jorge Bendersky
Howard Bedol
Carrie Neri
Laurel Rabschutz
Laurie Sullivan
Darlene Arden
Barbara Dille, Sawmill Kennel Club
Marianne Lah
Ellen & Stuart McKirdy & family
Dr. Robyn Faye
Donald & Jake Kent
Connie Howard & the staff,
Boulder Valley Humane Society
Veterinary Cancer Care Clinic,
Santa Fe, NM

With gratitude to everyone who shared their  stories, and their magnificent dogs and cats.


Series Editor

Supervising Producer

Senior Producer


Production Manager

Production Assistant


Audio Mixer

HD Online Editor

Offline Editor

Series Producer

Executive In Charge

Executive Producer

A Production of Thirteen and Golden Egg Productions in association with WNET.ORG

This program was produced by Thirteen, which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2009 WNET.ORG
All rights reserved

Web Credits


Production Assistance



Technical Director

Creative Director

Director of Digital Strategy

Director of Production


Photos for “Introduction” and “How to Enter” by Joe Sinnot © EBC.  Photo for “Interview: René Agredano Tells Jerry’s Full Story” courtesy of Jim Nelson and René Agredano.
Other images from Why We Love Cats and Dogs.

Thirteen Online is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York’s Kravis Multimedia Education Center in New York City. Dan Goldman, Executive Director, Bob Adleman, Business Manager.


[gentle music] [peaceful music] - [Speaker] Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!

- They bring out the softer side of me.

Does that sound weird?

- No, it doesn't sound weird. Well, thank god.

[both chuckle] - Oh, yeah, she likes this.

[owner blowing raspberry] - Cats have a staff and dogs have family.

[gentle music] - Dogs are sometimes some of the longest relationships we have.

- I just broke up with my boyfriend, and I said, you know, I just wish I could love you like I love Zachary.

- [Sarah] You are a classic soul mate type.

[dog grumbling] - We share a very special relationship.

We made dogs and cats who they are, and, in some ways, they fed back and influenced who we are.

- I would lock myself in this room and just drink all the time.

You know, humans couldn't even reach me at that point.

It was the cat that saved me.

- [Renee] A lot of people thought we were nuts when we sold our business and our house and said we were gonna travel for a while.

[owner barking] [dog barking] How far do you go for a dog?

[peaceful music] [gentle orchestral music] [singer vocalizing] [upbeat music] - Goose, here. Goose.

I have a cat and she lives life for herself, but she doesn't live life for me, and my Australian shepherds live life for me.

Cat people, I think, thrive on rejection.

Dog people are relationship builders.

- I think Izzy has given me something that I very much wanted, which is a way to use the dogs to connect more with people, to find more love, to find more intimacy, and to grow up more.

- I thought never I'd be that guy, but now I'm that guy.

I'm wiping butts. I'm doing it all.

I gotta find a girlfriend who likes to sleep with the dogs in the bed.

I mean, I'll do anything you want, ladies, but the dogs gotta sleep in the bed.

- I think dog people tend to be over-indulgent of their pets.

[dog growling] - I think I would give up my baby before I'd give up my dogs.

- Come on! Yay!

- A dog will run up to anybody and lick 'em.

You know, the deli guy comes over and the dog's giving him the same love he's giving me when he comes home, whereas this cat's not talking to anyone but me.

- I don't necessarily always want somebody banging down my door, you know, looking to be petted.

You know, I definitely get the unconditional love from Humphrey, but he's a little bit more subtle with it.

- Dogs are optimists and cats are kind of cynical.

Cats have a staff and dogs have family.

- If you don't like cats, you haven't made the time to know a cat, and so I think if you open up and look through that feminine window for 15 minutes.

- Is that the window we need to look through?

- That's the window we need to look through.

You don't have any trouble, especially with that shirt on.

[owner laughs] - Is that right, hm?

- A cat is a good judge of character.

There was somebody recently who was in my life, and the first time the cat saw her, he was like, dude.

You know what I mean? This person is trouble.

- She had two cats when we met, and then I came into the picture, and I don't think they really liked that.

- You mean they didn't like you.

- Yeah.

- One reason we love dogs, we see ourselves in them, and it is ourselves.

- I think, in our rush to make dogs just like us, we sometimes fail to appreciate what makes them different, and I think they're another tribe, I mean, they're not like us.

They have their own language, communication, and their own instincts, so I actually celebrate them for their differences.

I think what I really love about dogs and cats is that they're not like us.

- Oh, yeah, she likes this.

[owner blowing raspberry] - [Dog Owner] So, sometimes, she gets her tough self on and- - I'm Sarah Wilson.

I'm a professional dog trainer, and I am a lifelong student of the human-animal bond.

- Who's the best?

- Come on, Boo-boo.

- [Owner] Okay, here we go.

Ready? Hit it!

- Half the fun of going to the dog run is seeing the whole rainbow of dog owners and dog combinations.

[lively music] [dogs barking] - How many fingers?

