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Don't People Act More Like Cats Than Dogs?

Monday 28 May 2018 at 6:42 pm.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for May 24, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            In most surveys of pet owners, it appears that cats are the third most popular pets, with dogs and fish first and second. For some reason or other, I have always preferred cats to dogs, and have never been interested in gold fish or any other kind of fish; I guess I don’t fit the current trend.

            Years ago, I had a college biology professor who kept huge numbers of domestic cats so that he could study their individual personalities and behavior patterns. Apparently, he believed that he could learn a great deal about human behavior by studying cats. His study lasted many years, but I lost touch with him after finishing college, so I have no idea what conclusions he drew.

            Not claiming to be either a zoologist or a psychologist, my less-than-scientific observations cause me to conclude that people are more like cats than they are like dogs. My conclusions are based on my own personal experiences with both dogs and cats. My parents were dog-lovers and had little interest in cats, so, over the years of living at home, I grew up with a total of five dogs (each one replacing the previous one when it died).

            Our first dog was Jax, a German Shepherd who took care of my twin brother and me when we were two or three years old. Even though he was a “he,” he acted like a mother toward us, not letting us get out of the back yard, and watching and protecting us. Although he was a very large dog, he was a very gentle and loving dog, loyal to all in the family. Considering his size, you would expect him to have been an aggressive bully, but he wasn’t. He was gentler than many people.

            Our other dogs were equally loyal and lovable. In spite of that significant fact, I preferred cats, but had to be satisfied with getting acquainted with stray alley cats, since my parents did not like cats, nor did our dogs. It wasn’t until after I left home that I had the freedom to choose my pets, and I chose cats. I had the good fortune to marry a woman who preferred cats to dogs, and our life together has included taking care of many cats.

            Most of our feline creatures were females, but there were a couple males along the way. Having grown up with dogs, I did notice by contrast that cats, whether male or female, were less predictable than dogs, more fickle than canines, more demanding than dogs, and more aloof or distant than dogs. But all our cats were rather gentle, even those with Siamese blood, and I don’t remember any showing aggressive tendencies (certainly not toward us).

            That is until we acquired our current cat, Gatsby, who had belonged to our daughter until she gave him to us. From day one, Gatsby showed alarming aggressive tendencies, lunging at me when I tried to push him away with my foot. After living with my wife and me for a while, he became very fond of us, and could even be gentle and loving. However, after many moments of being a cuddly, purring cat, he would instantly switch to an attack mode, twice biting my chin hard enough to make it bleed. Yesterday, I tried to gently push his face away from my plate so that I could finish my snacks, and he viciously bit my hand.

            Before he bit me each time, I could see that “wild” cat look come upon his face, and I was not surprised to learn from some quick online research that cats were domesticated as early as 8,000 B.C. in the Near East from Near Eastern wildcats. It does seem logical that this wild streak in cats might continue in their DNA as it is passed on throughout history. Around 5,000 B.C., cats were revered by the ancient Egyptians as gods and goddesses; perhaps that’s why this old British aphorism seems to hold true: “Dogs have owners, but cats have staff.”

            Be that as it may, it does seem to me that we humans are more like cats than dogs, as we seem to have a bullying, aggressive streak in us. Most of us, unlike dogs, do not always love unconditionally the people we are close to, and often we aren’t forgiving like dogs. Like cats, we can be quite fickle and disloyal, can’t we? Maybe we prefer cats, because they are so much like us.

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Ray Spitzenberger is a free-lance writer and artist who lives in East Bernard with his beautiful wife Peggy and spoiled cat Gatsby.

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