julie: on cats and dogs

Cats and dogs.  Where to start?  I could write a daily column on tips and stories about cats and dogs for the next couple years and still not have said it all.

For most of my life, I have always had at least a cat or dog, always plural cats and not as often a dog as well.  Which got me to thinking about those quizzes you see all the time, “If you were an animal, would you be dog or a cat?”  Or, more specifically, the ones that are all over now to help people be responsible owners from the start that help you decide, “Are you more compatible with a dog or a cat?”  There are, of course, the ones that ask, “Are you a cat or a dog,” or “Are you starting to look like your dog?”  While thinking about all these things we ask ourselves and each other about cats and dogs, I found  the answer to the other thing this topic got me thinking about which is why is “cats and dogs” a category?  I mean, why no quizzes asking, “If you were an animal, would you be a Banana Slug or a Coyote?”  I know, one of those is a bug, but just like cats and dogs, they are both, they are all, animals of various groups and species.  And there is no species called “cats and dogs.”

Or maybe there is.  It is called, “our most common pets.”  The reason that they have their own category is us, the owners.  When talking about cats and dogs, we are as much talking about ourselves as about these animals who belong to a category that often has the sub-title of “my baby.”  Oh, there is one quiz I forgot to mention, “Are you more compatible with cats and dogs or humans.”  I always score, “with cats and dogs.” And I should also mention that I am quite aware of this fact.  The clean  freak I lived with was a member of a category that normally makes me a little nervous and therefore I know little about, “people who grew up without pets and have never had one as an adult and now are trying to like it.”  I’m not sure if it’s an absolute, but to move past just being really clean into being freakishly clean, there probably is a no-pet upbringing in that past.  Some people who have grown up with a home full of animals do get very clean conscious when they are out and on their own, but there is a huge difference.

There are all the usual things that are noted about cats and dogs and what about each makes a person choose to choose, or own, or very often, “parent” one or the other.  I have often found myself saying I would love to have another dog “if.”  “If” I had more room is one of those “ifs”.  But there are small dogs.  I never was too fond of small dogs in general, but then my son and I inherited one and I just adored him.  But given my choice, I like bigger dogs.  I like a dog who will protect me.  Small dogs, it’s true, often make enough noise to stop a lot of could be bad situations, but while I would really want a dog who could handle the situations that barking doesn’t stop, the fact that I have really no fear of anyone ever coming into my current apartment would mean that if I wanted one enough, I would get a smallish dog.  It’s the other “if” that I think is the one that really intrigues me.  It’s the one that has to do with having that kind of life.  I think I see it about being grown up, about being responsible in a way that cats do not require.  Having a dog is being settled.  It’s permanent, a permanent commitment of a specific kind.  Not that cats don’t require as much, and sometimes more,  but what they each require is just very different.

It is about having a certain kind of life.  Having a dog is truly, in many ways, like having a child.  Although my cats would hotly contest this in hopes of keeping me at their beck and call, and certainly point out that after all, humans bred the small cat version for themselves to begin with and so are intrinsically both tied to and responsible to and for all cats forever,  they can pretty much take care of themselves.  You can’t say, “Oh, well, my dog will be pissed, but I am going to stay over rather than drive home this late.”  Your floor will be pissed.  Cats  will find all kinds of ways to get you back for not being there to feed them at the time they feel they they should be fed, they will knock things off counters or dressers, manage to hide one of many pairs of things, but if it is just a day or so, they probably won’t get too extreme.  It’s not a dog’s fault, they just can’t get the leash and go for a walk on their own.  So you have to have a job and a life that can get you home in time to take care of your dog.

Most people I know get a dog around the time they either have a child or start thinking about having a child, or get one when they decide maybe they won’t.  Like looking to the future a little, starting to plan and create a more stable life, buy a house, that kind of thing.  “Taking on more responsibility” is often the term for this change.  Cats don’t seem to require the same thought.  So maybe people who have cats and do not have not dogs are less stable or responsible?  I can ask that in that way because, like I said, I have always had cats and not so often dogs.  But just to be clear, I am not suggesting that cat not dog owners are unstable.  Or even unsettled.  Just maybe not quite not done being in motion.  Of course, contradicting that point would be the fact that people more often go on long travels and treks with dogs, not cats.  But that is a a separate discussion.

Maybe people who own cats and not dogs really, as the quizzes suggest, “are a cat.”  They prefer to do things with room for a little less rigidity, or maybe to be more precise and honest, do things when they want to do them and how they want to do them, and at the same time try to keep the consequences of the possible and often to be expected deviation from a schedule, to a minimum.  So they are actually responsible in a certain real way, knowing that a dog would spend hours of its life with its legs crossed starring at the door and hoping someone gets there soon.  Cat owners maybe have what could be called, “responsible insight into themselves,” even if they don’t appear quite as “stable.”

I could go on, there is so much to consider.  But I have to go feed my cats. One, Misty,  is walking dangerously close to things that are not nailed down and doing that thing where she sort of stops and makes the suggestive move that the thing in front of her may just fall.  The other one, her sister Pearl,  is inching over towards the keyboard.  Both of them are doing that cat thing that is designed to give me time, between each move and decision they make, to do whatever it will take to stop what any thinking person should know is the inevitable outcome of a cat being ignored.  I am definitely going to give serious consideration to getting a dog to teach them some manners and to appreciate all that I do.  Or if not, maybe I will get a Banana Slug.  That might be one of the few ways I could truly get my cats full attention.

Oh, I don’t have a picture this week.  I couldn’t find a good one of a Banana Slug that wouldn’t be a copyright problem and that I could figure out how to download and I refuse to give my cats and further evidence that they are of any importance, they are full of plenty of that already.

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