[dog barking] - I am a singer, teacher, actress, and now he's following in my footsteps.

He's gonna be a performer too, right, Tiger?

[Lorraine sneezes] Good boy.

- People think that your eyes are the window into your soul.

Uh-uh, it's your dog.

It's how you deal with your dog.

It's how you praise your dog.

It's the way you interact with your dog.

- [Dog Owner] Come here, Poot!

- [Sarah] And it is a little cheat sheet into people's personality, because we're not guarded around our dogs.

- Ruby's defiance and stubbornness kind of took me by surprise.




Like right now, she's kinda like, I don't wanna.

It's sort of a blessing in disguise in that it's pointed to things that I need to work on in my own life.

- Like what are you thinking of when you think that?

- Some confidence.

- [Sarah] Right, you got what you needed.

Maybe not what you wanted.

- Yeah.

- Good job!

Come on.

- Through the years of being a professional dog trainer, I've seen patterns of behavior between owners and their dogs and I have identified nine of these patterns, and I see them all over and you will too.

We have the soul mate, the observer, the buddy, the idealist, the dynamo, the free spirit, the angel, the master, and the expert.

[dog barking] Kathy and Ross were angel types.

They want to save a dog. They don't want to control a dog.

They want to heal through love.

- This is Jasper.

- Yeah.

- He's a rescue.

- He has terrible separation anxiety.

- [Sarah] Okay, how does that display itself?

- He runs in circles and becomes hysterical if somebody tries to leave the apartment, anybody.

- [Sarah] When you've left and you come home, what's the situation?

Is he in a panic?

- No, he's actually sleeping.

- [Sarah] Yeah, so that's not separation anxiety.

It's fear when he's left alone.

- He will attack me or he will try to get between me and Kathy when we kiss.

- And you?

- I try and calm him down and reassure him it's okay.

- Tell him right now that it's okay.

- Jasper, come here.

Oh, what a good boy. It's okay.

Yeah, good boy.

- And now he thinks you praise him.

Every time he aggresses at Ross, he thinks he's being praised, and he goes, 'Well, okay, no problem, I'll do that.'

- He gets right between us and goes, 'I dare you to go near her.'

- And would anybody else on the planet get away with that?

- No!

[group laughs] - Dog owners that I would call angels classically have this problem.

I go in and commonly see people who are not having sex because of their dogs.

This happens because they're so loving with the dog, that they don't tell the dog to knock it off like they would anybody else.

Is this common?

- No. He's keeping my head warm.

- Because he's basically mounting you.

You are putting him in the mounting position, and you are putting a dog who aggresses at you in your own bed in the mounting position on your head.

Do you think that, in any way, might be confusing?

- Yeah, I'm sure that's really confusing.

- Okay, so why don't we dismount the dog? There we go.

- Okay, there he goes.

Okay. - Here's the leash, yeah.

Dogs are sometimes some of the longest relationships we have.

They'll be with us for 12 years, 13 years.

I think the average marriage now is, what, three and a half years?

- You're such a good boy.

This is what I call the dog of my lifetime.

You know, he has been my best friend.

He has been my Friday night companion when I didn't want to go out or couldn't go out or didn't have anyone to go out with, or whatever the situation was.

- You are a classic soulmate type.

You love to love him.

You want to be with him and you share things with each other.

- I actually say that.

I'm like, why do I love you so much?

And, like, it's just because.

Like, it's the kind of love that's uncomplicated.

It's just truthful.

- Dogs are what we call congruent.

They act the way they feel and they feel the way they act, which is one of the problems with people, right?

You don't always know what is going on, but they're authentic and you can trust that.

- I just broke up with my boyfriend and it was really mean, but I said, you know, 'I just wish I could love you like Zachary,' and I know that was really mean, but I meant it, and I couldn't, and I'm single, so, you know, it's just the way it is.

- Carlo is a classic buddy type.

He and his dog are a unit.

If you start talking about a relationship too much, most buddies get a bubble over their heads like, couldn't we go outside and play ball or do something more interesting than this?

- I want to take her everywhere I go, you know?

If I could take her to work, I would, you know?

- [Sarah] Totally.

- She just hangs out and she's just happy to be at my feet.

She's very low maintenance. Very, very low maintenance.

- She might make a great personal ad.

You knows exactly what you need.

Occupies herself, not too demanding, wants to do the outdoor thing.

- Yeah, you're making me think now that you said that.

It's kind of creepy.

[both laugh] - It's no surprise to me that we look for in a dog what we want in a best friend or another sort of companion.

Of course, because they are family, and they are that sort of companion.

- All right, calm down.

- [Sarah] With Carla and Jay, we have the master-observer combo.

- Tell her about the rules.

- Oh, well, most of the time when I am home with him alone, there aren't many rules.

As soon as the gate opens and Carla comes home, that's when the rules begin.

- He gets affection when I want him to have affection.

He has to ask to get up on the couch.

- I want to throw the toys for him, and then I will say that's enough.

