I overheard a couple at my coffee haunting place, Starbuck’s®, discussing the merits of a cat they must know and how she seems to take pleasure in exacting ‘revenge’ on her guardians by not using the litter box properly. Then the man talked about how the cat just walked away after being scolded, like he ‘didn’t give one hoot.’ Eventually the conversation moved in the direction of why couldn’t cats be more like dogs, yadda, yadda.
Well, possibly because they’re CATS. Cats do not act like dogs or frogs or goats. And why would we want them too? Cats are nice people.
But they sure get picked on a lot…sometimes for not being dogs of all things. They are the number one victim of animal abuse. For some reason the nut-bars out there think they are fair game to trap, poison and terrify-perhaps because they roam the neighborhood at night. Why a guardian would want their companion out in the dark amongst those idiots is beyond me, but that is a different topic for another day.
But back to the coffee shop conversation, because I hear this sort of dialog quite often and maybe we just get confused between cats and dogs. They are the two most popular house companions. Both lift our spirits, both love us so completely and seek a true relationship with us; but they are quite different when we consider the evolutionary path of each species. One is a pack animal and being a pack animal makes them predisposed to be social in every sense of the word. The other took a more solitary trail and is less likely to demonstrate every emotion since they are usually singular. That doesn’t mean they do not feel the emotion, it means they do not demonstrate it as spontaneously as a social animal.
Take the scenario of returning home after a day of work. A dog becomes positively unglued with giddiness. Whining, tail wagging, licking and skipping joyfully all demonstrates his emotional mindset. He missed his person. A cat will wait patiently at the door, possibly walk over to greet her person and might even call softly but then, knowing both have said ‘hi’ she will go about her business. She missed her person too, made obvious by her waiting at the door. Does that response mean she isn’t as happy to see her person return to the house as the dog?
The only difference is the dog must demonstrate for the pack that they are happy, so the ‘family’ and pack leader understands that all is well in the community because if he is not accepted by his family or pack, there can be some unpleasant repercussions. One of which is being ousted from the group. A very big deal to a pack animal. The cat does not have to have approval of a community, only of itself so to speak and so doesn’t need a big demonstration of how she is feeling. She feels the same as the dog but she does not demonstrate it in the same way, per her DNA.
The same is true when either animal has done something ‘naughty’. The dog must apologize to his pack for being silly (the guilty look, along with submissive body language). The cat does not have a pack to apologize to (the ‘I don’t give a hoot’ look followed by the walking away to give upset person some space, which is what a cat does when she is upset).
All animals have the same emotions, including us, but we all show them different to each other. If we understand where the behavior is coming from and why it happens, we can begin to see how many things we have in common rather than centering on the things that are different.
A good starting point for the day.