Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On Liking Cats

I wouldn't call myself a cat person. Rather, I am an animal person. Human babies do nothing for me, but put a duckling in front of me and I'll squeal in delight. It is rare that I come across an animal that I do not like. There's cockroaches, but I'll save that for another post. I've grown up around animals my whole life.

Some examples of pets I've owned:
* Rabbits
* A blue-tongued lizard (only for a few days, from memory)
* Snails (don't ask)
* Mice

Dogs and cats, however, have been the two constants at the Savona household. At present, we own two cats and one dog. This is our third dog, but I couldn't tell you how many cats we've owned before the current two. Our house is a magnet for cats. It's like they just know they'll be fed if they meow on our doorstep on a rainy night. And of course, once you feed a stray, it does not want to leave. I've never had a problem with their sticking around, because I just happen to love cats. 

I am writing this post in defence of cats. For far too long, felines have copped an unfair amount of criticism for petty and often stupid reasons. I call myself an animal person, but the truth is that I may slightly prefer cats over dogs, only because I feel cats need the extra support. Think of it as rooting for the underdog (or is that undercat?)

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me, "Steven, why do you like cats?" I was stumped that someone would ask this, as it implies there is something inherently wrong with liking cats. I shouldn't have to justify why I like something that is perfectly harmless and, well, normal. Unless you have an allergy, I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't like cats. And even those people with allergies should concede that their heart is in the right place—that they want to like cats, and that it isn't the cat's fault that they developed such a disorder. 

The view that frustrates me the most is, "I hate cats because they run away from me. Dogs would never do that. They're actually loyal to their owners." See also: "Dogs have masters; cats have slaves." These are flawed mindsets that stem from pure narcissism. That cat is not indebted to be by your side. Cats are independent by nature. I understand if my cats run away when I approach them, and it doesn't bother me. If you accuse a cat of being "selfish" because it runs away from you and only returns when it wants food, doesn't that make you selfish for expecting the cat's world to revolve around you? I find it funny how people will decry neediness in other people, but will crave it from their pets. I think many people hate cats because they don't provide the validation that dogs do. I have other sources of validation; I don't need my cats to provide it. Their lives are short, so why should they spend their time hanging around people? Let them explore and have fun. 

I think so many people openly prefer dogs because it's easier. After all, no one will ever ask you, "Why do you like dogs?" Human beings are egotistic creatures and want an animal that will heed their every call. Dogs are emblematic of power and strength. The bark is a dominant sound. The meow is a passive one. Males are especially fond of dogs because liking cats would be a step towards abandoning their macho cred. Dogs are an extension of the male identity. The human male wants so desperately to be seen as loyal, so he sides with the animal that has been dubbed Man's Best Friend. A dog can tear you apart, while a cat can lacerate you at best. The male wants an animal of brute strength and aggression, because those are the qualities he wants to have. Of course, I do not speak for all males—hey, I am one too, remember?—but merely the ones who yearn for "alpha" status. 

I'm just over the stereotype that there's something miserable about you if you like cats. The archetypal "Crazy Cat Lady" is a notion that should be buried, and we need to stop joking about "dying alone with cats", as though cats are a commodity you invest in once you've surrendered all your will to live. It's getting increasingly difficult to be open about a love of cats. It's confusing. On one hand, cats are the Internet's favourite animal. I can scroll down my Tumblr dashboard and feel confident that I won't be ridiculed for reblogging a cat GIF. But in the offline world, there are still so many things people misinterpret about cats. You're forced to like cats in an ironic, detached manner. You have to convince people that you find them "cute and funny and stuff", but nothing beyond that. The moment you hint that you love them just as you love your family, you're branded a weirdo.      

This post is dedicated to my cats Lucinda and Bruno. Indulge in all the sleep you desire. I'll love you both just the same. 

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