Dogs vs. cats

October 12, 2011 • 8:58 am

Dogs are for the religious; cats are for atheists. Some day I’ll write about why I think that, and offer apologies in advance to those of my godless readers who like dogs.

One reason, though, is that many dog lovers see themselves as being God to their dog, and explicitly enjoy being the “alpha dog” to a pet who slavishly worships them.   Cats love us, too, but—as with our fellow humans—we have to earn their love; it’s not bred into them as it is into dogs.

But not all cats are as standoffish as the one in this cartoon by Dan Piraro:

196 thoughts on “Dogs vs. cats

    1. They have the same body plan, can show the same behavior, et cetera.

      The noted difference does not make animals inferior or superior as such.

      However: kittehs are cute, puppies are salivating.

    1. Seems to me like the “hallucinogenic herbs” and the “foreign adventures” frames are switched, there. 😀

    1. What makes you think they don’t already? Cat populations, life expectancies, and quality of life have all increased dramatically since they enslaved us.

        1. I don’t suspect – I just know!! Irrational I know! I feel it in my bones.

          I have had cats who could leap up and turn light switches on; cats who could use the toilet (mine!!); and open some doors depending on the sort of handle and the opening side.

          Predicate used to jump into the car and sit on the passenger side. I did what she wanted and took her wherever I went and carried her about in town.

          Silicate loved the car and shoulders – no carrying for him. He sat on my shoulders and surveyed the world of the supermarket when |I went shopping.

          Cats rule!!

    2. My cat has spent hours taking at a spot on the floor, and keeps walking up to the wall and calling for me to open it.

      If cats had opposable thumbs, the only difference would be that marijuana would be legal.

      1. Narvi:

        My cat has spent hours taking at a spot on the floor, and keeps walking up to the wall and calling for me to open it

        If cats had opposable thumbs, the only difference would be that marijuana would be legal

        <3 <3 That is bloody brilliant!

    3. I commented below that I really don’t have a preference–I like cats and dogs equally. But you know what’s plain weird? The internet cat cult, that’s what. Seriously, if I weren’t opposed to bestiality due to it being non-consensual, I would just tell you cat-obsessives to go ahead and fuck your cats and be done with it. I’m telling you, what you’ve got going on is fetishistic and borderline sexual. Maybe not even borderline.

      I mean, just look at how much Jerry thinks about cats. Even posts that aren’t about cats, he’ll say “Ooh look, did you see the kitty in that picture of Christopher Hitchens?”. I mean, shit. That is weird.

      Anyway, sorry for being so blunt, but this post basically insults people who like dogs, so screw civility.

  1. That is just a blitheringly stupid, not to mention evidence-free, assertion. Go back to slagging on poor dumb Andrew Sullivan.

  2. I like cats… But I prefer dogs, by far. The day a cat guides a child out of a street to a sidewalk for safety (as i’ve seen labs and shepherds do on instinct, on their own, w/o their owner present), or aids workers in search and rescue, I’ll give them a boost up in the “respect” pyramid.

    1. Hear hear.

      Out of sheer love, my lab will swim out past the shore break, past the reef break, and pull me by the swimsuit hundreds of yards through the surf and back to the ‘safety’ of dry land.

      The fiancee’s cat, on the other hand has ruthlessly attacked scores of people (my sweet mother among them.)

      I grew up a cat person. Once you’re in a lab’s pack, there is no going back.

  3. But not all cats are as standoffish as the one in this cartoon

    The less standoffish ones are just more manipulative.

    Dogs are for atheists because atheists understand that dogs and humans have been coevolving for more than 10,000 years. Many breeds of dog instinctually protect human children from danger. We’re like ants and aphids.

    Cats are for theists because they infect humans with a mind-altering parasite that inhibits rational thought and makes the host more impulsive (toxoplasma gondii).

    1. Cats seem to have some (coevolved?) instinctive traits that dogs do not, though, such as always returning home.

      But, the cat came back. He wouldn’t stay away. He was sitting on the porch on the very next day. The cat came back. He didn’t want to roam. The very next day, it was home sweet home.


      1. Actually, dogs often exhibit the same behavior. I seriously doubt it’s a coevolved behavior in either case: many, many species keep nests that they return to for many years so there’s no reason to believe nesting behavior is itself a result of coevolution with humans. It’s much more likely that it’s a pre-existing behavior.

        The human relationship with dogs is much deeper than the human relationship with cats. Humans have spent thousands of years breeding very specific behaviors into and out of dogs. There was a great PBS special (an episode of Nova maybe?) where a biologist specializing in canines was pointing out the fact that sheep herding behavior in shepherd breeds is the same exact set of behaviors wolves use to hunt except for the pouncing and neck snapping. Similarly, the pointing behaviors “bred into” some hunting dogs are actually exactly the first behavior in the wolf hunting behavior complex.

        In contrast, domestic cats have been bred simply not to scratch and bite humans so much. Clearly, this breeding program has not been nearly so successful.

        1. Dogs? No way. Dogs will move homes in the snap of a finger. Good luck getting your dog back if it happens to run away; most of them could care less about returning home. Not so for kittehs. For instance, I had one cat who returned home after one year of missing. When is the last time a dog did that? 😛 The only time cats don’t come back is when they go to die.

