The pet lovers’ dreaded debate part 3: double standards

What bothers you about people’s attitudes towards animals? There are a million answers to this. Farms. Unethical breeding. Negligence. The internet is full of protests about these issues, and because they are bigger and more serious than what I’m blogging about, I should probably cover them myself one day. But for now, I’m coming back to an old pet hate (pun fully intended): cat prejudice and double standards.

First, hear me when I say this. I love cats. I relate to them. I mean, I don’t automatically bond with people I don’t know. And I don’t think they are better than dogs, because who are we to call one species “better” when, in the human world, most of us stand for equal rights?

People claim that cats control us. Plenty of cats do try to persuade you to feed them when they’re hungry just by staring at you and following you into the kitchen. But so do dogs. The reason we have to train dogs is so that they know who’s in charge. Do you see? Any pet can wrap you around its paw, if you spoil it. If you stick to a strict feeding schedule and don’t give in to your pet’s every whim, then they are not controlling you.

Also, believe it or not, cats are capable of being trained; it’s just that teamwork isn’t in their nature. Why judge them for this? I hated group projects at uni myself! If you reward a dog for learning something new, it will react as if it has successfully pleased its pack leader. If you reward a cat, it will react as it would to a successful hunt – it used its brain and got a tasty treat as a result.

Then there is scent marking. Dogs and cats do this in similar ways; one of them being physical contact. A dog will jump up at you, a cat will rub against you, and in doing so, both are claiming you as their own. Why do humans hug? For the same primitive reason. It helps secure a connection. People find this thought endearing in dogs, and like the idea that the dog is excited to see them. Why does a cat do it? Ask any cat hater, and they will claim cats are trying to own you, want to trip you, or are impatient to be fed.

If a dog bites a human, people will (correctly) insist it isn’t the dog’s fault, it’s the owner’s fault for training it wrongly (or not at all) or the other person’s fault for ignoring its body language. The same happens with a cat? Apparently cats are just nasty. People are quick to defend a dog’s flaws that were caused by human influence (or lack of), or biological nature, or are an unfair generalisation. And rightly so. Because these are vulnerable animals we are talking about. And cats are no different here.

Cats are not living for world domination, and to think so would be anthropomorphising them unrealistically based on cat prejudice hyped up by fiction. If any creature lives for world domination, it’s the homo sapiens. Cats simply live to survive as comfortably as possible. Don’t we all?

Any more thoughts on this issue? I may have covered them here or here. Or possibly even here, for cat/Asperger comparisons. Otherwise, fire away!

Bouncer’s usually the one to initiate our after-work catch up!

 

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The pet lovers’ dreaded debate part 2

I will never understand dog lovers. Or at least the ones who use this as an excuse to hate cats. Does this mean I have a problem with dogs? I’ve already explained this: not at all. Despite having done a similar rant here, I’ve been feeling a part two for that post brewing for months now. So here goes.

To me, hating an animal feels like more than just opinion. If someone told me they hated the colour blue, or spicy food, or classical music, it honestly wouldn’t bother me. Nor does it offend me when people are afraid of cats. Fear is a tough thing to overcome. But choosing to hate an animal without any real understanding? That’s what feels like prejudice to me. I’ve learned to still like and respect individual cat haters, but as with all prejudices, it will always bother me.

Now dogs need a pack leader, be it themselves or otherwise. This means that a dog would be loyal even to a leader who abused it, because following a leader would feel safer than leaving the group. While this is irrelevant regarding loving human-dog relationships, in this case it is instinct, not love. So why are dogs more compliant than cats in loyalty/obedience studies? They recognise the scientist carrying out the study as a leader to be obeyed. Cats don’t; if they show unconditional affection to a person, it is because they like them, not because they feel they have to. As with people, you have to work on a healthy relationship, not just expect one.

But why do cats slaughter wildlife? It’s instinctive, it’s how they’ve survived and it’s also why we domesticated them. If it’s any reassurance, cats aren’t nearly as responsible for the destruction of wildlife as traffic, pollution and loss of natural habitats by human beings. Similarly, both humans and cats kill for food. Those that don’t live on the streets don’t have to, but the difference is, we choose to kill for food/cruelty/war with other humans, or we can decide not to. Cats, like most animals, don’t have the same decision-making capacity.

Also, unlike us, cats can’t survive without meat. As a vegetarian myself, I would not emphasise this point lightly. It’s also worth noting that if all a kitten learns to hunt is toy mice and pieces of string, then it will grow up to be a pretty poor hunter anyway. Thomas thought that hunting was as simple as charging towards his prey while meowing his head off!

So to wrap up, let animals be animals without being judged or stereotyped. Drop the cat v dog wars. Rather than hating, maybe educate yourself about cats – or any animals or people you don’t get – or just accept what you don’t know and keep an open mind. A passing cat might be worthless to you, but it’s probably someone else’s beloved pet/loyal friend/living mousetrap/hopeless hunter. As the saying goes, one pet owner’s trash is another’s treasure!

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Who says cats don’t like human attention?

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?
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His eyes aren’t usually that creepy…

Part 2: https://unwrittengrace.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/the-pet-lovers-dreaded-debate-part-2/