I’m deathly allergic to cats. This has always been one of the great miseries of my life.
As a little girl I desperately wanted a cat. My parents got me one when I was 8, but it made me so sick they had to get rid of it three weeks later. I was devastated.
To add insult to injury, basically all of my friends owned cats, which meant intense respiratory suffering on a monthly basis.
Picture this: you go to an innocent slumber party with a bunch of 13-year-old girls, ready for a night of movies and deliciously artificial microwaved popcorn. But before anyone has the chance to pop in a John Hughes flick, you’re sitting in a corner, wheezing, struggling to breathe. Everyone else is fine, and you’re choking to death. It sucks.
So over the years, my fondness for cats was whittled down into a bitter resentment of the elegant, arrogant creatures. Who did they think they were, constantly making my visits to my friends painful? Always plopping themselves in my lap in a crowded room full of non-allergic people? Looking at you with those lazy, condescending eyes? The nerve.
But while my fondness for cats diminished, my appreciation of dogs grew. And how could it not, when you lived with a poochy like this?
Sweet Jesus, there really is no creature on earth like a golden retriever.
We call them “man’s best friend,” and for good reason: dogs were almost certainly the first creature to be domesticated by man. We have lived with them, working together to bring down large beasts of prey, since the days of caves and stone tools. They are – quite simply – our first love.
Old-school evolutionary thinking asserted that we bred dogs on purpose: we took wolf pups, reared them, subdued them, and over time, kept the pups that were more docile and submissive, and cast off the ones that were stubbornly aggressive and feral.
But the new line of thinking on dog evolution posits quite the opposite: they bred themselves (in a manner of speaking). Inquisitive, opportunistic wolves saw an unoccupied niche among human company. Warm campfires and tasty scraps, in exchange for help on the hunt and a little submissive behaviour now and then: not a bad deal. Over time those wolves who were more, well, dog-like – bigger eyes and shorter snouts (paedomorphic, as we say: in layman’s terms, “cute”), less aggressive, more playful – were more welcome around us, so they stayed and enjoyed the benefits of man-dog love.
And those benefits are considerable: after all, wolves have been tragically wiped out from Europe and much of North America, while dogs are treasured and pampered the world over. Because we share so much in common (we both live in packs, have clear social hierarchies, and hate to be alone) we live together quite easily. And we’ve done so much for each other – they help us hunt, and herd sheep, and keep other dangerous wild animals at bay, while we coddle them and feed them and propagate them.
Anyways, my point is that dogs and humans have a natural affinity for each other. It’s undeniable.
But, I wonder – can the same be said of cats?
I love cats. They are majestic, gorgeous, elegant, fantastic creatures – but do they really belong in our homes? Do we really belong together? As we are often told by evolutionary biologists, cats were never really domesticated the way cows, sheep, dogs, and crop plants were – in a way, they are still very much wild.
So, what exactly are they doing in people’s houses, besides shedding hair everywhere, eating smelly food (that they inexplicably leave half-eaten in their bowls to stink up the kitchen), and making the unfortunate minority of people who are allergic to cats (about 10 to 15%) sneeze and wheeze in agony? And I really don’t buy the “cats are great because they piss in a tidy box” argument. Who the hell got the idea of keeping cat piss and shit in a dank pile in your home? Hello? It’s gross.
To everyone who keeps a kitty litter box in your house: it smells. A lot. Get rid of it.
There’s only one thing that cats do that dogs don’t, and that’s catch mice. OK, fair enough, that’s pretty handy I guess – but I’ve never met anybody who owned a cat that could prove the feline was responsible for their house being mouse-free. Most modern house cats are as lazy and obese as most modern humans are.
So I ask again: what are cats doing in our houses? I love and respect cats, and I feel like we have done these majestic hunters a great disservice, taking them from their wild habitats and sticking them in the insufferable “lolcat” image macros.
However, most of the time, I feel like we’ve been had. I can’t help but think cats the world over are just fucking with us – pretending to be sweet, docile, helpful members of the household, when really they’re just eating our food and shitting in our kitchen and lying on the best spot on the couch for hours on end, doing nothing of value for nobody.
OK that’s it. That’s just my two cents. You’re entitled to think cats really do belong in our homes, and I’m entitled to think you’re wrong (and curse your cat for making me wheeze).
Now let’s enjoy some videos.
Here we have Exhibit A: Dogs are more amicable than cats.
And here we have Exhibit B: Wet cats are funny, cats inside washing machines are even funnier.