          1. Yes, a little anecdotal internet research suggests that at the very least cats are much better at this than dogs are. I’ve heard a few stories about dogs doing similar things, but I’m not finding as many as I expected on the internet, so I’ll happily concede the point. (It does somewhat depend on the dog — my parents’ dog won’t leave the property without humans.)

          2. Nah! I disagree. They find lots of people who want to look after them. Cats come home because they don’t! Or, not for long! 😉


            Norm. (Dogs rule!)

            PS. I unfortunately have a large garden. Around 24 (!) neighbourhood moggies use it as a toilet. I want an eagle owl!

          3. Yes, way. For instance, my dog (miniature poodle) ran away a few times and always came back on his own. On one occasion he went missing for an entire day. He likely drifted out for several miles away from home (this was not in a small town). After nearly a day of searching, we thought that we had lost him forever, but fortunately, the little guy found his way back home in the late evening. My main worry was always about cars and cruel people…not about him getting lost.

          4. I wonder if the time a pet is gone before returning home would be a major difference between cats and dogs. I know from experience that cats can be gone for much more than a day and still find their way back home. Is the same true for dogs? It would be fun to find out.

        2. More seriously, though, good points. House cats in general don’t really need people to survive, but I’m not sure the same is true for dogs. And the few dogs that do make it on their own are either very friendly and elicit human compassion wherever they go or they join up in dangerous dog gangs.

          1. I think it all depends on the house cats and dogs.

            Dogs will tend to pack up because that is what they have evolved into (pack animals). Cats are loners but house cats really seem to lose their hunting instincts if they are only house cats.

          2. House cats retain their instincts for stalking and capturing prey. However all cats, even in the wild, must be taught by their mothers how to kill and eat their captured prey. So it’s not a matter of losing their hunting instincts; it’s a matter of breaking the chain of cultural transmission. (If it can be lost in one generation, it’s not instinct; it’s culture.)

          3. Exactly. My cats would starve if they had to hunt. Oh, they could kill mice and birds and such, but to them they are just toys that are no fun after they stop moving. They don’t eat ’em. Feral cats know how to hunt for food.

          4. As much as I would like to agree with that, I do know a cat who is so broken from the chain of cultural transmission that she can’t even cover her own poo (she still thinks the automatic kitty litter scooper will do it for her), but she can catch a bird as well as any feral cat. So, I think there must be some other way for cats to learn to hunt other than from their mothers.

            But of course cats who have been declawed or who did not have their hunting instincts cultivated by play (or whatever it is that brings them out) will no doubt not be very good at surviving away from people.

          5. I’m fortunate that where I live I’ve never had a rodent problem.

            So my cat cannot hunt mice… And only ever managed to catch a bird once.

            But she does like to hunt and chew on Wetas then leave the bodies around around the house as presents.

          6. In his book Cat Behavior (which is not an easy book to read unless you have some grounding in ethology), Paul Leyhausen described the prey hunting behavior as a series of nested instincts of gradually weakening strength. These five behaviors he describes are (in order from strongest to weakest): 1. Stalk, 2. Pounce, 3. Catch, 4. Kill, 5. Eat.

            It might seem counterintuitive to consider the instinct to eat to be the weakest, but in order to eat, the prey must first be killed; before killing, it must be caught, and so forth. This, Leyhausen explains, is why cats apprear so playful to humans. In a well-fed cat, such as a house cat, the weaker instincts fade with time. Hence, a cat might kill a bird or mouse but not eat it; similarly, it might catch but not kill (resulting in the catch-and-release behavior humans interpret as “playing with its food”); the instincts to stalk and pounce are so basic that they are the last to fade, and it is this that results in the playfulness that cat lovers find so endearing.

            Some of Leyhausen’s subject cats were observed to stalk apparently imaginary prey in test environments that were devoid of normal visual stimuli (featureless empty rooms), which behavior he attributed to the persistence of the stalking instinct.

            If you want to know more, read his book. I’m recovering from carpal tunnel surgery and all this typing hurts and isn’t good for me.

        3. It happens that the Nova program on dogs is running tonite in Pittsburgh (was this post a preemptive strike on that?). Could H sapiens have developed to the present state in the same time without the dog? Can cats recognize hand cues or interpret eye movements? Etc. (A fascinating segment on the work in Siberia to develop a tame silver fox, too.)

      2. IIRC, though, this is often more of a place than a family attachment with cats. More than one house buyer has ‘inherited’ cats that just don’t want to move.

  4. I’m not sure if this is true, or if it even has some sort of correspondence or not. But I actually know many catholics that actually are cat-holics, if you know what I mean.

  5. Whoever wrote this post should have taken the time to read the prior post, which appeared on this same blog only an hour and a half earlier. Presumably, it was written by a different author? The writer of the earlier post reminded us:

    And, as Hitchens has told us, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

    Yet, the writer of this post asserts “Dogs are for the religious; cats are for atheists.”

    The apology is noted. Now, where is the evidence for this facially implausible assertion?

    1. Too bad they don’t make dogs to help people with a disabled sense of humour.

      Maybe you should try living with an animal that doesn’t take you so seriously. Like a cat.

      1. My dogs help me find a sense of humor. I laugh at their antics all the time, and they remind me to not take myself too seriously. But, then, I also laugh at my cat, who is very sweet but also very stupid.

  6. Observe a wolf pack and you’ll see that subordinate pack members frequently seek approval from the alpha; especially those that are of lower rank. Would you say the alpha dog is playing God? Of course not. Such behaviour is simply part of canid pack dynamics. The fact of the matter is that dogs are much more social than cats, which is why I think they are much better pets.

    1. I’m not so sure about the “dogs are much more social” claim. In fact cat communities have complex social networks that are expressed in terms of who’s allowed to groom whom, and how close cat X can sit to cat Y. These relationships may not be obvious since they’re carried out largely at arm’s length so to speak, so it looks to us like they’re all ignoring each other when in fact they’re communicating by subtle body-language cues.

      Elizabeth Marshall Thomas documents some of this in The Tribe of Tiger.

    2. Observe a wolf pack and you’ll see that subordinate pack members frequently seek approval from the alpha; especially those that are of lower rank. Would you say the alpha dog is playing God? Of course not. Such behaviour is simply part of canid pack dynamics. The fact of the matter is that dogs are much more social than cats, which is why I think they are much better pets.

      this is a common fallacy amongst people who have never studied the behavioral differences between domestic dogs and wolves.

      domestic dogs no longer have the heirarchical mentality of wolves. Instead, it is replaced with a near total desire to seek reward though behavior. Domestic dogs will literally do anything for positive reinforcement; and that reinforcement doesn’t need to be in the form of food, but can be play, etc.

      what’s more, the idea that cats don’t learn from our behavior, but we must please them somehow, is ludicrous.

      In fact, the main reason cats “meow” to humans is strict operant conditioning: They quickly learn that vocalizing results in rewards. They actually are very rarely observed to communicate in this fashion with each other.

      I swear, even though the OP was intended as humor, it’s so full of naive animal behavior fallacies for me to think that posting a remedial text on pet behavior is actually needed!

      Here, all pet lovers should really start understanding how their pet’s psychology works; try this as a fun review book (covers both dogs and cats, regardless of what it looks like on the cover)

      from there, explore the primary lit! There are hundreds of papers on this subject.

      man, if you really care about your pets, I would think you’d want to know EVERYTHING we know about how they actually work?

      1. btw, I found it a tad ironic (as one who knows a bit of German) that someone named “Vogel” has written a book on domestic dogs, instead of, well, birds.


      2. In the wild, it is normally only juvenile cats and dogs that vocalize. I’ve read speculation that cats and dogs that live with humans remain in or revert to a permanent juvenile state (please don’t ask me for references – I can only cite Leyhausen for cats) and continue to vocalize as adults.

      3. “domestic dogs no longer have the heirarchical mentality of wolves.”

        I haven’t studied animal behaviour and can only speak to my own experience and observations. Dogs may indeed not have the “heirarchical mentality of wolves”, but they clearly still exhibit pack behaviour and to suggest otherwise is utterly ridiculous. For instance, dogs are frequently checking their position in the “pack” (i.e., family members and other resident dogs), and often assert their dominance over through subtle, or not so subtle (e.g., the infamous leg hump) behaviours. This would be obvious to anyone who has lived multiple dogs for any extended period of time.

        1. the “leg hump” behavior is not actually a hierarchical behavior like it is with wolves.

          it’s a displacement behavior.

          This would be obvious to anyone who has lived multiple dogs for any extended period of time.

          or, just as obviously, misinterpreted.

          1. Leg humping is an assertion of authority. Clearly authority would be wanting in an animal that has lost its pack instincts. And there are several other subtle behaviours to suggest they have not lost their pack instincts. You must be a cat owner; no worries, I won’t hold it against you ;). I suppose when stray dogs form packs, that is not pack behaviour either; they must be doing it for treats.

          2. Leg humping is an assertion of authority.


            I say it’s displacement behavior.

            you don’t see that behavior in wolves.

            you can remain just as ignorant of what you’re actually looking at as you wish.


            I prefer to actually read the research on the subject.

    1. Ross, the post you link to says:

      Selection and genetic variation will lead to evolution but how can variation even exist, when it sits within a paradox that states that it should effectively disappear with the process of selection.

      this is not a paradox.

      what gets fixed by selection are specific alleles.

      this does nothing to prevent the appearance of new variation in other genes.

      there is no paradox.

      I would recommend a basic text on genetics, or else a standard text on evolutionary biology, like Futuyma’s.

      it will help fill in the gaps you have regarding your understanding of evolution, if it really is a topic you are interested in.

      Since you’re here…

      If you prefer a more popular-science approach, you actually might enjoy reading Jerry’s book (shares the same name as the website).

      It’s quite good, actually.

  7. If dog lovers are theists and cat lovers are atheists, what about people who love them both? What kind of weird monster am I?

