The pet lovers’ dreaded debate

A few years ago, I started planning an article to send to a pet related magazine. Which brings me to this post’s topic. I’m sure I’ve definitely touched upon it here before, but it is one that will set my teeth on edge until its opposing sides officially call a truce. What exactly is the topic? Oh yeah…cat v dog wars.

Now, as a cat lover, I could come across as being a bit biased. However, I like to think that two years of studying animal care and an autistic fascination with cat behaviour (and animals in general) have given my views a touch of rationality. I also have little patience for stereotypes, which, given that I am a non-homophobic Christian and an Asperger person with emotions, has occasionally proven…challenging.

But hey, being human means that you do have a say in the world about commonly accepted misconceptions. Write about them, blog about them, go wild and actually voice your opinions. Animals, on the other hand – love ’em or hate ’em – are at our mercy, from our impact on their habitats, to our systems for breeding them, to the way the media portrays them. And cats are no exception.

Dogs are widely accepted as being Man’s Best Friend. I like dogs; I’ve known some great ones. Dogs are very much “pack animals” and so are pre-programmed to look up to a “master,” to whom they will most likely be loyal and devoted. Being a “dominant” species, we like the idea of an animal that worships us. Cats simply don’t have the same concept of leading or being led. This is not selfishness, disloyalty or even stupidity – it is just a different survival strategy for life in the wild.

Does this mean you cannot develop a strong relationship with one? Not at all. Cats have been known to sense human emotions like dogs, to actively seek out someone close to them and even to pine for that someone when apart from them. To a cat, a much loved and loving human is a mother figure whose presence has been scientifically proven to bring out their more kittenish behaviour. All it takes is a little understanding on the owner’s part.

More sub-consciously, as a social, “dominant” species, we like to read faces and see facial expressions. Which is why many people prefer dogs to cats. I’ve said before, this is one of the many things cats have in common to Asperger people: reduced recognition and use of facial expressions. Interestingly, this is also why cat lovers often prefer tabbies and white cats to black cats – it is easier to see their facial features. ‘Tis another form of animal related prejudice, but maybe a topic for another day…

After that long rant, you may be thinking I think cats are better than dogs. If so, you are thinking wrong. Being better suited to cats does not make cats superior. No more than me preferring apples to grapefruits makes apples more nutritious. Animals are simply vulnerable to how we see them, and consequently treat them. Which, I hasten to add, does apply to some cat lovers’ beliefs that dogs are dumb and smelly. Again, they are simply a different creature, and no more deserving of human/media conceived prejudice than any other creature.

I still have more to say on this issue, but, as if on cue, my ever loyal companion Bouncer has come meowing for me, clearly wanting to help me finish this blog post. So as a closing thought, while I still have this desk chair to myself: what are your insights into animal misconceptions?
His eyes aren’t usually that creepy…

Part 2:

Part 3: