A Cat is Not a Dog

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Rex W. Huppke has written another side-splitting column in the March 13 Chicago Tribune, this time covering a story out of Oregon about a couple who fled their cat —  locking themselves, their infant daughter, and their dog in the bedroom and calling police for help.

While few details are provided, it is apparent that the cat scratched the infant’s forehead — an appropriate  reason for concern and for separating animal and human infant.  But it seems the father kicked the cat in its posterior, sending it into a frenzy.  (Perhaps not allowing a cat within miles of a baby would have been the wiser move in the first place, but no one solicited my opinion.)  It turns out that the police arrived at the home and restrained the cat readily.

Huppke makes wonderful hay of this story, warning readers about violent house cats who may very well murder their human masters, with full premeditation.

But as a long-time, devoted cat owner, I felt compelled to piggy-back on this column, and join the legions of feline fans who have so passionately strived to educated their brethren about the  noblesse of cats — to defend their nature and dispel the lingering myths about these graceful creatures.

Let’s face it.  Most Americans, at least, prefer dogs to cats.  These folks just don’t get it.  Don’t get me wrong here.  I grew up with dogs and I love them.  But cats always get a bad rap.

Dogs are from Makemake and cats are from Shangri la.

I’m tired of hearing that old saw about cats being cold, mean, dangerous, unfeeling, cranky, and finicky.  The truth is that cats know what they want.  They don’t pretend.  They’re not trying to please anyone.  They don’t get caught up in a dysfunctional relationship dance — they refuse to play that game. They have standards to maintain about food choices.  They’re natural hunters.  They have an amazing ability to move in space and adjust to its contours.  They are fastidious groomers.  They don’t take crap from anyone.

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Where is the real animal in this picture?

Yet, we overlook their true soft side, their cuddliness, their brains, their playfulness, and their ability to connect with humans.

Cat with Boy Reading Book

Dogs get so much credit for that — probably because their unconditional love, in the form of face-licking, tail wagging, and pawing makes us feel so secure.  Cats are just a little less direct about it.  They have their dignity to maintain, after all.

Allow me to offer proof, from the experience with my own lovely Fiona, who is pictured at the opening of this essay.  (Is that a charming photo or what, by the way?)

Fiona is highly communicative, intelligent, and sensitive to all aspects of her environment.  She is quick to note sounds of all kinds, human, and non-human, and she runs to investigate their origin.

She’s a talker.  Her meows communicate various ideas or needs.  A soft, gurgly meow is often a greeting.  A low, guttural  meow is an alert that she is bringing me a “kill” in the form of her little stuffed animal, “Blue Bear.”   Here she is lying next to him in her cat bed.

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A continuous, whiny meow indicates that she thinks she deserves another cat snack.  My response to this demand must be careful, as she is a bit like a goldfish in her love of cat snacks.  She used to conduct this whining act adjacent to the cabinet in which said snacks are stored.  But she has learned to track me down in other rooms of the house to make the pronouncement, and, if I allow her to, leads me directly to the cabinet for a final plea.

She is able to track the movements of an outdoor animal, be it a fox or a neighborhood feline interloper, by running at warp-speed from window to window inside the house, until, of course, there is nowhere else to run.

She can open sliding doors by pulling on the door with both front paws.  She has been known to escape to the back yard deck using this maneuver, slinking and sniffing around the furniture as if this is perfectly natural.

She thoroughly enjoys a game of hide and seek, attempting to wait out her human counter-part behind a curtain, wall , or cabinet.  If the waiting proves too long, she simply pounces.  If you pop out first, she leaps straight into the air like a geyser, then melts into thin air.

She delights in games with cat toys — everything from feathers to laser toys to a wadded up piece of paper.  But when she’s finished, she finished, indicating her spent energy by plopping down with satisfaction and a contented stare.

She picks up on human moods and emotions.  Truth be told — when I learned that my sister Liz had passed away and was crying, Fiona rubbed back and forth against my legs and shadowed me for the rest of that evening.  (This was more likely her own distress at my strong emotion, but it’s interesting to consider that she came to me rather than isolating herself.)

She greets you upon arrival, either circling and caressing your leg, or dropping to the floor and turning onto her back — a sign of trust, relaxation, and cat happiness.

She is deft enough to jump into an open cabinet and not disturb one glass or dish.  She has performed this fete in our kitchen several times, before I can scoop her up, and at least once in a dining room hutch full of crystal.   I am alternately unsettled and amazed by this maneuver.

She is a huntress.  Yes, this means I must divulge that she has caught a mouse or two inside the house.  And I keep a clean house.  I swear.  She sometimes engages in that agonizing slow death dance of tossing the poor creature back and forth, like a tiny beach ball, while it squeaks faintly, until I can get in between them and give the mouse a chance to perish elsewhere, more quietly.  Other times she seems to just chase them in circles until they die from dizziness.  And yes, other times, they are just too fast for her and she just can’t close the deal.

Now let’s bring this full circle.  A cat is not a dog.  But cats can be very sweet, just like dogs.  And many live together harmoniously.

Cat and Dog Together

See?

So let’s be good to our dogs, but be gooder to our cats, OK?   My thanks to Rex W. Huppke for another hilarious column.

Finally, I offer this ode to my own kitty:

If I didn’t have my Fiona, I’d feel very sad and alone-a.