A new cat shelf and sundry thoughts about cats and dogs




Our old cat shelf was store bought and would only hold one cat comfortably, so we built this one (which looks like it’s leaning but it’s not). Despite our efforts to keep blind cords away from Scully, she shredded the one in the living room so badly that, the blind being old anyway, we just bought a new one. So it is with cats—one must expect a certain amount of damage.

I’ve been missing dogs this week. It started when I was lying in bed and looking down the hall at two of our cats and remembering the twenty years that I looked down that same hall at dogs. For some reason, this created in me a longing, and even a sense of betrayal, which seems ironic in that this is the worst time of year to have a dog in Western Oregon due to the almost daily rain, mud, and chilly weather. How often have we taken dogs walking in the rain when neither they nor we wanted to go, and how many hours have I spent standing on the porch at midnight waiting for dogs to go potty while they stood motionless in the rain surveying their surroundings. And then there were News Years and Independence Day when they would be too afraid to go potty because of the fireworks, a situation that lasted for weeks as one idiot after another fired off an occasional incendiary. We turned to cats for good reasons, and I’m not sorry we did, but a cat does not substitute for a dog.
 

I had dogs all my life until our last one died in 2012, but I never read entire books about dogs like I’ve been doing for months now with cats. Perhaps this is because I felt an affinity with dogs that made it unnecessary to study them, whereas cats are ever a mystery. They’re caring creatures of deep emotion, but I can never escape the feeling that they regard their intimacy with Peggy and me as important but optional. Their closeness to one another is quite another matter. They spend hours a day sleeping together and bathing one another, and Brewsky and Ollie are so protective of Scully that anytime she cries, they rush to her side. They’re actually so devoted to Scully that I’ve wondered if they would threaten me if I pretended to attack her, which is exactly how our heeler used to behave when I playfully attacked Peggy or the neighbors kid. Unfortunately, I have no way to test the extent of Brewsky and Ollie’s devotion without the risk of convincing all three cats that I’m dangerously insane, and maybe getting myself hurt in the process. Cats simply can’t take a joke the way dogs can. I’m not prepared to say that dogs have a sense of humor, but they’re at least easy to calm down, whereas a seriously pissed-off feline is, as they say, “a cat of a different color,” and that color is brimstone. I’ve read of strong men fleeing before the wrath of an angry housecat, by which I mean a cat that, sometimes for no apparent reason, turned on one or more people with murderous intent. 

Peggy and I have often discussed getting a dog, but with three cats, it’s hard to imagine it being a good idea because we would be even more tied down, and because it’s doubtful that the cats would like having a dog (our only hope would be to get a puppy because adult animals are more tolerant of babies than of other adults). Then too, there would be the vet bills, which have become way more expensive than they once were, it being commonplace to walk into a vet with a trivial problem and leave $200 poorer.

18 comments:

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

Your cats certainly look cozy and content.

Emma Springfield said...

My belief is that cats own you. Dogs are happy to have you own them. Strange that there is such a difference.

kylie said...

i have lived with cats and with dogs but it is dogs i miss.

vet bills are so very expensive, i dont begrudge them the money but three cats could bankrupt a person

Stephen Hayes said...

We've been without a pet for several years and I know one is in our future, but it will probably be a dog.

Tom Sightings said...

Well, I'm a dog person, not a cat person. But we had one cat who graced our home for 18 years ... and she was something special. Right now we're petless, but we're contemplating a new dog in the new year. we're

E. Rosewater said...

i take rip out for a walk and to do her business 3 times a day, rain or shine, and it can get very tough in the cold weather. the older i get, the more cold and wet weather brings me grief but as tony soprano was so fond of saying, "this is the life we chose."

but on the other hand, it gives an old retired fart something to do.

billy pilgrim said...

i'm watching al pass his kidney stones tonight. every year i think about skipping those scenes but i always end up watching it.

Strayer said...