  8. Dr. Coyne, you should read H.P. Lovecraft’s “Something about Cats”. That’s all you need to know loving cats is the far superior choice 😉

  9. With regards to my wife, I tend to agree with you. She was very religious, but is now more New Age spiritual, and so she says she likes both cats and dogs, but definitely prefers dogs. I, the atheist, love cats and hate dogs.

    My views are that they reflect the personality of the owner. Independent or self-secure people tend to like cats, as the cat is also independent. They interact on an irregular need only basis. Dependent or insecure people tend to like dogs, as the dog gives them an ego boost by the owner being constantly needed and the dog lavishing affection.

    1. Sorry dude, but this is the worst kind of “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” armchair psychology. I prefer dogs as pets, but not because I am “dependent or insecure.” In fact, I prefer properly trained dogs that do not tend to engage in attention-seeking behaviors.

      I suppose people who like lizards and bugs as pets do so because they’re emotionless robots?

      1. I also find it very interesting that whenever anyone starts the armchair psychology they inevitably end up reflecting on how their preferences and idiosyncrasies make them somehow superior to some other group of people. “Liking cats means I’m a strong, rugged individualist. Liking dogs means you’re an emotionally insecure little baby.” Really, dude?

      2. Actually I’ve also had a snake, praying mantis, and rabbits for pets.

        Perhaps I should have substituted “lazy” for “independent” and “restless” for “dependent”. In other words, people who want a pet, but don’t want too much responsibility regarding its care like cats. People who need a routine, and don’t mind the extra “baby”, like dogs.

        Either way, its opinion and observation from me, not a controlled experiment. I’d still rather clean out several cat litterboxes than clean up one (medium to large-sized) dog’s mess in the yard.

    2. We have a dog, but it’s only because my children nagged my wife into submission. I must say, however, after a long and thankless day in the office, it’s heartening to have at least one mammal at home who is actually pleased to see me, at least for a few seconds.

    3. I tend not to like people who don’t like dogs. In fact, for me, that’s a deal breaker. I have two big dogs and they don’t like people who don’t like dogs either, so look out.

  10. many dog lovers see themselves as being God to their dog, and explicitly enjoy being the “alpha dog” to a pet who slavishly worships them

    Arrgh! A thousand times “NO”! Has a dog owner actually told you this, or are you just assuming? Because as a dog lover I can tell you that it has NOTHING to do with having a pet that worships you.

    What is so great about dogs is their playful exuberance and happiness. It’s a happiness that is totally infectious (at least to me) and that’s why I love spending time with my dog. And for the record she doesn’t worship me at all as far as I can tell; she’d probably run off with the first person that came along if they promised her a walk.

    1. I’m guessing the proportion of dog lovers who want to play god is similar to the proportion of people who have children in order to play god. Non-zero but very, very small.

      The appeal of a dog is that it thinks of itself and you as belonging to the same family. Dogs don’t slavishly obey every order they’re given, they need to be carefully trained and if you pay attention to the relationship between a dog and a trainer, it is very similar to a parent/child bond. You can see the tension in a dog that’s being trained as it tries to decide between making itself happy and making the trainer happy.

      Dogs aren’t stupid robots, they’re social animals who enthusiastically suppress their own desires for the good of the community. Independent thinkers often do and advocate the same thing: sacrificing for the sake of the community. Cats aren’t independent thinkers, they’re sociopaths.

    1. Pre disposition? It is cat food kept fresh.

      [Actually, I am no fan of having birds capable of flight as pets. Seems cruel to not let them behave more natural.]

      1. yup, it’s a real bummer kakapo and kiwi are so rare, and penguins really need swimming pools to be happy.

        Emus and ostriches are a bit too big…


        we need to clone kakapos. Seriously, those things would make great pets.

        well, aside from having to curb the head raping behavior…

  11. It’s just a coincidence that dog is an anagram for god – no reason to hold it against them. If there were anything to that, they’d be called ttogs in Germany or dugs in Sweden.

    1. Luna: Miles, do you know that God spelled backwards is dog?
      Miles: So?
      Luna: It makes you think.
      Miles: Luna, help me push the car.

      From Woody Allen’s Sleeper.

  12. The suggestion that the happiness I experience because of my dog is somehow indicative of a character flaw (insecurity) is actually quite offensive.

    We atheists are often accused of needless criticism towards that which gives people hope and joy. But we criticize belief without evidence, regardless of its benefits. I do not have to believe anything without evidence to enjoy having a dog as a pet. To criticize that joy seems, well, just mean.

    1. Next thing you’ll be saying that, just because I don’t like dogs, my attempt to make it seem like dogs are objectively less worthy of affection stems from insecurity on my part! I mean, come on, when will this wild speculation end?

      I prefer cats over dogs, therefore cats are better than dogs. Why is this so hard to grasp? My need to be right and have others accept my decision shouldn’t enter into the discussion. Moving on…

  13. Le sigh. Dog lovers and cat lovers are never going to understand each other. There is no “superior” pet. Cats and dogs are 2 different animals. They evolved differently and have different habits. These habits are favored more by some than by others. Why can’t we just leave it at that? Sheesh!