Well, no, he keeps dropping it on my lap and pestering me until I keep doing it.

- And he can do what he wants in the house, but when we go out and about, I've got the leash.

- That's the master's deal.

They love through protection, and protection for them is control.

Jay just lets Rio be a dog and that's the observer type.

Were you an only or a double?

How many kids did you have in your family?

- I have three natural sisters and an adoptive brother and sister.

I am the oldest.

- And you were the responsible one?

- [Carla] Correct.

- And you?

- And, me, well, I was the middle child, so I was kinda just basically chasing butterflies all the time.

- See the linkages here at all?

[group laughs] - Yeah, a little bit.

- For years, we have been trying to get people to train their dogs and it hasn't helped.

Why? Because we're missing the point entirely.

It is not about that end of the leash.

It is about us. It is about our relational patterns.

It is about our perspectives.

[gentle music] - I am Diana Korten, and I live here with my two daughters, my five-year-old and my 10-year-old, and we are all cat lovers, which is a good thing since we live with six cats.

This is Little Bit.

Gussie is back here hiding because she is definitely the shyest cat of the whole bunch.

This is Helen.

Helen is my oldest cat.

[cat meows] She is the social pariah of my little cat colony here.

The other cats really don't like her.

Then here we have Henry.

Henry is my dear friend.

This is Ben, and this is Daisy.

[Daisy meows] She is my problem child, and the final, and I really mean the final, addition to the family.

[Daisy growls] Do you hear that? She's very crabby.

She's not crabby with people.

She's just crabby with other cats.

[cats hissing] [gentle music] - I am making a feast for the kitties with their food, and this is a little trick I like to do, and they really like it.

I pour some of the dry food in the little bowl.

- Well, the thing is that cats live together and it's not just an aggregation, which is a gathering of animals around a food source.

It's actually a society.

They can walk past another cat and just brush like this, and that means something much more.

It's less demonstrative than say a dog would be, so people missed it completely, because their signs are so subtle.

Recently, it has been shown that it's a time-sharing society.

- We think of territory in terms of square footage, while cats think of it in terms of paths, and they work everything on timeshare arrangements.

If one cat, like, this is their favorite place to sleep in the morning, another cat can have that place to sleep at night.

They really get along very well.

- I think I came up with a better idea.

- Yes.

I feel like the cats ask politely when they want something.

You know, rather than barking at you, they come and rub up against your leg when they want to be fed.

Do you like that salmon?

I just feel like it's a relationship of equals.

When I'm around dogs, they dominate me.

They just boss me around.

They don't see me as an authority figure.

'The three little kittens.'

- [Family] 'They lost their mittens, and they began to cry.'

- I love the anticipation of little feet at night.

I love the sound of purring. [cat purring] - [Family] 'We have washed.

What? Washed your mittens?'

- Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!

I love just the feel of their fur.

It's a pleasure to just touch them and stroke them.

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!

They come. You know, they come and they comfort you.

I did a lot of crying during my divorce.

I don't know how I would have survived if it wasn't for these cats.

One of the thing that's been such a godsend for me about Ben is April has Opposition-Defiance Disorder.

Basically, that means that even if you say, 'April, you want to go get some ice cream?'

She'll be like, 'No!'

[cat purring] She'll get into one of her tantrums, into one of her states, and the best thing to do to calm her down is just to bring her Ben.

- Aw, Ben-Ben.

- The way that he loves her so absolutely makes me feel like this cat was made for that girl and that girl was made for this cat.

[cat purring] [crickets chirping] - We share a very special relationship with dogs and cats, for example, because we co-evolved.

We made dogs and cats who they are, and in some ways, they fed back and influenced who we are.

The fundamental ingredient is shared emotions.

We share all the nitty-gritty parts of the brain, and we share all the neuro-chemicals and all the neuro-transmitters, but most importantly for most people is we share their emotions.

[gentle music] We now know that animals have what are called mirror neurons and mirror neurons allow us to mirror in our own brains the feelings and the emotions of another animal.

It's revolutionized the field.

Mirror neurons can be looked at as the neural basis for empathy, and that's just very important in the formation and the maintenance of the strong social bonds that we form with dogs and cats and they form with one another.

So, it crosses species, but it also works within species.

[peaceful music] [gentle music] - Jerry has been with us through the most important part of our lives.

We got him soon after we got married, bought our first house, started a business.

God, we went whole hog, and we were working every day for 12 hours a day, and Jerry was always with us because we always worked out of our home office.

[toy squeaks] We used to call him the CFO, the Chief Fun Officer.

- [Jim] Or the Canine Fun Officer.

- [Rene] Or the Canine Fun Officer, yeah.

- He would come at 4:30, five o'clock.

He would know what time it was. He would nudge the keyboard.

He would go on hikes and he would, you know, run and play and swim way out in the back country.

Five, six years went by where he was just the most playful, friendly part of the family.

Our last hike, just a couple weeks after that, he started limping, and they said it was arthritis, so we put him on a drug.

