Monday, February 8, 2016

What is it about cats?

Natasha and Abbey




“There is no such thing as "Just a cat.” 
― Robert A. Heinlein

One of the reasons I started this blog is to emphasize the value of cats as part of all of Nature, a part of God’s creation as important as any other.

How many of you have heard someone say these words: “It’s just a cat.” It could be when your cat dies, when a cat in a shelter is euthanized, when someone expresses concern for the welfare of an animal. “It’s just a cat” implies a devaluation of the animal. He or she just doesn’t matter, so why in the world are you getting so upset?

How many of you have heard people express hatred for cats? It’s not just a preference to have dogs in their home versus cats. It’s not just a desire not to be around any animals. It’s “I hate cats,” a socially acceptable thing to say. 

How many of you have thought you were talking to a real cat person, one who felt the same way about felines as you do, only to find that people “love cats” in differing degrees?

Several years ago I sat next to a woman I did not know at a banquet. I noticed that she was wearing a cat-themed, very chic sweater. I thought I had found the perfect conversation starter. 

I asked her if she liked cats. Oh, yes, she said. I told her about my cats. 

Then she told me about the cat she had who had gotten sick. She had taken him to the vet, who said he could be treated, but the treatment would be costly. She had chosen not to have the treatment.

“A thousand dollars? For a cat?” she said, laughing. Yes, laughing.

Sometimes it’s a lack of funds that keep people from getting vet care for their cats. Sometimes it’s a matter of the cat not being worth the expense. He or she is just a cat.

When I was growing up on a farm, cats were always around outside, but I don’t remember any having names. I’m certain they never received vet care. And I’m certain they were never allowed indoors. They were just barn cats, farm cats. 

Many people have barn cats or farm cats who live outdoors, but they are recognized, named, cared for. Not on our farm.

And only a handful of friends and relatives had a cat that lived indoors. 

So I grew up not understanding cats, not really thinking about them except to think I probably didn’t want to live with one. I was mirroring the values I saw around me.

Of course, all of that changed when I adopted my first cat. Since I’ve been on the “other side”—the side that values cats—I’m more sensitive to the casual attitude people have about cats and the outright hatred that some people have.

I don’t expect everyone to be a cat lover. I don’t expect everyone to have a cat in the home. What I do want to see is universal respect for cats.

There is a lot to be explored with this subject—how values are created, how our culture shapes us, how the media shapes us. I’ll be writing more about it down the line. But please share your thoughts on this. 

Have you noticed that the language about cats in the general public is not always respectful? Has anyone ever told you, “It’s just a cat”? Where do you think our attitudes about cats come from?


16 comments:

  1. over many years, i have learned about your love and respect for cats. i do believe most people are more drawn to dogs for some reason, i must be honest and say i am as well. but i have learned much from you my friend and i do know and understand your genuine love for these beautiful animals!!!

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    1. Thank you, Debbie. :-) I think perhaps dogs are more appealing to some people because they tend to be more immediately affectionate than cats. Like I said above, I don't expect everyone to love cats, but it's disconcerting when they express hatred for them.

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  2. It is kind of strange that there are so many cat haters. Why is that? They are beautiful, wise creatures even if you do not want one as a pet.

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    1. I agree. Somehow that message of their positive attributes isn't getting out there?

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  3. We agree that that kind of language and thinking probably comes from values instilled growing up. We've also found that for some people, trying to get those kinds to open their minds to another way of thinking is like banging one's head against a wall.

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    1. Yes, I've encountered the same thing. Some people don't want to change and will never change. My hope is that there are some people who are ready to open their minds. And so much can be done to educate the younger generations.

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  4. I don't know about more people being draw to dogs...perhaps, but there are still more pet cats than pet dogs. Cats are certainly lower maintenance! :-)

    While I'm sure that the values we grow up with have their influence, it's not the only thing. I grew up in a household that had both dogs and cats. Out of six children, three of us (me and two of my brothers) love cats, my sister is terrified of them for some reason (and thinks they're "sneaky"), and two of my brothers absolutely hate cats. In my sister's case, my grandmother was afraid of cats, so that might have something to do with it. My one brother who proclaims to hate cats is severely allergic.

    I can understand have a preference for one animal over another. I can also understand an aversion to a certain animal (I don't like spiders). What puzzles me about cats, though, is the outright animosity some people express towards them. The abuse they suffer is far more widespread than what other animals are subjected to. (I don't even like to think about that, but it's an issue.)

    All animals have their own distinct personalities, and my cats have been very loving and affectionate. I've also had dogs that were timid and stand-offish. That said, I think cats on the whole tend to be warier and slower to warm up than dogs (unlike dogs, cats are both predators AND prey), so that may have something to do with it.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Jean. Your family is a wonderful example of how people with the same background end up differently. I remember being a little afraid of friends' cats when I was in school. Somehow, my mind--and heart--was ready to open to cats almost 20 years ago. And that whole idea of cats being predators and prey--a lot to think about.

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    2. Not my observation, I'm afraid...saw it on a veterinary site. "To a mouse, your cat is a hunting machine; to a coyote, he's lunch."

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  5. My mother has a STRONG dislike (bordering on hatred) of cats, as a result I didn't have my first cat until I was 40. Thank goodness her beliefs did NOT affect my finally having a cat. It saddens me when people say "It's just a cat" or even "it's just a dog" (in reference to Vet care). When I meet people like that I believe that is a representation of their character and they become someone that I would NOT want to know. catchatwithcarenandcody

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    1. I was not raised by cat lovers either. But when I met my first cat (a story I will share), she decided she was going to show me how wonderful cats are. And she did. :-) And yes, if there's an indifference to animals, I'm not likely to befriend that person either.

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  6. Wonderful posts, perfect blog topic for you :-). I have trouble with the disrespect most of our world has towards animals in general...I live in an area where cats and dogs seem to be discarded like old clothes and where superstition toward black cats still exists. Cruelty towards animals is far from gone but thank goodness there are organizations and laws that help raise the consciousness of some but there is a long hard fight ahead here to change the general mind set towards animals domestic, wild and those born to feed us..

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    1. Hi, Lynn, so good to hear from you! Yes, there is still much work to be done. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, but I have to keep on as we all do.

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  7. Count me firmly in the cat lovers' camp. I think cats have always been....more than humans in some way. They look at us with such knowing eyes. Personally I'm comforted and intrigued by that. With regards to medical treatments - I believe that's a complex issue. In my younger years I worked for vets, so I saw cats treated past the point where they should have been gently released from misery. There are a lot of fine lines in this area.

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    1. I agree that the treatment issue is complex. And we have been in the position where we had to make decisions about whether the treatment would cause more harm than good with our kitties. In the example I used, the person thought it ludicrous that anyone would spend that kind of money on a cat. That's what bothers me.

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  8. It's sad that so many people have misconceptions about and prejudices against cats. They are amazing, loving and wise creatures, and those who think otherwise are really missing out.

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