  14. I gotta say I’m pretty surprised (and disappointed) at the numbers of responders who took this post seriously. Jerry, you need to do a control run. I suggest you write a post proposing (modestly, of course) the Irish eat their children in order to reduce both famine and overpopulation, and see how many respond “that’s horrible and offensive!” That % is the number you can safely ignore. Or maybe the ones you want to ban for stupidity.

    1. If there was any confusion, my post was essentially in response to Michael above (and should have been posted in reply to his comments). As a long time reader of this website, I realize that Jerry was simply being silly.

  15. I love that this has generated such heated debate. Jerry could have said: “Old people contribute nothing to society & should be rounded up into care homes at age 65; discuss” with similar effect! +1 to all animal lovers!

    (but cats are better)

  16. I hate dogs and they hate me. I love cats and they love me. Cats dont lick me in the face, dont shit on the lawn where it is noticable, and they dont yap incessantly.

    But I’ll tell you that none is as bad as most pit bull owners. Those people generally just suck.

    1. If you haven’t been licked in the face by a cat, you are missing out on a very enlightening experience: what it feels like to have your face ground off with sandpaper.

      1. We had a mutt when I was growing up who was about a quarter pit bull. She was the sweetest dog you could imagine.

        There’s a lesbian couple in the neighborhood with a purebred; their afternoon walk often goes past my house. The dog is the archetypal tail-wagging lick-you-to-death pup.

        There’s a certain type of sociopath who is drawn to the breed based on its reputation; they inflict their sociopathy on the puppies with abuse. Staffordshire Terriers so mistreated can be especially dangerous due to their disproportionate jaw strength.

        But, sociopaths aside, they’re everything one could want in a dog.



    2. Never met s pit bull yet that wasn’t a love monster.

      There is a pit bull in a yard I walk past every morning. When he sees me coming, he runs to the fence, lolls his big ‘ol tongue out through the fence, and just sits there in joy as I stick my hands through the wire to scratch his neck.

      I’ve always had cats, but I have loved many OPD’s. (Other People’s Dogs)

      1. Thanks to all for the pit support here, folks. Of all the breeds, this has to be the most human-oriented and the most heinously mistreated.

  17. I thought everybody knew: Cats are Democrats, Dogs are Republicans.A dog looks at its human and says, “He feeds me, he pets me, he gives me a warm place to sleep, he takes me for walks; he must be god.” A cat looks at his human and thinks, “He feeds me, he pets me, he gives me a warm place to sleep, he cleans out my box; I must be god.”

    1. So, you’ve just repainted your living room.

      Your dog walks in and thinks, “I don’t know what you’ve done, but I love you!”

      Your cat walks in and thinks, “What a naff colour.”


  18. From my observations, dog lovers tend to demand that all people love dogs or be punished. This is very similar to how the religious tend to think. In contrast, cat lovers seem to be as tolerant and freedom-minded as their cats are. Few cat lover demand punishment for those who are anti-cat.

    1. Not really, cat lovers are the kind of people that say “I am superior because I have a cat, see how it ignores me unless I am feeding it, truly a sign of a superior animal.”

      Dog lovers like to the throw tennis balls and enjoy picking up poop…

      1. “see how it ignores me unless I am feeding it”

        From 2001 through 2005 a serious injury and a succession of surgeries had me in semi-immobilizing casts for months at a time (I think out of that four years, I spent a total of 37 months partially wrapped in plaster). To make things easier, I automated my cat care.

        I got three things: a Litter Maid self-scooping litter box, which only needed to be dumped every three or four days; a circulating water fountain with an 80 fl. oz reservior, enough water for a week; a food dispenser that holds about forty pounds of dry food and can be programmed to measure out from 1 to 10 vaariable-sized portions a day, needing refilling only once every three months.

        So, with my cats, they seldom, if ever, lack for the essentials – food, water and a clean place to poop. Yet they still seek me out for affection. Kveldulf curls up at my feet or on the back of my chair as I sit at the computer; Isa won’t let me sleep alone. Since they don’t need me up front for food, water or cleaning duty, I must assume that the affection is genuine.

        1. There are probably a couple of things going on here in addition to genuine affection (however you measure “genuine”).

          I don’t know what the climate is like where you are, but here in the Pacific Northwest there’s definitely a warmth motive for cats sleeping with or on me.

          Merely being in the same room as the humans also reflects their need to assert their place in the social network by occupying a position the prescribed distance from their chosen companions.

          As an aside, I too have one of those LitterMaid automatic boxes, and I hate the damned thing. With multiple cats, or cats with kidney issues, it makes a much worse mess than the cats do on their own. I would far rather just scoop the box manually every day. The only time I deploy the LitterMaid is when I’m having cat sitters come in for a few days while I’m out of town.

        2. I rarely feed my cat, either my husband or one of the kids does it, but she still loves me best. If she was any more affectionate (dependent) she’d have to glue herself to my lap! But even the Queen feeds her own corgis, because she knows that if she didn’t they wouldn’t be hers, they’d love the footman who fed them instead.