What a beautiful photo of your three. I don't know about adding a dog to the mix. I always see the craigslist ads, we got a dog, so the cat isn't happy and has to go. Dogs are so needy for humans, that they often consume their person's attention, always there, and the cats are shoved to the side. Or worse, torments the cats when alone with them, so the cat is left to hiding for its safety. I always think how unfair, for people to get a dog, and send the cat of many years off with some stranger to uncertain fate.

kj said...

i haven't had a cat in a long time but i think dogs take residence in communal relationships in a different deeper way. helping dogs would be my last great cause if i had to choose one more passion.

love
kj

Snowbrush said...

“My belief is that cats own you. Dogs are happy to have you own them.”

I hear that a lot—as in “Dogs have family; cats have staff”—but my thought is that it’s a human construct that is caused by the efforts of a hereditarily social animal (us) to understand a hereditarily solitary animal (to illustrate, the lion is the only cat that hunts with other cats). I perceive of pet cats as more emotionally needy than that (assuming they got a lot of human attention when they were young), and it’s also true that they’re physically dependent upon our whims and our goodwill (they’re certainly smart enough to know that they never eat a meal but what we give it to them). I think it is also significant that dogs were socialized thousands of years before cats, which suggests that the longer cats are socialized, the more like dogs that they are likely to become. Some breeds are already said to be very much like dogs in that they bond tightly with their people.

“vet bills are so very expensive, i dont begrudge them the money but three cats could bankrupt a person”

Here in America, the only time you can even get vet insurance is when your pets are the least likely to need it.

“But we had one cat who graced our home for 18 years ... and she was something special.”

From a human perspective, it seems easier to find a good dog than a good cat. We love all of ours, but our strongest bond is with Brewsky (our six year old tabby) and is due to the fact that he trusts us the most and wants our attention the most. Scully (our tuxedo kitten) is still developing, so I don’t know she will turn out. As for Ollie (our gray cat), he wants attention in the P.M. but not so much in the A.M..

“i take rip out for a walk and to do her business 3 times a day, rain or shine, and it can get very tough in the cold weather”

I used to tell myself that it was for the best because both they and we needed the exercise. We took one long walk rather than three little ones, and Peggy (in particular) didn’t like it that we had to compromise with the dogs about how fast we would go and how often we would stop. I also biked a lot with our dogs. Bonnie (our 30-pound heeler) wrecked me once. I went down so fast that I didn’t even know it was happening, but that one experience taught her that she couldn’t simply go running off to one side. Our schnauzer couldn’t have taken me down like that if he had tried.

“Dogs are so needy for humans, that they often consume their person's attention, always there, and the cats are shoved to the side.”

You just pointed out both the upside and the downside of having dogs. I doubt that we will get a dog for the reasons you mentioned and because we don’t want to be even more tied-down (having four critters of two species seems like a lot especially when one of them has the needs of a dog). We have discussed the fact that our feelings about having cats goes up and down in that sometimes they’re an utter delight and other times they seem like a waste of time and money. I don’t know if our feelings are all internal or if they’re connected to how cats behave because the level of affection we get from our cats does seem to vary.

“…dogs take residence in communal relationships in a…deeper way…helping dogs would be my last great cause if i had to choose one more passion.”

There are supposed to be three times the number of pet cats as there are dogs, which is surely for the best since cats do so much better without constant human interaction. Even so, cats have an emotional need for humans, appear to think of them as their parents, have been known to grieve intensely when their humans die, and to travel long distances to be reunited with their humans. When our cats are startled, they look to us for confirmation that all is well, which means a lot since winning the trust of a cat is an achievement compared to winning the trust of a dog. It’s also true that cats have a degree of emotional depth that is easy to overlook since they’re not as demonstrative as dogs.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. "three cats could bankrupt a person”

I wouldn't know how much money I was willing to spend until I had to either spend it or have a cat put down. I hear of people taking their cats in for dialysis, and I honestly don’t know if I would go that far. I say that my cats are my family, but they’re certainly not my family in anywhere near the way that Peggy is. I would bankrupt myself to save her, but I’m quite sure I wouldn’t bankrupt myself to save my cats.

Snowbrush said...

“i think dogs take residence in…a different deeper way.”

