Over Easy: Cat person or dog person. Which are you?

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

For the Valley News
Published: 10/8/2021 10:49:22 PM
Modified: 10/8/2021 10:49:29 PM

When I wrote recently about dogs in the Upper Valley and elsewhere, I didn’t mean to slight another constituency that deserves our respect and admiration: cats.

A reader informed me via email that she much prefers our feline companions. While dogs look up to us as gods, she said, we have to earn the regard of cats. In the main they are reserved, independent creatures, with inner lives we can only guess at.

I don’t know if cats ever completely give us their hearts and, in that, I think they know humans and their flaws. They are risk-averse. When they ask themselves what’s the worst that could happen, they have concrete, alarming answers.

Cats deign to share their hours and days with us. (Nights they keep for their own passions and projects.) It is said that ancient Egyptians believed that cats were touched by the divine. I don’t know about that, but I think cats believe it.

The American Veterinary Medical Association website estimates that there are 58 million cats in the U.S. I can only guess at how many there are in my neighborhood, because they are not as out front and obvious as dogs, who occasionally come bounding down the street in tail-wagging runs to freedom. They soon realize they have no place to go and no plans — in their minds, they could go around the block or around the world. This slowly dawns on them as impractical and they heed the call of their owners.

Cats don’t do that sort of thing. They are not impetuous. They want to know where their next meal is coming from, where they will lay their head at night and whether your pension plan is fully funded.

When I was a boy, my family didn’t have much luck with dogs, maybe because there were five kids and enough bedlam already. But we did have a cat for many years. I don’t recall where it came from or whose idea it was to get it. It seemed to have just appeared, with such a quiet transition — it was already past kittenhood — that no one named it for months. Finally we settled on White Cat, which suited it perfectly since it was white and a cat and didn’t call for an exotic name like Esmeralda. Overall, we lived our lives and White Cat lived hers.

When I grew up and married, we had a house and no children for a few years, so cats seemed just the thing to fill empty spaces. We named them Ali and Frazier, after the boxers. Ali was a tiger cat who had more personality, that is, willingness to hang with us. Frazier brooded and lurked in shadows and corners. But she hunted mice, which was a plus since our place was next to a farm. Ali lazily got by on his charm.

Here in the Upper Valley, we have shared our domicile with Baby and Winnie, aka Winnie Boy. Winnie was more entertaining, although sometimes when you petted him he went into a dreamy state I would almost associate with opium dens and then –— snap — in a second turned hostile and bit you. The moment, whatever it had meant, was over.

What I learned about living with cats is that I had to curry their favor. No teasing. If I would work on the relationship they would too, and eventually there would be the bliss of us sitting together — me as a giant pillow — in the warmth of a beam of sunlight on a winter afternoon. A cat is a Zen master.

Remember, a dog will eat almost anything, but a cat wants the best. They honor us with their presence, at least they think they do, and they are willing to wait as long as it takes until we have the good sense to agree.

Sometimes people wonder if they are a cat person or a dog person.

Here is a mini-quiz to help you decide.

To pass the time I prefer to:

A. Read quietly alone, sipping tea.

B. Tailgate, with 50 boisterous friends, all high-fiving each other and making howling noises when appropriate.

Sometimes I like to:

A. Stare out the window, and relax by thinking of nothing.

B. Start up the leaf blower and shake things up in the yard.

For a snack I like:

A. A little bit of something nicely prepared.

B. Large portions of something hot and meaty that might leave major stains on my shirt.

If you answer A to all, you are a cat person. If you answer B to most or all, you can have a cat, but he or she is going to be often startled and will not like it. And you will have to live with the cat’s disapproval.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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