          1. My cat (now my dad’s, as my current residence doesn’t allow pets) had one of those dishes with the self-feeding mechanism that keeps dropping food into the bowl, allowing him to eat whenever he wanted.

            Despite this, he hated eating alone and would seek me out and yowl at me until I came into the room and actually watched him eat.

          2. My cat will actually come and wake up my girlfriend at 4 o’clock in the morning because she wants someone to stand with her while she eats.

            Kit actually jumps up onto the bed and meows in my girlfriend’s face until she wakes up.

            On occasions where my girlfriend has refused to wake up, the cat will actually gently nip her on the face or hands to force her awake.

            The cat has tried this with me but quickly learned that I’ll just cuddle her and go back to sleep without waking up properly.

          3. Ah, my cat would start biting my toes (if I wasn’t dressed yet) or trying to pull my pants down (if I was). The latter may not sound impressive, but he’s a 12 lb cat who, when standing on his back legs, is capable of putting his paws in my front pockets while I’m standing up, and I’m 5’11”.

            He’s also a Siamese, and follows the “does not give up ever until he gets what he wants” characteristic of that breed very, very well.

        3. I’m sorry to hear about your predicament from that time. I do think many cats do have genuine affection for at least some people in their lives.

          a Litter Maid self-scooping litter box

          That’s the one that incorrectly taught this one cat about proper toilet etiquette for kittehs. Dog, how I hated that thing because of what it did to the cat’s mind. [ Might be because I also have dogs and so like to scoop up poop as Jolo notes 🙂 ]

          1. My older cat, Kveldulf, was absolutely fascinated by the Litter Maid when I first got it. He spent hours entertaining himself by jumping in, then jumping out, then sitting and watching it as the rake went back and forth. After about a week, he got used to it, but he still occasionally waits for the rake after he uses it.

          2. Has to make sure it “flushes”. Hee-hee. Which reminds me, people have taught their cats to use toilets. I doubt any dogs have been able to do that.

      2. “see how it ignores me unless I am feeding it”

        You’ve never had a cat I take it. Or at least had a cat and expected it to act like a dog.

    2. Really? What sort of punishments have they demanded? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

      In my experience (consistent with this thread) cat lovers try to suggest that they are especially smart, independent, and special and that dog lovers are stupid and emotionally stunted.

      1. Punishment = expecting you to love it while the dog “greets” you by wiping his wet nose on your hands, your clothes, etc.

        Then again, the punishment seems to go the other way, too, when the excited dog does something stupid (usually a minute or two after the disgusting greeting ceremony), causing the dog “lover” to bellow and smack it.

  19. I don’t have any great psychological insights into dog lovers (actually, I am at a complete loss to explain their psychology), but when I go for runs I often think of dogs as like little Christians.

    The best ones are content to do their own thing but some can’t resist charging up to me and getting in my face. And like Christians, it’s very hard to distinguish the good ones from the bad. Dogs may not be very effective at political lobbying but they make up for it by occasionally killing people.

    Perhaps cats are like atheists. Some are friendly and some are dicks, some are companionable and some are loners, all think for themselves.

  20. Cats are curious, skeptical, independent, and self-motivated. So are atheistic intelligent people. Like attracts like.

      1. it kinda supports it:

        if they weren’t “curious” and “independent”, they probably wouldn’t be easy coyote food.

        doesn’t support the “skeptical” part much though…


        Oh, and having lived in the desert SW in the US, I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about.

      1. My brother owns a border collie.

        I’m inclined to agree with Rich, with some small alterations.

        kittens >> puppies >> border collies >> some humans >> other dogs >> cats >> other humans

        1. Yep, Daniel’s formulation is a better explanation, though I’d truncate his first two categories “kittens” and “puppies” and put them elsewhere in the inequality. Otherwise, my explanation is axiomatic–a simple self-evident truth that can be arrived at through casual observation:

          border collies >> some humans >> kittens >> puppies >> other humans >> other dogs.

          Other dogs are great, but they are not royalty-in-exile as border collies are.

          (by the way, don’t take what I write seriously…this entire thread is obviously designed to foment arguments over loyalties that are unquantifiable and inestimable
          …save for the fact that border collies rule over all other meager, panty, pee-on-on-the-carpet, salivating, can’t-do-arithmetic-or-heard-sheep type of dogs)

          1. Don’t worry, I was only being half-serious. I did once get into a bit of a verbal spat with a prominent atheist about which dog breed was best, though, after he said mean things about my wittle babies (one of which is the bitch I currently have in my gravatar icon).

          2. Himmies are not really cats. They are practically different species. Kind-of like a very polite lap dog or something.

            I must revise the hierarchy thusly:

            Himmies (see pics) >> border collies >> some humans >> non-feral kittens >> puppies >> feral cats and kittens >> other humans >> other dogs.

  21. Nothing to dispute about the analysis of the dog.

    But it seems that cat owners also want to be loved, but they think that they have to do something to ‘earn’ that love. (Sophisticated theology maybe.)
    What you wrote about cats tells us who is the Alpha in the relation.

    Cat owners are the dogs of cats. The owner buys the cat, feeds the cat and only expects to be loved. It’s the homeopathic/miraculous cure for the need to be loved: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t — who knows? If you pray to the cat, maybe he will answer. But you have to earn it!