A couple weeks went by, took him off the drug, and he was limping worse.

I pressed on his shoulder one night, I'll never forget it, and he just let out a yelp like it was bloody murder.

There was a tumor about the size of a mango growing inward, so we didn't see it through his fur.

- [Rene] Yeah, you couldn't feel it.

- And the doctor said, 'Sorry to say, but it is cancer,' and we were put on the spot.

Amputate and he will have a bit longer to live, or medicate him.

- If he could have a good quality of life on three legs, even if it was just a few months, that's all that mattered.

A lot of people look at a dog with three legs and just think, 'That's terrible.

Why would you do that? Dogs are meant to have four legs.'

Going to the hospital.

- The doctor told us, 'He's already on three legs.

Doing this will get rid of his pain.'

At that point, it was just, you know, a no-brainer, because, you know, I want more time with Jerry.

[gentle music] The doctor told us he had three to four months to live.

The routine that Jerry didn't like was waiting all day for us to play with him.

[peaceful music] So we decided to take this road trip to see new places with him, and take him out into the wilderness where he loves to be, and our life just took this 180 and it was all about Jerry, [owner barking] [dog barking] And here we are 14 months later.

He just wants to play, play, play.

He says let's go.

[dog barking] - [Rene] The snow, look! Snow, oh my God!

- We decided we're not gonna put him through any chemotherapy treatments and not to do x-rays every few weeks like they said we could do to see if something was coming back.

We decided it was better not to know.

I figured he would let us know when he was sick.

We knew the signs.

He would stop eating. He would get lethargic.

You know, I want to see Jerry playing and enjoying life until that happens, and when that time comes, by all means, man.

[peaceful music] - [Rene] A lot of people thought we were nuts when we sold our business and our house and said we were going to travel for a while.

How far do you go for for a dog?

- Time's up, Jerry.

- I mean, he's not a kid, he's not a human, but he means so much to us.

I can't picture our lives without him.

[peaceful music] - I am actually an equal opportunity pet lover, animal lover, because I love dogs and cats equally, but in different ways.

Years ago, I met a psychic who explained this to me that dogs and cats feed into different parts of our personality.

Dogs are emotion, and they also wiggle a lot, and cats are the mind.

Living with dogs and cats under one roof certainly has some challenges involved.

- She's the older sister, and he is sort of like the dorky little brother, who, you know, wants to just always be around her.

- We always make that joke that it's like the high school senior, high school freshman thing.

- Yes!

- You know, it's like it's Katy's sweet 16, and she doesn't quite know if Stabler is cool enough yet.

- To be invited.

- To hang out.

[upbeat music] - Dogs and cats can be natural enemies, but you can raise a puppy and a kitten together and they will form this amazing, tight bond.

[upbeat music] [dog grumbling] A cat between two weeks to seven weeks is in a critical period of development, so if you take a cat who has been socialized to dogs and then that cat is subsequently later in life, in six months, introduced to a bunch of people who happen to have dogs around, the cat goes, 'Oh, hey, you know, slap me four.'

[dog barking] They can still have a bad experience if one of the dogs starts chasing them.

They go, wow, you know, that's a bad one, but it's not like a class action suit against all dogs.

- Trouble thinks it's a dog, since it's been raised with dogs, and it fetches and it tries to eat the dog food.

[upbeat music] - Emily and Charlie are literally best friends in the house.

I have eight cats all together.

Emily the dog is also like a Florence Nightingale.

I mean, if I have a sick cat, she comes over and she licks their ears.

She makes sure that I medicate them correctly.

She's the caretaker of the family.

[upbeat music] - There is a phenomenon called concaviation, dogs and cats that will cleave together in ways that are sort of almost maternal or brotherly or sisterly, so there are all these blends from chasing and toleration and reading body language, to even those very close, almost romantic relationships.

[upbeat music] - Charles Darwin, the famous biologist, said that differences among animals are differences in degree, rather than differences in kind, which means that the differences among animals are like shades of gray, not black and white.

I think one of the reasons that we feel so in-sync with dogs and cats, but dogs in particular, who tend to be more playful as a species, is because we can reciprocally play with them, because we can share the emotion, and there is no doubt that play is really, really fundamental to the development and the maintenance of the bond.

[upbeat music] The main thing that I have observed is that they play fairly.

We call it wild justice.

[upbeat music] They cooperate with one another, they forgive one another when they bite too hard, they apologize, and say, 'I'm sorry I bit you too hard.'

So I think it is something about the equity, the justice, the fairness, the cooperation that really attracts us to dogs and cats and other animals.

[whimsical music] [dog barking] - Aw, I love this cat.

Hello. I want to meet you.

- [Mother] There he is! Good boy!

Hey, buddy!

- [Worker] Well, it looks like we're gonna free Willy today.

- Traditionally in shelters, an adopter would walk in the door and they'd have a picture in their minds of what they wanted for that pet.

We know you come in with expectations, and those expectations are more than just a breed.

