09 October 2008


so i've been exploring the possibilities in online dating/matching for well over a year now. lots of fodder for discussion there, but i want to narrow our focus to one topic -- pets. this being the west, a number of women online have horses, whether working or recreational. but the majority gravitate to the same animals that urban types favor: cats. and dogs. here in the northwestern u.s., cat owners like myself seem to be in the minority among pet owners. (we'll leave the discussion of whether it is the pets who own us, for another time).

which begs the question, are there human personalities that are drawn toward one animal or the other? you hear dog owners wax poetic about their animals' loyalty, faithfulness (as opposed to infidelity?), happy nature, always-glad-to-see-me, and most notably, their trainability (the dogs, not the owners). this, in spite of dogs' relative high maintenance demands: needing to be "walked" (euphemism for being taken outside to relieve themselves), creating a nuisance for neighbors by barking (shame on owners for not training properly), and unavoidably, their propensity to drool. editorial comment: yuck.

in counterpoise, you hear cat owners sing the praises of their animals' independence, the soothing effect of a happy cat purring on your lap, their own trainability (you just have to make the cats think it's their idea, not yours), and their low maintenace demands: cats instinctively use a litter box from kittenhood with no human training needed, they are very affectionate with humans they know and trust, and shedding can be minimized with daily brushing, a grooming routine which both humans and cats find nurturing.

the above assumes that all animals under discussion have been responsibly neutered. and, truth be told, a lot depends on the individual animal's personality, and how it interacts with the individual human's personality. but let's take an evolutionary step back, and look at a broader aspect of cats vs. dogs.

wild dogs (coyotes, wolves, dingos, hyenas, etc.) evolved as social animals, in hunting packs centered on a family group with an alpha (dominant) male and alpha female. they remain so in a human setting, subservient to their alpha human. cats, on the other hand, (with the exception of lions) are solitary creatures in the wild -- leopards, cheetahs, tigers, lynxes, ocelots, etc. they pair up temporarily to mate, then disperse. this behavior, too, carries over into a human setting, though it is somewhat arrested artificially, with adult cats in the role of kittens not yet weaned from their human "parents".

so what does this say about our human choices? i'm still sorting this out, and welcome any opinions or references from the reader. but as a starting point, it seems to me that dog owners are relatively insecure people who have a need to dominate and be admired, while cat owners are relatively secure people who have a tolerance for independence. all this is speculative and wildly influenced by my own preferences, of course. i know dog owners who are gentle, caring souls, and cat owners who are control freaks. but as a generalization, i think the contrast is a starting point for discussion.

a few tangential questions -- tentatively assuming for the sake of argument that my hypothesis is valid, what does this say about the respective humans' treatment of their own children? and what about people who own both dogs and cats? are they conflicted, confused, bipolar? or just door mats for any species that presents itself? (tarantulas and vampire bats and boa constrictors, take heart!!)

well, i'm a cat person. and you?

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