    Cats are atheists and dogs are religious — I would settle for that; but cat owners are cats as much as Harold Bloom is Shakespeare. You can praise Feynman’s intelligence, but if you’re his house maid, your praise doesn’t change your position.

    Dogs are hard science for someone who wants to socialize/to be loved; cats are pseudoscience — owners think that cats work, but they don’t, viz. sociability/love highly diluted. So diluted that a dog owner would question that love. “You have an obsolete mechanistic perspective about cats”, the cat owner would reply, “just feel cat’s love.”

  22. Dogs are great!

    Whenever I go to my mother’s house I probably spend a good 20 minutes spent when I first arrive saying hello to the dog and the puppy, which mostly consists of me lying on the floor and play fighting. I love it. The dogs love it. It’s great.

    Then I go home and try to do the same thing with my cat, and she just looks at me like I’m insane.

    Maybe she’s right. But fuck it. Dogs are more fun.

    1. The point is even a very tiny piece of equipment does not get manufactured/work at its own.

      Hmm, again, I think we more project how we think animals “ought” to behave onto them, so they end up pretty much like we expect they “should”.

      as a counterexample to yours, my brother and I used to train our cats to wrestle, just like a dog.

      They exhibited an obvious enjoyment of engaging in that behavior throughout their lives, much to the extreme displeasure of my mother, who would often be the recipient of “surprise ankle attacks” in the morning on her way to cook breakfast.

      I often wonder just how flexible cat/dog behavior really is, and whether we tend way too much to project how they “should be” on to them, much like we do with girls/boys in clothing, color schemes, toy choices, etc.

      1. All I know is that since I got our cat I tried teaching her to wrestle and failed miserably.

        She’ll *play*, but only in the sense of pouncing on things, mauling them a little and then running away to hide behind something and get ready to pounce again.

        But if I actually get down and try to wrestle with her she just gets distressed, bites and claws at me until I let her go, scampers off a few meters, and then turns around and gives me this look she has as if to say “What the hell was that about, you stupid smelly thumb-beast?”

        Then again, maybe I’m just a bad teacher.

        Then again again, maybe it’s also down to the personality of the animal falling somewhere in a bell curve.

        The key difference to me is that at my mother’s house there was no need for no training. Once the dogs were familiar enough with me to realize I was part of the family it was all on.

        1. Ur doin it rong.

          Cats don’t wrestle so much as they play patty-cake.

          When the cat is already in a playful mood, quickly tap the top of her paw and withdraw your hand. You can also try tapping her nose. Once she gets going, the object of the game is similar to thumb wrestling: touch the top of her paw but don’t let her touch the top of your hand.

          Note that you *will* get scratched when playing this game…but no worse than if you went blackberrying. And it’s every bit as fun. Just accept going into it the fact that you’re gonna bleed, and you’ll have a blast.

          My hands and wrists are permanently scabbed…as are my shoulders, but that’s because Baihu likes to ride on them, and he sometimes needs to maintain his balance….



          1. Oh, I’m not afraid to get scratched. When I said “… bites and claws at me until I let her go…” I left out the part where letting her go usually doesn’t happen until she’s drawn blood at least two or three times. I’m nothing if not persistent. ^_^

            I’ve wound up playing patty-cake a few times by accident.

            Kit cheats.

            Me: *taps paw*
            Kit: *goes to grab Daniel’s hand*
            Me: *withdraws hand just in time*
            Me: *grins triumphantly*
            Kit: *pounces on Daniel’s face*
            Me: Aaaarggghh!
            Girlfriend: *laughs*

        2. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you outweigh the cat by a factor of ten or more. A full-on body wrestle on those terms is not something a cat can enjoy; they’ll perceive it as a threat to life and limb and do their darndest to escape. Can’t blame them for that.

          However a kitten will happily wrestle with your hand, which is more much of an equal contest.

          1. yup.

            ours used to wrestle with hand/arm.

            and tackle feet in ambush attacks.

            the tough part, of course, was getting them to reduce the claw usage for these exercises.

            never worked out *quite* perfectly.

            that, I will admit, is a big advantage with dogs; you can trim their claws to bluntness without diminishing their abilities.

            and, yes, we did teach our oversized, standard collie to play tackle football.

          2. Now I’m starting to reconsider.

            I’ve only really known three cats really over the course of my life, and they were all haughty standoffish creatures.

            But the more I’m hearing from other people here the more I’m starting to think that it might actually boil down to the personality of the individual animal rather than a species-wide tendency towards certain behaviors.

          3. It’s a nurture thing. Kittens must be socialized early by regular contact with humans in order to consider humans as members of their tribe. Cats lacking that socialization will tend to view humans as big lumbering beasts that are best avoided (except when they’re opening cat food cans).

          4. @Greg Kusnick

            That could be a lot to do with it too.

            We rescued Kit from a shelter. She was already somewhere between 18 and 30 months old when we took her home.

          5. Ghillie (mum’s bearded collie puppy) is about the same size and weight as Kit.

            Then again, Ghillie is going to be huge within six months or so. Possibly instinct is playing a role there.