It's about the behavior in that breed, that I want a dog that's gonna play ball with me, or I want a dog that's gonna cuddle with me at night.

- [Worker] Hi, guys. My name is Jennifer.

- Great, Mary. Nice to meet you - Mary, it's nice to meet you.

- Angel, nice to meet you.

- Angel, it's wonderful to meet you. Well, this is Sasha.

- I'm single, and I own my own business, and I just have that empty void.

I have friends, like she's a great friend, but I can't, you know, have her constantly and smother her, you know?

- You scored in the orange category, and Sasha is also an orange.

Kind of a middle of the road in terms of exercise and training requirements.

- Okay.

I'm trying to better my life, and I thought about a cat, but I'm like, I'll just do the same thing, sit and watch TV, not do anything, eat.

I want a dog that will motivate me to wake up earlier, go running, and be more active.

We need to do this at least twice a week.

- Yeah, and then we'll get exercise.

- [Mary] Let's get Sasha a boyfriend.

[both laugh] - You as the adopter come in. You fill out a survey.

That survey color-codes you either purple, orange, or green.

Animals that are within your color code are most likely to match based on your expectations and the dog or cat's behavior.

[family laughing] - Look at you!

- [Emily] We do an assessment on the dogs, where we look at play behavior, we look at how hard the dog will work for something, and from those assessment items, we determine that dog's canineality.

- What a good girl!

Good girl!

- We have the purple dogs, the orange dogs, and the green dogs.

Those are based on what we call the persistence scale.

- [Worker] Come here, buddy. Do you want a treat?

- How hard is this dog gonna work for what he wants?

- [Worker] Come here, Sky. Sky.

- Purple dogs won't work very hard for something that they want.

If they don't get it easily, they're just gonna give up and go lay down.

Our orange dogs are our medium persistence dogs.

These behavioral traits stay fairly stable in the home.

Finally, our green dogs are very, very persistent, and will likely learn how to get what they want.

- Okay, whoa. Sit.

[dog barking] - [Emily] One of the ways that we determine the canineality, the individual name that that dog ends up with, whether he's a Busy Bee or a Goofball or a Wallflower, is his motivation type.

- [Adopter] You're a goofball.

Oh, I would have guessed that.

- Good boy. That's a good boy.

- [Emily] We have some dogs that are socially motivated.

They want to pay attention to us a lot.

- Hi!

Do you want to play?

- [Emily] We have dogs that are internally motivated by stuff that we can't easily manipulate.

[upbeat music] - Go get it!

- And then dogs that we call externally motivated, so they're motivated by lots of different things, food and toys and people.

- Oh, is that yours now?

- He is definitely a go-getter.

He's got a lot of energy, so he's gonna need a lot of attention.

- A lot of- - I definitely think it's too much dog, definitely.

- [Husband] Okay, well, maybe we can- - It's too much.

- Maybe this is too much for us.

- Yeah, he's a good dog, but I don't think so.

- In the U.S., between five and seven million companion animals enter our shelters every year.

Of those, 60% of the dogs and between 70 and 75% of the cats never leave.

They're euthanized.

[cat meows] With the 'Meet Your Match' program, we can actually decrease returns by more than half, so the reason for this program becomes very clear.

[cat meows] - 'Hi, my name is Fluffy.

If you're working on the computer, let me help press the keys.

If you're reading the paper.'

We are here to adopt Fluffy, Itzy's little sister.

We adopted her last week, and we found out that her sister was here, and we just want to give her a home too, or we want to at least look at her and see if we want her.

- [Bill] It would be interesting to see what would happen when we get her home with the other one.

- We lost Nobody in February to cancer, and then in September, we lost Somebody, and then in December, when we lost Anybody too, we had her cremated and we have all their remains and we have them in cat urns and they're on our fireplace.

They're always going to be with us, and- - I guess we're weird.

- We just love our cats - While Itzy was in the shelter, she went through the same exact assessment that Fluffy went through, and they both came out as orange cats.

Fluffy told us in her assessment that she's even more social than Itzy.

She's what we would call a gregarious cat.

- I'm hoping that this one will become my cat, because Itzy has adopted Bill.

- [Bill] There's not room for two on my lap.

- [Mother] Melvin.

- Melvin.

- Let's see.

'Like all sidekicks, I'm just plain good company.

I like attention, but I also like my solitude.'

Which is good.

- [Daughter] He likes what?

- [Mother] He likes his solitude.

It means he likes being alone.

- Oh.

- For our cats, we actually use the same colors, purple, orange, and green, but they mean different things.

We're looking at something that we call valiance.

Some might call it confidence. It's really shy versus bold.

[gentle music] [cat meows] The assessor just watches the interaction of the cat around the room.

How is the cat moving about?

Is his body tall? Is his body low?

[gentle music] What amount of time does he spend interacting with the assessor?

[gentle music] We also have another scale.

It's the independent-gregarious scale, and, there, we're looking at social behavior.

We pick the cat up and we hold him up against our body.

There's a lot of cats that enjoy touch, but don't like to be held, so that's great information for our adopters.