In regard to both cats and dogs, I’ve wondered whether, if I were suddenly shrunk to rabbit size, they wouldn’t kill me. After all, they’re predators who don’t play by our rules or value our ethics. It seems to me that both species treat us well because they recognize our supremacy, but what if we suddenly lost that supremacy? Love and loyalty are very hard to understand even within ourselves and our own species, so I truly know what to make of them in regard to the two species that we are closest to.

rhymeswithplague said...

"the two species that we are closest to" is a very subjective construct; it depends upon the person. Some people wouldn't have a cat or a dog if you paid them but are drawn to a turtle, a python, an iguana, a hamster, a ferret, a gerbil, a parrot, a pair of cockatoos...well, you get the picture. In spite of what Maya Angelou says, we humans are probably more different than alike.



Snowbrush said...

“'the two species that we are closest to’ is a very subjective construct…Some people wouldn't have a cat or a dog if you paid them but are drawn to a turtle, a python, an iguana, a hamster, a ferret, a gerbil, a parrot, a pair of cockatoos…”

A bird I can see, but the rest? Of course it is true that I had a much loved iguana named Irvin back in college. Still, if you will agree that generalizations are fair in this instance, the cat is our favored pet by three to one over our next favorite, which is, of course, the dog. In terms of genetic closeness, while you and I are 99.9% alike, we’re both 99% like a chimpanzee; 90% like a cat; and 82% like a dog according to the several sources I checked. I had thought that we would be closer than that to cats and dogs, and was also surprised to learn how MUCH like cats we are versus our much lower similarity to dogs. I had imagined that we would be closer to dogs based upon the fact that they seem more like us than do cats.

joared said...

I'm basically a dog person, but had a cat from birth to death as our sole pet many years as we moved across country. Certainly, my strongest emotional connection has always been to certain dogs and was clearly reciprocal. I haven't had a pet since our last dog died. Now that I'm a widow I know I'd enjoy having a pet, but frankly I just don't want the added care and responsibility they require. I like the freedom of being able to go and come on the spur of the moment without having to consider what to do about the pet.

Buttons Thoughts said...

Oh, I love your kitties. I am a dog person. I took my cats for a hike once on the farm they were not as interested as my dogs have always been. I have no pets now they all lived long and the thought of losing another is hard to think about. I miss that but my cows are pretty entertaining. They do not hike too much either :) B

Darla M Sands said...

What a sweet picture! My partner is not a dog person or I'd probably have one or two along with the cats. Best wishes!

Snowbrush said...

“I'm basically a dog person, but had a cat from birth to death as our sole pet many years as we moved across country.”

I don’t know what I am, basically. I miss dogs a lot, but we have cats, and I enjoy them too. We’ve thought much about getting a dog, but one big problem is that we would need a dog door, but if we had a dog door, the cats could get out too. I guess we could look into the kind of door that will only open for the pet that’s wearing a special collar, but I still wouldn’t trust the cats not to go out with the dog. We also worry a lot about the dog displacing the cats in our affection because a dog would seek us out whereas it is more us who seeks our cats out than it is they who seek us out.

“Now that I'm a widow I know I'd enjoy having a pet, but frankly I just don't want the added care and responsibility they require.”

If I were a widower, I would need pets more than ever, and I very much doubt that I would want to go anywhere anyway. Even as it is, Peggy regrets that I’ve such a stay-at-home, but, you know, there’s just nothing “out there” that I want to see that I haven’t already seen.

“I am a dog person. I took my cats for a hike once on the farm they were not as interested as my dogs have always been.”

Cats are silent stalkers, as I’m sure you know, whereas dogs are pack hunters who run down their prey and hence cover a lot of ground, and hence it is that, as the “pack” leader, people take dogs for walks whereas the people I’ve seen walking with cats spend most of their time simply standing around. However, there is a certain breed of cat that loves to walk.

“My partner is not a dog person or I'd probably have one or two along with the cats.”

Peggy and I love both. the best things about dogs is their devotion to their people, and the best thing about cats is that they’re easier to take care of.