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On The Differences Between Cat and Dog

Aug 17, 2007
With the dog, man seems to have made his peace early. Man understands dog. He is comfortable with dog. He appreciates dog's loyalty, courage, intelligence and -- again -- obedience; particularly obedience, for however sentimentally men and dogs view their abiding friendship, it is not a relationship of equals.

Dog is essentially a servant. His feelings toward his master are comradely and his manner familiar; he enjoys the master's affection and regard. But his place was fixed long ago when man told him, "Don't call me. I'll call you." Furthermore, since man always has had difficulty with foreign languages, the channels of communication have been a one-way street.

Under the warm sun of man's approval, dog's tribe has flourished and increased, not only in number but variety. Ever obliging, the dog has transformed his size, shape, color and function until he is now available in 111 separate and distinct breeds, each presumably an improvement over what went before and each meeting some human standard of beauty or utility. Surely this must approach the ultimate in co-operation.

The cat is different. She serves no one, knowingly or willingly. Her one accomplishment -- the hunting of mice, rats and other rodents -- is self-taught. The man does not live who can claim to have trained a cat to perform a task for human benefit.

For their own convenience cats have learned various small maneuvers, like opening doors, but they do not and will not herd sheep, carry messages or run back to the ranch seeking help for jammed-up cowboys. There are no police cats, no watchcats, no sled cats.

The cat does not even come when she's called, unless it suits her.

Stubborn independence in others often puts man's nose out of joint, and it was at such moments that he probably began comforting himself by maligning cat's character. She was sly, treacherous, cruel; you could never tell what she was thinking; but she sure looked as though she knew what people were thinking.

From here, of course, it was a short step to deciding that cats were the companions of witches and suffocated babies by sucking their breath.

Actually, if cats disliked people there would be no more sense in associating with them than with tigers. The fact is that on certain terms, largely unpredictable owing to the wide variety of feline temperaments, it is quite possible to develop a warm and lasting friendship.

This, too, may not be a relationship of equals -- the matter of who has the upper hand will always be in doubt -- but it must be based on the free choice of the principals, on a willingness to tolerate different social and cultural patterns, and on an honest respect for each one's individuality.

In this, the cat will come more than halfway. Once a cat has established rapport with you, she is anything but aloof -- dignified and with a strong sense of privacy, yes; but withdrawn, disdainful, isolationist, no. She will try very hard to teach you cat language, which is only fair and proper since she understands considerable man-talk, even though she is not often persuaded to heed it.

Cats are also quite self-sufficient. You never have to entertain them. This is not to say that they cannot be entertained or that they themselves are not entertaining. It is just that their errands are many and their schedules full.

Admittedly, many of a cat's waking hours are devoted to sleep, and a cat prowling purposefully through tall grass is often simply looking for a warm, safe place in the sun for a cat nap. But they do not moon and mope, like dogs, for the need of someone to do their thinking for them.

What we are dealing with here is simply the cat's monumental, stiff-necked resistance to anything that is not her own idea. Occasionally she will seem to obey, but this is merely a happy coincidence of your wishes and her intentions. Don't be encouraged. Essentially, she bends her will to no one.
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