[gentle music] We just simply stroke the cat and we give them five long strokes.

[gentle music] Cats that get fairly over-stimulated towards that touch or move away from the touch are cats that are not as likely to do well with children.

[gentle music] - Here we go.

So this is Melvin.

Melvin is actually an orange kitty.

He is what we call a sidekick.

He was a stray. It looks like somebody brought him in.

- [Mother] How long ago?

- He's been here about a month, quite a while.

You know, he is an adult gray cat.

They tend to stay longer than most, probably second to our black cats.

- You know, the other one we were looking at was black.

- [Worker] Oh, you're being cute.

- Melvin.

- There could be 80 cats to choose from on the adoption floor, and in some shelters, even more than that.

So it helps. It makes it fun.

I'm narrowing down my focus.

'I'm a purple person, so I'm gonna focus on a purple cat.'

- Puck is more of a purple range.

Purple cats are probably gonna hide a little bit more.

They take a little bit longer to adjust to new situations.

- I think I'm leaning more towards Melvin.

- Yeah.

- Yeah?

- Once you make that decision to bring an animal home, it can be heart-wrenching to have to bring them back.

Having realistic expectations about your pet wilL increase the bond.

- We're almost home now, buddy.

- The animal is gonna be much more likely to stay in the home, and that means that more lives can be saved in shelters.

- I love her. I want to take her home.

- You want to adopt her? - Absolutely, yes.

- [Worker] Wonderful.

- Willy, come here.

Come on, boy. Come on.

Come on, up here.

- [Family Member] Come on, buddy. There you go.

- Come on, buddy. Oh, come on.

Up here, up here.

- [Family Member] There you go! Good boy!

- Good job, buddy!

- Brian gets home from work, he lies in the bed, he gets in his comfy shorts and T-shirt, and he lies there, and Miles jumps on his chest, purrs, gives kisses, and that's decompression time.

That's 15 minutes of just leave me alone, only Miles.

- Every day.

- Every day. It's like their male bonding.

I get a little jealous.

- They bring out the softer side of me.

Does that sound weird?

- No, that doesn't sound weird. Well, thank God.

[both laugh] - What do you think?

- There is nothing like that direct eye to eye contact I have with this cat than I have ever encountered with another animal, and I dare say with some humans.

There is a soulfulness.

There is a depth of spirit here that I think cats own uniquely.

- It was the cat that saved me.

I mean, if you want me to get real personal about it.

I would lock myself in this room and just drink all the time, all day long, you know?

And I would come out, and the kitty, humans couldn't even reach me at that point.

When I was at my bottom, it was the cat who would wait outside that door for eight hours 'til I'd come out, and then he'd look at me just 'cause he wanted to walk over to eat with me.

You know, his big thing is he likes me to sit with him and eat.

He likes the nourishment not just from the food, but he likes the companionship, ever since he was a kitten, and it was having to look him in the eye, knowing what I was doing to myself, that got me to seek help for that problem and not isolate.

[lively music] - I have always had cats in my life.

I have a cat currently named Smokey, and I'm kind of a one-cat person.

I've never had more than one at a time.

When I met Diana's cats, they came running up to me, and they have quite distinct personalities.

It'll be visuals with the pictures of the animals and then commentary.

- Are you talking about your pet project?

- Right.

- Did you bring that CD?

- [Ken] I did.

- [Diana] Can we listen to it?

- [Ken] Sure, sure.

- Okay, come on.

In western culture, the cat is so associated with the feminine, and I think that men who have gotten in touch with their cat selves tend to be a little more emotionally in tune.

[bright orchestral music] Ken is so emotionally involved with his animals that he has composed musical portraits of them.

[bright orchestral music] - I find animals to be a very great stimulant to creativity.

Smokey in particular is a very affectionate creature, and he sits at my feet when I write music.

He is definitely a muse and one of the finest ones that I have ever had, and that's one of the main reasons I felt like I wanted to do this minor tribute to show some of my regard for these wonderful creatures and how they have enriched my life.

[bright orchestral music] - I have an old saying that, if you teach a cat one new trick every month, because of the communication that's building between the cat and the owner, behavior problems eventually will melt away.

- [Owner] Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.

[water splashing] - We preach with dogs that people should spend more time training, doing agility.

Well, the cat is no different.

The cat needs that same interaction.

It will benefit from it.

It definitely needs exercise.

It needs something to think about, not just the next meal.

[bright music] - This weekend, we are at the International Cat Association's big annual cat show.

I've brought eight cats today, and all eight of them are gonna participate in agility.

How they do, I don't know.

[crowd chattering] - Here's the deal.

See this? You go over it.

Yeah, like that.

[cat meows] - This is Slick Willy.

He's a little six-month-old Cornish Rex.

He's my best shot for the weekend.

- [Owner] Come on, come on, come on!

- My parents, when they first heard I was gonna do this, they said, 'Oh no, I don't think so, Shirley, you know?

They're cats. They're not dogs.'

