Monday, March 2, 2009

My cat is my role model

“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” Leonardo da Vinci

I am a cat person. Don’t get me wrong; for pure unconditional love, the kind that has saved my sanity in the past, you can’t do better than a dog. They are ready to come at every call and lick your face or play fetch or just curl up on your feet and keep them warm. Dogs are great.

But they are also obsequious.

And sometimes I just find that annoying. They seem to have no self-respect.

Cats, on the other hand, are the epitome of self-respect. Self-respect is defined as “having the proper esteem or regard for the dignity of one’s character”. I think it should also say, “See CAT.”

Cats have such a bone-deep conviction of their worth that they have no trouble whatsoever maintaining eye contact with you. See, with dogs, eye contact has to do with dominance. If one dog wants to challenge another, he looks him in the eye. If the other dog breaks the gaze and drops his head, he loses. If he maintains eye contact a fight will usually ensue to determine which is more dominant. Dogs repeat this behaviour with humans (who are also pack animals). Either you are dominant over your dog, or he is dominant over you. Think I am kidding? Look your dog in the eye for any length of time and see what happens.

Cats don’t do that. They will look you in the eye for as long as they like. They could not care less if you keep looking back at them, or if you look away, or if you look back and forth. They don’t lose anything by looking away first; that’s usually just their way of saying you simply are too boring at that moment to hold their attention. I have a private theory that people who hate cats have low self-esteem and can’t tolerate this dismissal by (what seems to be) an obviously superior being.

With all that being said, in some ways my cats act like dogs.

They actually come when I call them. They learn their names because I use their names. I have a relationship with them. If the only time you see your cat is during the ten seconds a day it takes to dump food into his bowl, you’re not going to establish a relationship. When they come to me they know they are going to get loved and petted on until they stretch and purr, it feels so good. In my house, hands are for loving and toys are for playing. So I never flip a cat over on its back and roughly scrub my hand over its belly until its nature gets the better of it and it tries to disembowel my arm with its hind claws while holding on to my hand with its front claws and teeth. You know exactly the action I’m talking about. The one that people do, then take their cats to the vet and have them declawed because they scratch. Of course they scratch! That’s what they’re designed to do in that situation! If you do that action with a toy instead of with your hand, both you and the cat can enjoy the play and the cat can keep his toes.

So my Sassy Kitty serves as a prime example of a well-adjusted, self-respecting personality. She can show her affection without compromising herself. She can play with a shoelace dragged across the floor with the total abandon of a kitten. She has no problem standing up to the Cute Puppy that joined our lives a year ago when he misbehaves. And it boggles my mind that a creature one twentieth the size of an adult human can sit on the floor and gaze fearlessly into that human’s eyes.

So let me love, play, assert myself, and stand up to the giants in my life with all the self-respect and aplomb of my cat.

Aplomb – defined as “imperturbable self-possession, poise, or assurance”. It should also say “See CAT”.

What unusual role models do you have in your life?

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