Don’t forget the Columbia Gorge Cat Rescue fundraiser Sunday, July 22, 4-7 p.m. at the White Buffalo in Hood River!
Cats are the Rodney Dangerfield of the pet world
The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
– Mahatma Gandhi
Cats are the Rodney Dangerfield of the pet world. Seems they get no respect. If they did we wouldn’t, in general:
– Expect they can fend for themselves
– Think they are not sociable
– Publish joke books about dead cats
– Decide that homeless and feral cats should be killed
– Not include them in most municipal “at-large” animal control laws
– Not require them to be licensed
– Think that they cannot be trained
Think of the outrage if, as a society, we agreed the following were acceptable:
– Letting unattended dogs roam freely
– Leaving pet dogs alone for days on end
– Publishing joke books about dead dogs
– Simply killing any free-roaming dogs
– Writing no “at-large” dog control laws
– Not requiring dogs to be licensed
– Never bothering to train them
The truth is we show this lack of respect for cats because, unlike dogs, they don’t harm us personally when they are allowed to run freely. In most cases, we don’t fear that a free-roaming cat will attack us or that a clowder of cats, like a pack of dogs, will gallop through neighborhoods leaving large piles of exposed excrement and overturned garbage cans.
I assume humans exhibit a cavalier attitude toward cats because, like most species of animals, we gravitate toward solutions that are most expedient for us. It was obviously in our ancestors’ interest to control dogs. Evolved from wolves, wild dogs traveling in packs could cause great harm including attacking us and our livestock. Taming dogs also had other advantages; helping us hunt, herd and fish, as well as protecting us.
But because cats have fewer millennia of domestication and are closer to their wild ancestors than dogs, they are less dependent on us to survive. (But that does not mean that they find living without our help easy.)
The generally accepted theory, if true, that cats formed a partnership with us because they ate the rodents that ate our grain means that cats were simply beneficial to us, and we to them. As Temple Grandin, Ph.D., says in Animals Make Us Human, “The two species didn’t need each other so much as profit by being around each other.” And humans didn’t need to tame cats or control them to make them hunt rodents.
So the evolutionary history that makes cats, unlike dogs, able to live peaceably near humans without our help often works against them. We have come to expect too much of them. Even Grandin, whom I usually agree with, says in Animals Make Us Human, “Abandoned cats do fine.” I would counter that although they may “do” (survive), they don’t “do fine.” If they did, organizations such as Catlink and Columbia Gorge Cat Rescue would not be necessary.
But I’m encouraged that the status of cats is slowly being elevated as indicated by recent statistics. According to the American Pet Products Association 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, there are more “owned” cats than dogs in the United States: approximately 86.4 million cats compared with 78.2 million dogs. But although that sounds good for cats, it’s important to note that the percentage of households owning at least one dog is higher than those owning at least one cat (39 and 33 percent respectively). That means, considering the population numbers above, there are more multiple-cat households than multiple-dog households and that the owned-dog population is spread out over a greater number of people.
So it appears we still have a way to go in changing negative perceptions of cats. And a 2009 Associated Press/Petside.com poll confirms that. The poll asked pet owners and those without pets how much they like dogs and cats. Respondents could respond with “like a lot,” “like a little,” “neither like nor dislike,” “dislike a little,” or “dislike a lot.”
Seventy-four percent said they like dogs a lot, but only 41 percent said they like cats a lot. Four percent of adults said they dislike dogs a little or a lot, while 26 percent said they dislike cats a little or a lot.
However, I have hope that as long as people continue to work together to help homeless cats, publicize their plight and educate humans about their needs, the status and situations of homeless cats will improve.
We can do this. After all, we are, supposedly, the most highly evolved species.