  23. I know that all this dog/cat crap is supposed to be in the name of fun, but come on. You’re not any better than astrologers using generalized (and romanticized) traits to draw broad conclusions that feed your self perception. You’re arguing over which member of domesticated Carnivora you find most appealing.

    The only thing I’m gathering is that cat owners are smug, self-absorbed and arrogant.

  24. I think someone ought to do a little exegetical work and find out whether Jesus had a dog. Maybe one of his disciples was actually a dog; we’ve just been interpreting it all wrong.

  25. A old Far Side cartoon has two dogs standing near a woman operating a can opener. They are looking at each other with tongues hanging out. The caption reads, “Oh boy! Dog food again!

  26. I «own» a pack of free-range feral female cats, the kind that will rip the flesh of your arms if you try to pet them. They are highly social and take care of each others kittens (so they don’t get eaten by male cats).

    Cats take care of themselves, the only feeding they get from me is when it’s time to gut fish. Never thought about them as pets and wouldn’t dare imprisoning one of them. People bragging about their prisoner cats are evil.

    1. Hmm…

      Out of interest, my cat (Kit) doesn’t wear a collar anymore and has free run of inside/outside the house and around the neighborhood as a whole.

      Would you consider Kit to be a prisoner?

      She does after all depend on my partner and I for food and a warm place to sleep.

    2. When your feral cats get sick or injured, do you take them to the vet for treatment? If not — if it’s within your power to prevent needless suffering, but you can’t be bothered to do so — then you’re in no position to lecture anyone about evil.

      The fact is that “prisoner” cats, as you call them, enjoy much longer life, better health, and greater quality of life than feral cats.

      1. And cats that are kept indoors aren’t busy annihilating native songbirds, lizards, and small mammals the way feral ones are.

        Seriously, there’s a reason cats are rated as one of the 100 most destructive invasive species.

  27. I don’t know that I have EVER been this insulted. I may have to stop reading this blog.

    Why, this might be enough to make me religious!

  28. What about those of us who like both? And I mean equally. If forced to choose, I couldn’t.

    This is what I’ve observed about the whole cat vs. dog debate: it exists exclusively online, almost never in “meatspace”. Almost everyone I know with pets owns both, or has owned both at one point or another. Further, very few people of my acquaintance express a strong preference either way. Again, such strong feelings are a purely internet phenomenon, seldom observed in the real world.

    Generalizations about cat and dog people are basically bunk, to tell you the truth. You’re good at biology, but on this one you are either far too emotional or just too close to it to be objective.

    1. While I agree with your sentiment, I disagree about it being an internet phenomenon. The whole cat person vs. dog person meme WAY predates the internet. It’s one of the oldest “there are two types of people in this world” themes around.

      1. Back in the ’70s it was a Time Magazine cover story.

        My favorite take on that theme is, “There are 10 kinds of people in the world; those who understand binary and those who don’t.

  29. that’s an utterly groundless assertion. i’m an atheist, and, while cats are ok, i vastly prefer the company of dogs. they’re my FRIENDS, not worshipers.

  30. Yay! I can slag off cats without almost getting banned:-) Have you heard cats ‘sing’ and I use the word very loosely, it sounds like a baby being strangled for hours on end. You stroke them and they scratch you, so what’s that all about and if you don’t have a cat then your garden is their toilet:-( We have Lassie, Old Yellow, Rebel, The littlest hobo and Roobard (Brits only) against what Garfield, I rest my case.

    1. *Roobarb – now that WAS a dog.
      I always preferred cats – have one who is delightful, socialised and loves humans, sleeps all night on the bed and mews when she feels it is time for us to join her under the covers. Then we had a dog foisted on us – and he has been a revelation, an epiphany (as we are being religious about it) – he is just as delightful and fun but in a totally different way. So, perhaps I am a born-again accomodationist? 🙂

      1. Till I was in my 20’s, I thought I was a dog person. Then someone gave me a cat. Now I find it hard to live without either.

        It’s especially rewarding to observe the bonds that develop between the two.

  31. Cat lovers are like the religious.

    They’re in self-serving denial of the fact that the warm, fuzzy little thing from which they draw comfort is actually a savage, relentless killer that wreaks bloody carnage wherever it goes.

    Nothing personal =)

  32. The UK version of the cats vs dogs argument (not that it really rises to the level of an argument) is that “dogs have masters, but cats have staff”.
    Which would actually go with the other comments about dogs moving homes easily, but cats tending to stay in place. After all, if your Boss tells you to move to Missississauga, you move ; but if your maid moves to Missississauga, you get a new maid.
    There’s probably reasonable animal psychology behind the contrast too.

    (I write as a cat person. I like dogs, but for most breeds I couldn’t eat a whole one.)

  33. I would say owners of the (stereo)typical cats are like religious people. The stereotypical cat doesn’t treat people nicely most of the time, but its “owners” would still defend and love it. Cats are misunderstood / have a different way of expressing love / mysterious, right? 😛

    But at least cats are real.

    /dog person; don’t hate cats but can’t stand the internet cat obsession.

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