A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Recently, I had an opportunity to hang out with a couple of really cool dogs, Murphy and Charlie, and after a few days of watching their various antics, I, like every pet owner in history, began to wonder what they think. I certainly hope in the future humans discover a way to communicate with other species. That way we might finally understand why cats hate us and dogs are the perfect pet.
I’ve got nothing against cats, BTW. One of my favourite pets ever was a cat: Diega, who’s now in the Witness Protection Program. (It’s a long story for another time.) But let’s be honest: cats are adorable on Facebook, but try living with one. Even dedicated cat people have some bloodcurdling tales to tell – mutilated mice, slimy hairballs and deep childhood scars from “kitty has pins in her toes.” Sound familiar? Dog people never talk like that. They never say, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with Rover. He just won’t eat anything but imported French dog food.” Dogs will eat anything. They eat crap that nobody else would even look at. A dog’s motto is “Go to the bowl: good things happen.” Meanwhile, a cat will turn up its nose at free-range $25.00/pound, hand-ground salmon. Then, not an hour later, it will go out in the alley and kill a totally scabby, diseased sewer rat and drag it home as snacks for the whole family.
But that’s the difference between dogs and cats. Dogs are straight-ahead, and cats are devious. If a dog’s mad at you, he chews your shoes. However, if a cat’s angry, it’ll wait for two or three weeks and then, in the middle of the night, have outrageous, screaming sex, right outside your bedroom window — all night. Then it will show up five minutes before dawn and want to cuddle. That’s not cute; that’s malicious!
Personally, I think cats hate us because they missed the first 50,000 years on the domestication train.
Way back, at the dawn of evolution, when humans ran in packs, dogs did, too. The two species must have encountered each other somewhere along the trail. Humans probably thought, “Those guys aren’t very good to eat, and they’re really difficult to kill. So let’s leave them alone unless we’re desperate.” Dogs probably thought, “Those guys have puny little teeth and they can’t hear or smell worth a damn, but they kill a lot and they never eat everything they kill, so let’s hang around and pick up the scraps.” Over the course of hundreds of generations, the two species got used to each other. Humans discovered that dogs were really good at finding food. All hunters had to do was follow the pack to get to the good stuff. Dogs, on the other hand, figured out that even though humans were pretty much useless, in close, they were kick-ass dangerous and could bring down the big boys — like mastodons. All a smart puppy had to do was bark and snarl and keep the prey at bay until the humans got in there with their pointy sticks. Then it was Happy Meals™ for everybody.
Plus, humans had fire, which, thumbless, a dog could never master. And fire, under control, was just the ticket for a frosty canine on a cold winter’s night. Meanwhile, as dogs crept closer to the fire, humans found that, after dark, with their superior smell and hearing, dogs were the perfect burglar alarm. It made sense to let them cuddle up to the warmth if they wanted to. Over the course of a couple of hundred more generations, humans and dogs became inseparable. They lived together, hunted together, their kids played together and they all ate the same food. So it was only natural dogs and humans became BFFs.
Cats, on the other hand, were Johnny-come-latelies to domestication, and they’ve never really gotten over the special relationship humans have with dogs. They see it as an insult to their self-diagnosed superiority. Remember, cats didn’t start hanging with humans until the Egyptians turned them into gods for killing rats. That little theological faux pas went directly to the feline ego and has been stuck there ever since. These days, cats still think they’re gods almighty, and being cats, they want the lion’s share of human attention. When they don’t get it, they go looking for revenge.
Of course, this is only my theory — which I’m never going to be able to prove. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be around when humans and dogs develop two-way communication and we humans can finally just ask dogs, “What the hell’s wrong with cats, anyway?”