Russian Blue or Poodle? Siamese or Yorkshire Terrier? Tom Cat or Spike? We can’t assume anything about your preference for cats or dogs but, really, why does it have to be one or the other? Yet here you are, all grown up and getting funny about the type of company you keep. And it more or less comes down to one word: Love. Or lack thereof. And a love/hate relationship with a tray of poo.
Dogs come when they’re called; cats take a message and get back to you later. (Mary Bly)
Cats aren’t being deliberately ignorant (yes, that’s just us) but they are solitary and independent. They don’t rely on people for much except their food and a place to sleep, which is why we think of them as sometimes stubborn. Nor do cats necessarily need our affection: they’re quite happy to be alone for hours and, excuse me, but sometimes your legs are very much on the offensive.
Dogs have the We-Go pack thing going on in their DNA and since ancient times have either hunted or worked for us in groups. But for a group to be able to luxuriate in newly-claimed territory it also has to have a natural leader, and these days that’s the human in the tracksuit. Dogs favour this leader and tend to be clingier because they can’t get the We-Go out of their heads. Pack, let’s roll! Where we…good lord, Rex…I’m just off to the loo.
The dog appeals to cheap and facile emotions; the cat to the deepest founts of imagination and cosmic perception in the human mind. (Howard Lovecraft)
Clearly, H. P. Lovecraft was a cat lover and a dog hater. The fellow wrote some astonishingly biased essays on how dogs were the favourite of people who were ‘superficial [and] sentimental’ and ‘lived in a limited world of imaginations’. Those who loved cats, on the other hand, he said: ‘stand free to worship aristocratic independence, self-respect, and individual personality joined to extreme grace and beauty’. Just ‘cats are great’ would probably have been enough but I guess he wanted to style it out.
But to be a dog lover doesn’t by any means mark us as superficial. In AD 200 a Roman dog was buried beneath a gravestone inscribed: ‘To Helena, foster child, soul without comparison, and deserving of praise.’ That’s some deep-seated love right there, H.P. And while we’re on the subject cat lovers aren’t emotionally superior. Cats just don’t give a heckuva lot of love back in the same way dogs do, so they appeal to a different bunch of passion cells.
Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through snow. (Jeff Valdez)
Sorry Jeff, according to a 2010 study by Oxford University dogs’ brains have been getting smarter for centuries while those of cats have stayed more or less unchanged since the animal was domesticated eight millennia ago. Oh come on, what TV series showed this haut difference off better than ‘Lassie’? She was one humdinger of a pooch and ready for anything (when she wasn’t being sold).
Dogs have become cleverer than cats because they favour the cross-legged intricacies of the human world. With them being more sociable, dogs deploy brain cells far more often than cats do, which ramps up doggy intelligence: Simples. In this respect, at least, cats are the victims of their own independence. But Rome wasn’t built in a day…