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Quiet dignitary or needy best friend: why cats are better pets than dogs

By in Opinions
Locked in perpetual mortal combat, this crafty cat briefly seizes the upper paw.
We are told from a young age that dogs are “man’s best friend.” This is hardly true. A real best friend challenges your decisions and criticizes you when you’re being an idiot. But dogs act more like “man’s desperate sidekick” — they are the Milhouse to your Bart.

Dogs seem to beg their owners, “Do you have a best friend yet? ’Cause I’ve been looking for someone to boss me around.” Winston Churchill was right when he said that dogs look up to us while cats look down on us. So people who want to be worshipped get a dog. People who want to grow and learn to deal with a sovereign creature will get a cat.

Still, dog owners flatter themselves by saying dogs are more sophisticated. Indeed, science has declared that canines are smarter than felines. This superior intellect comes from dogs being more social than cats. According to psychologist Stanley Coren, canines evolved their reasoning skills from “interaction in packs [which] often involves complex rituals and behaviors.”

I guess they have some pretty complex rituals. Like smelling another dog’s anus. I’m told this is about determining the alpha male, but that smells like shitty reasoning to me. If dogs can sniff out drugs from miles away, then I assert they smell each other’s butts for sheer pleasure. Meanwhile, a cat’s rituals consist of compulsive grooming and doing their business in a designated area assigned to them by people.

Evidently, high intelligence doesn’t make an animal a more upstanding member of your family. Dogs are smarter than cats but so are shit-slinging apes. Yet no one denies an ape would be a troublesome pet.

Since we truly regard our cats and dogs as “family-members,” let’s consider how we would judge their behavior if they were actually human. We’d wouldn’t mind the person who is laid back, likes to chase butterflies and doesn’t say much. Meanwhile we’d complain how the other person is always begging to be walked, and enjoys humping our visitors’ legs.

As it stands though, most people aren’t very impressed with cats, maybe because they don’t help blind people or serve alongside police and firefighters. But this is less a reflection of feline abilities and more about them refusing to serve people. They either want to be worshipped by us — to the degree they were in ancient Egypt — or completely ignored. Cats are like the hard-to-get femme fatale, while dogs are like the insecure lover who, to me at least, seems less desirable because they need to be constantly reassured.

But commanding the upper-hand in a relationship is precisely what draws people to dog ownership. After all, needing to be needed is a very human trait. It’s also why some people are apprehensive about cats. Many people don’t like cats because their antisocial dispositions remind us of our deepest fears — like being alone. But it’s the marker of a mature relationship when you and your partner can retain your own independence.

And the ability to “go it alone” is what I find so admirable about cats and their owners. I must admit I find a woman more appealing if she owns a cat instead of a dog. Having a cat tells me you have more self-confidence and less fear of rejection than I’d expect if you’re lording over a dog. Cat owners can give love without needing to be slobbered on to feel good.

Every cat owner knows the nicest response to expect from a cat is subtle purring followed — inevitably — by unprovoked biting. But cats’ temperamental natures keep us crawling back. And we cling to vain hopes that, someday, they will show us real love — not this abusive hot-and-cold treatment.

I think I get why some people misjudge cats as primitive, numbskulled creatures. They have an aloof, almost stoned look in their eyes. But watch their behavior closely. They’ll teach you more about dignity than a dog will.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “silence is golden,” or one of many Biblical proverbs saying a wise man holds his tongue while a fool runs his mouth. Cats have long understood this. They will get you to open doors and give them food without ever meowing. And they are all the more dignified for it. But dogs need to bark for everything. We hear the echoes every time we step outside.

What’s worse, their masters pick up this yelling mentality. I often hear pleasant human conversation interrupted with cries of “Wolfey, put that down! Spot, did I say you could pee on the ottoman? Ruffles, do not chew on Ms. Pennybottom!”

I can’t deny that both cat and dog owners learn things from their pets. Cats teach us to quiet our souls. Dogs teach us how to clean poop off the street. Cats teach us that people will serve you if you project confidence. Dogs teach us to talk to strangers by constantly apologizing, “My dog doesn’t usually bark like this.”

Of course if you want to learn the finer things in life, go with the better pet. You know which one I’m talking about.

Photo: Sephiroty Fiesta/Flickr

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