53: The Truth about Cats and Dogs

53: The Truth about Cats and Dogs

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat

The Truth about Cats and Dogs

Fun fact: A person who loves cats is called an ailurophile. The Greek historian Herodotus called cats “ailuroi,” which means “tail wavers.”

All of my friends are dog people. They own Corgis and Shepherds and Puggles, shuttle their dogs between each other’s apartments, and even take them away on vacation, only leaving their canines home alone when absolutely necessary. I’ve always liked animals, but I never understood this obsession. Why can’t you just leave your dog at home when you run to the grocery store or go have coffee with a friend? Don’t you want to at least take a trip without having to worry about feeding and walking and picking up your pup’s poop from the sidewalk?

I guess you could say that I just wasn’t a dog person, and because of this, I didn’t always fit in. There were many conversations I couldn’t join and Dog Dates I couldn’t attend, so when I decided to adopt my cat Cleo from a local shelter, I thought it would certainly alienate me further from the group. Little did I know that the opposite was true.

Within a few days of adopting Cleo, I began noticing that she had a number of traits unusual for a cat. She wasn’t quiet or disinterested, and she didn’t ignore me for most of the day the way my previous cats often had, happy just to bathe in the sun and nap. She wanted attention. She wanted to steal the food off my plate and chew on my shoes. She waited at the door, meowing fervently when she heard me walking up. She followed me around from room to room, staring at me with big, sad eyes until I got out her feather toy and played with her. At night, I would often wake up with her body curled in the curve of my knees, peacefully snoozing, her belly exposed and ready to be scratched.

Because she was so dependent on me, I started to feel bad when I left her alone for long periods of time. Though I didn’t need to rush home from work to make sure she didn’t have an accident on my beautiful white shag rug (thank goodness for litter boxes), I knew that she missed me and would be watching the door, waiting for the sound of my key in the lock. A few times, I even turned down the offer of happy-hour drinks with my co-workers to go home and check on my cat. For a while, nothing about this seemed strange.

Then one day it struck me.

Oh my God, I thought, watching my cat chase her tail in a circle. My cat is just like a dog. I am just like a dog person.

My friends didn’t understand. “What do you mean, your cat’s like a dog?” they asked. But when I tried to explain, they just scoffed. All the cats they knew were prissy, aloof and, from their perspective, utterly unlikeable.

“No offense,” my friend Jane said. “I’m just not a cat person.”

That day, I was forced to confront the fact that Cleo would never completely fit in. She would not be able to go on a Dog Date to the park and likely wouldn’t be happy on long road trips with the group. But despite these obstacles, I decided there was one thing Cleo could do: She could help change my friends’ minds about cats.

I started by inviting them over one at a time, worried that if Cleo were confronted by the whole group at once she would feel outnumbered and uncomfortable and take up residence behind my bed until everyone left.

It worked like a charm. Cleo ran right up to each friend that came over, sniffing and meowing and trying to make sense of the foreign-smelling dog hairs on each stranger’s pants and shirt. Once she was satisfied, she began licking the friend’s hands. They always laughed at the strange feel of Cleo’s rough feline tongue. “I’ve never met a cat who likes to lick,” they all said. “It really does feel like sandpaper!”

My friends saw how charming and fun Cleo was, not at all like the stereotypical cats they had imagined, and admitted to enjoying the many quirks unique to cats: sandpaper tongues, subtle ear movements, the soft kneading of paws on your lap when a cat is blissfully happy. One by one, they converted. All of them, that is, except Jane, who went everywhere with her dog Pepper, and used that as an excuse to not meet Cleo.

“Just bring Pepper with you,” I finally suggested. And though she resisted at first, we ultimately set a time for her and her long-haired Chihuahua to meet Cleo.

I was extremely nervous about the meeting, as Cleo now had to impress not one but two harsh judges. When the pair finally arrived, Cleo held her ground. Both animals hesitated, skirting each other’s general vicinity with narrow, hesitant eyes until they finally got close enough to sniff each other’s rumps. This sizing up went on for a few nerve-wracking minutes while Jane and I watched in silent awe. Then, Cleo and Pepper started to play.

“I can’t believe it,” Jane said in disbelief. “Your cat really is like a dog.”

There’s no denying that Cleo taught us all valuable lessons. She taught me to appreciate dog people and the energy it takes to properly care for such a loving, sweet, and — let’s face it — needy companion. As for my friends? Well, they now understand that not all cats are alike. That old curmudgeonly Tabby their childhood neighbor once had is not indicative of the entire feline species. Just like dogs, each cat has an individual, disparate, and often very endearing personality.

Now, when people ask me whether I’m a dog person or a cat person, I shake my head, explaining that it’s not that simple. I tell them about Cleo, how she has become an honorary member of the dog pack, and how my dog-loving friends opened themselves up to her. When confronted with non-believers, I just smile. “Come meet her,” I tell them. “You’ll see.”

~Clara Blake

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