Friday, February 17, 2012
As stereotypes about cats go, the two I dislike almost as much as that Crazy Cat Lady thing are “felines are so independent” and “cats are not affectionate.” If I had a dollar for every time I read those and similar statements in some blog or article on the internet, I’m pretty sure I would be living on a tropical island (or at least someplace where the winters aren’t so inhospitable.) Time after time, cats are described as aloof, unfeeling, unfriendly, not desiring human companionship, able to take care of themselves, wanting no interaction with their owner, etc. etc.
I have to wonder who all these people are, and have they ever lived with a cat? I’ve shared my home with 11 cats over my lifetime, and none of mine have ever been any of those things. On the contrary, they’ve all been friendly, loving souls who clearly crave and love human companionship. I also know countless many people –family and friends in real life as well as pet blogging acquaintances – who have formed close, loving bonds with their feline friends. Surely all of our affectionate, human-loving cats were not flukes! Yet that myth of the feline as a totally independent creature incapable of love is everywhere.
One the one hand, I have to laugh since it’s such a ridiculous notion to me. On the other hand, it’s kind of sad because who knows how many homeless cats in shelters are overlooked by people who hear and read that nonsense many times over… and actually believe it. They rush little Sally and Billy past the cages with the cats without so much as a glance in their direction, because they want a family pet that the kids can interact with and share love and affection, and everyone knows that isn’t what cats are like, right? Of course.
So the family adopts a dog instead and the children never know that a cat could be a fun, funny, loving, sweet, and wonderful pet that would enrich their life in so many ways. It’s a crying shame. Oh, it’s great for all the shelter dogs that find a forever home, to be sure. Yet it’s mighty unfair to all the cats who’ve done nothing to deserve this negative label.
Unfriendly cats who don’t want human companionship do exist, but in most cases they’re a product of past mistreatment or neglect, or an aloof, disinterested owner who doesn’t understand their cat or take the time to figure out what it needs and wants. If you put any dog in that same situation, wouldn’t the result be the same? You have to earn a pet’s love, it’s not a given.
Recently when talking to a friend about this “cats are independent” myth, the discussion turned to wondering why so many more men than women dislike cats. Oh sure, there are plenty of men who love cats, but everyone I know who actually dislikes them is male, and it was the same for my friend. She theorized that it might be because cats are “soft, quiet, and elegant...everything a man is not. And most of all, whether it’s a male or a female, cats seem feminine.” Hmmm.
I don’t really know why many men dislike cats, but her theory makes sense to me and it’s likely the same reason you rarely see a man with a tiny dog. Men go for the big, burly, rough-and-tumble dogs because they seem more masculine than an itty bitty Chihuahua…or a cat. The funny thing is, every pet is an individual. Like snowflakes, no two are alike. They all have their own unique quirks and personalities. Not every cat is as loving and cuddly as my sweet Annabelle, and not every dog will idolize you as though you’re the one who makes the sun rise and set. But to me, this individuality is exactly what makes pet ownership such a joy!
Photo by Jason and Kris Carter
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