Friday, August 17, 2012

Feline Liberals and Canine Conservatives



Just in case you're not yet fed up with the inanity of our polarized political system, let me see if I can drop the level one more notch.  As a liberal living in a conservative community, I like to think I have to pay more attention to our differences than most Americans.  And as a rural American, I find comparisons to nature irresistible.


The liberal cat is a fascinating species.  She is generally suspicious, questioning everyone and everything.  She watches, studies and decides.  Sometimes she makes people nervous with all that studying.  What is obvious to dogs is far from obvious to cats.

There are no insiders and outsiders in her world.  All deserve a fair chance.  If she's affectionate, she's affectionate to everyone.  One lap is as good as another and she expects the world to treat her well.  If you pet and pamper her, be aware that she may still scratch or bite.  She does not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.  On the other hand, she is unforgiving.  She may love you today and find you a disappointment tomorrow.  Right, Mr. President?

Her world is chaotic.  There is no accepted hierarchy or rules.  She does -- and allows others to do -- as she pleases. She is untrainable and frustrating to anyone who prefers law and order.  She is passionate about the environment though and always buries her own waste and keeps herself clean.  The whole world is her ecosystem and she recognizes no territorial boundaries.  In fact, she has no qualms about picking up her family (by the necks) and moving them hither and thither just because.


The conservative dog however is nothing like a cat.  To him, loyalty is the number one virtue.  If you "belong" with his group, you will be defended without question.  He would lay down his life for you.  Your actions are beyond reproach and outsiders challenge you at their peril.  If you are an "other", he will bark, snarl and charge.  He doesn't usually bite, just wants you to know you're an intruder and should stay out.  When he barks, he awakens the ire in all the neighborhood dogs too and you'd best just move on, buddy.

Within the group, there is a natural order of things that all dogs accept.  The alphas get more food, the omegas fall into line and are convinced the alphas deserve what they get.  Dogs understand rules and follow them almost all the time.  They have no desire to overturn the order of things and will learn how and when to get more petting, more frisbee play or more biscuits.  They are incredibly trainable, but only by those they are loyal to.  They have no problem with authority and love their masters to whom they are perfectly attentive.

Dogs don't care so much about the environment but they will bury a special possession, holding onto what's theirs.  Dogs believe in private property and boundaries.  They mark the limits of their territory and will defend it.  They expect others will have done the same.  Cats don't mark territory, just people. 

By and large, dogs can learn to love anyone once they get to know them, though they have the hardest time with cats.  And cats for their part tend to avoid dogs altogether.


Anyone who has lived with both dogs and cats understands how different they are.  The tension between loyalty and independence runs deeply, in their species and in our nation.





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