Cat vs Dog and the Quest for Acceptance

April 20, 2016

Cat vs Dog and the Quest for Acceptance

Photo © Reader of the Pack / CC

Dear Reader,

Every once in awhile, someone will walk in to my art show booth, look around at all the cat artwork, and then say something truly outrageous. Sometimes that thing will sound suspiciously like the phrase "I hate cats." Now your thoughts are your own, but if you consider that to be a good conversation starter then I can come to only one conclusion. You're in the wrong booth and you just haven't figured it out yet.

Since I'm a well known cat fanatic you might have reason to doubt my sincerity, but I like dogs, I really do. We fostered shelter dogs for nearly five years and have had dogs of our own for over twenty years. Dogs are the furry equivalents of self-esteem boosters because they pay attention to people, and that makes us feel incredibly special. There's nothing wrong with that, we gravitate towards other humans for pretty much the same reason.

This bonding over social acceptance is how packs are built, and being part of a strong pack helps to protect us, mostly from members of other packs. From this perspective dogs and people are practically brothers. We join their packs, they join our packs, and as long as everyone respects the social hierarchy then happiness abounds. Well, sort of, I'm seriously generalizing here.

Cats though, I truly adore cats. They don't pander to people. They have secret lives where we exist on the periphery, lucky to earn enough of their trust to be conditionally included in cat society. If dogs are our brothers then cats are akin to outer space aliens, related to us only in terms of sharing a universe. Cats are so much more interesting than dogs, but not everyone has the privilege of seeing it because they don't know how to get aboard the spaceship.

I wonder if that's why some people have such a vehement dislike for cats. Maybe these folks think they deserve immediate acceptance, withering under the judgmental gaze of a disinterested cat. Maybe they feel rejected. Cats can be very adept at making people feel rejected. That's pure evolution on their part, a built-in alarm system where avoidance can mean the difference between life and death for someone who often travels alone.

Cats aren't solitary though, they have a tribe, a colony, their own version of a family composed almost entirely of introverts. I've lived in a cat colony for most of my adult life, and I appreciate their mysterious way of being. I'm happy to be part of it, and honored to have been accepted to varying degrees by cats who were initially more than a bit put out by my presence. 

In human circles this preference for a trust-based social structure makes me a crazy cat lady, and I'm okay with that. If you'd rather be the pack leader for your dogs, I'm okay with that too. If you don't like either cats or dogs, well then you probably wouldn't have even read this letter so I can put off worrying about what kind of monster you might be until another day.

Mirthfully yours,

The artist behind Chaos in Color, Annie Dunn

About the Author

Annie Dunn is the artist behind Chaos in Color. She's been a digital painter since 2003 and a scrap paper doodler for her entire life. She's kind of nutty about cats, has an odd affinity for skeletons, and likes to watch period movies on Netflix.