And I said I really think that they have the potential.

[birds chirping] [gentle music] When I first started working with the cats, what really amazed me was how responsive they were.

I thought you fed your cat and played with it a little bit, then went off and trained the dog, but here was a cat that, when I said sit, was sitting.

When I put it on a leash, was walking with me on a leash, and I thought, oh, this is pretty fantastic.

Okay, good boy.

Everybody did that with their puppy, it was common, but nobody did it with kittens, and we found out that, the more we did with the cats, the more trainable they were.

[gentle music] - People underestimate the cat.

When we put a cat in the ring and people see the cat moving and see the entire interaction of the cat with the owner, regardless of the age of the owner, it's like an epiphany.

Where have we been?

How come we've been wasting so much time?

[crowd chattering] [whimsical music] [crowd laughs] - I don't think I could train cats, because I really don't have that much patience.

[crowd laughs] You want them to go this way, they go this way, or go under when they supposed to go in.

[crowd cheering] - A lot of people think you can't train cats.

Well, that's wrong.

If you're training with the flow, an animal to do what it does, for a cat to engage those aspects of predatory behavior, the leaping, the springing, the following, you know, now you're working with nature.

[crowd chattering] - Now, see how I'm making him do everything correctly?

I'm not worried about any speed, but it's most important to get him to do it right the first time.

If I see him going off to the side, I bring him back around and come back to forward.

So, see how he's just following that target stick?

[gentle music] That was my fault.

Did you see what I did?

I cued him back before his shoulder was past.

I have to wait 'til the shoulder comes in.

The shoulder comes through, come back to this side, the shoulder comes through, then I go over here.

Good boy.

- A couple years ago, if somebody would have said I'd be at cat shows on the weekends and driving hundreds of miles, I would have said they were crazy.

- He used to drive a concrete truck and loved big dogs.

Now he loves cats. - Now I love cats.

[Shannon chuckles] They're almost like two-year-old children.

They miss nothing. Nothing is old to them.

- Oh, she's sniffing.

They like to sniff everything and then they'll go.

- When you bring a cat into a place like this and there has been a cat just beforehand, the next cat's gonna come in, and while he's thinking about his exercises he's been trained to do, there's, 'Oh my goodness, there's another cat and it was a female, and I wonder what it had for breakfast?'

And, you know, all these different signals going on, and the owner goes, 'Come on, you can do it at home.'

- [Owner] Okay, let's go to agility.

- When an owner spends their time interacting with their cat in the form of training, agility and other things like this, it empowers both sides of the equation, since that the owner now realizes that they can train their cat, which is a revelation that gets them new respect for their little furry friend, but also the cat sees that owner as being somebody that they can potentially communicate with.

- You are perfect, so show it.

Ready? Are you ready?

Let's go.

Come on, Rusty! Go, go, go, go, go, go!

- It's interesting to see how the motivation is different.

It's not for the cookie. It's not for the petting.

It's because they want to have fun.

- [Owner] Let's finish off with a bang! Yay!

- [Adriana] Here, you see the soul of a cat.

- Good boy.

[bright orchestral music] - The first time, he went through it in 19 seconds, and then he broke his record in 15 seconds, so he's really done very well for a Persian, because they're usually thought of as kind of a dumb cat.

[crowd cheering] - You can't force a cat to do anything.

Everything has to come because they want to do it, and the end reward for us is them doing what we want them to do.

- You're such a good man.

- He does everything with me.

Whatever I want to do, he's willing to do it.

He is my true other half.

Now go out and find me a man, dude.

[cat meows] [Alisa chuckles] [gentle music] - There we go, yeah.

- Our relationship with dogs and cats is a tricky one.

On the one hand, it's very unequal and asymmetrical, we control them totally, but when we provide them with enriched lives, like we do agility training, or we take them running, or let them swim or play hide and seek, or whatever game, it enriches their life, and what's in it for them is they enjoy it.

They enjoy being challenged.

The fact that other animals have rich and deep emotional lives, and they're smart, and they're moody, and they have personalities, means we need to respect them and appreciate more who the animals are.

- Hey, she taught me how to love, actually.

You know, I never thought that I would get that from a dog.

- I remember laying in bed at one point, and I just was watching something on television, about a story, someone didn't survive what I was diagnosed with, and I just kind of broke down under the pressure, and he literally came in from the other room, jumped up on the bed, and just kind of put his head on my chest, like he really knew just to be there with me and stay with me.

- Things in my personal life went south very fast, and I lost a lot of things that were really important to me, and, almost overnight, yeah, I know.

Almost overnight, he transformed into this incredible creature who just wasn't nearly so goofy anymore, and he chose me, and that's when I feel like the partnership started.

- I started using Skyler in my creative visualizations, and so I would send him in, I would imagine that the HIV were mice, and I would send Skyler in to go get the mice, and, you know, this is back when we had no real therapy, and I don't know how much stock you can put in it, but I did well and other friends did not, and so I really do credit Skyler with me doing as well as I have, and I'm sorry that he's gone, but he's still here.

He still helps me and all of that.

[peaceful music] - To see Jerry in his element in places like this really gives me a kick.

You go, Jerry, go!

[Jerry barks] What?

- And we've been able to do that.

We've been to so many spectacular places in the last year.

- It was just about living in the moment like dogs do and taking every day by day and trying not to fear about what's coming.

That was bone cancer.

- [Rene] That's why he has three legs, but he does great.

- In the meantime, we are just kind of traveling around with him and showing people.

- Yes, honey, huh?

- I have a Golden Retriever Rottweiler, and he's 11 years old.

It's the same leg as Jerry's.

- I cut out a cartoon the other day and put it on the inside of our mirror, and it's the writer looking at his watch, saying, 'What time is it?'

And the dog says, 'Now, now, now, now, now.'

And he says, 'Dogs always know what time it is.'

[peaceful music] - [Rene] Last week, we went to see my family in Los Angeles, and Jerry needed some heartworm medication, and the vet was great, but he really encouraged us to get x-rays done.

- We found a clinic in New Mexico near where we were gonna be for the next month.

So how far is the campground from the clinic?

- [Rene] Not very far. It's like a half hour.

His appointment is at nine, so we gotta get up at a decent hour.

- [Jim] We need to be on the same page about what we're willing to do, and not do is more important, and me, personally, I don't wanna put him through an operation if that's possible.

- [Rene] No, I agree, I agree.

- [Jim] I don't wanna go back for chemo repeated times if that's an option.

Are you with me there?

- [Rene] I'm with you. I'm with you.

- [Jim] I want to stick by my guns and do it for him.

We could go to the lengths and spend all the money just so we can have more time for us with him.

I'd rather have more quality time for him with us.

- So his one remaining front leg is up here, head's up this way, and then his tail is down here, okay?

And, at this point, from what I can tell on these x-rays, I'm most concerned about two different spots, not just one.

There's one main mass here, and then there is this additional thing, which is really hard to see.

You know, by nature of him having tumors in his lungs right now, the average survival time is about two and a half months, okay?

And that's without any treatment, and I know that's hard to hear, without any treatments at all.

Now, if we decide to go down this route, I have used this for I would say about five or six years now, this sort of option, I would say that a good outcome in his case would be six months, okay?

- Wow.

- [Vet] And that's him feeling good.

I don't want him six months sick.

I want him six months feeling good, being his normal Jerry self, you know, and maybe being a little tired on walks here and there, and that's fine, you know?

- As she was standing there, explaining our options, I just kept thinking, why?

Why didn't I do this sooner?

Maybe that tumor wouldn't be there.

- And I know it would still be there, and it would come back eventually.

Going to clinics back and forth wouldn't have been worth it to me.

Is there any sort of self-administered euthanasia, or is it, to do it right, you need someone to do that?

- Yeah, you need to have a veterinarian do that, but what you can do is, if you see he's starting to get worse, is that you can add in more pain medication to keep him as pain-free and as comfortable as you can, exactly.

You have such an incredible bond with him that you just need to look in his eyes and he'll let you know.

He'll let you know.

- You ready to go? You wanna?

You wanna go?

[Jim chuckles] [peaceful music] [traffic roaring] He's spoken to me in my dreams lately as if he knows what's coming and he doesn't care.

As if he's protecting us.

I had a dream that we were walking in the forest, and the big bad wolf came and he was gonna eat us, and it was getting scarier and scarier, but Jerry chased him off, and that wolf wouldn't come near us.

In a perfect world, we would see this beautiful stretch of land after a long, long time on the road with Jerry.

We would see him run on it.

He'd get to live there and eventually be put to rest there.

- Now you're gonna make me cry.

It blows me away, it really does, the fact that he was able to get us out here.

- Tired, Jerry?

- [Rene] You know, it came in an unpleasant way with the cancer, but there's always a silver lining with everything, and this is what it is with cancer and Jerry.

[gentle music] - The dog has taught me to respect life.

The dog sees things differently, hears things differently.

It's a different world.

- They're wild, they're still wild, and they bring that back to us.

- All I know is, that day in the shelter, he came and he almost sat on my head.

He was like, 'Hi, I'm here, and I'm gonna give you another chance,' meaning me as a representative of the human race, so that is an amazing, amazing gift.

- He would remind me constantly of what it was that I was striving for, which was a healthy, conscious life, you know?

So, in that way, he was a zen teacher.

- Their love mends my soul when I'm ill, and when I get home from the hospital, I get well faster when I'm surrounded by them.

- You're under the covers and the world is horrible, but they have to be walked, so you drag yourself out of your bed, and you don't drag yourself out of your grief, but you drag yourself out of your bed and you go outside and you walk them, and they have gotten you back into the world and they have gotten you back into a really beautiful part of the world where there's air and sun and sensations, and you come back to life.

They really bring you back to life. They do.

[bright orchestral music] [gentle musical jingle]


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.