Sunday 11 December 2016

Dogs and Cats

Dogs and cats share and enrich our lives to the point where it is difficult to imagine life without them. Traditionally us humans are expected to fall into one category (dog or cat person) and most folk will state a preference. And in this regard I'm no different. I've owned dogs all my life. When young I owned 'Staffies'. Staffordshire bull terriers are a breed highly favoured in the 'Black Country' where I grew up. Imagine a compact American pit bull and you get a rough idea of what the breed looks like. Staffies have a reputation for tenacity and are extremely protective of their owners. These days we own Maltese terriers. Cute, fluffly, white dogs. Like many lap dog breeds these dogs have been designed to be adorable, extremely loving and loyal to their owners. As I write, 'Mandy the Maltese', lies curled and content upon my lap, gently farting. 

Mandy, looking cute
Domestic cats have changed little from their wild ancestors. Thousands of years ago they realised the advantage of  associating with humans and decided to adopt us. Cats are independent haughty loners; adaptable and cunning. I have no doubt that the average domestic cat could survive in the wild. If an apocalypse occurred my dogs wouldn't make it past two days and more than likely succumb to the prowling and pouncing neighbourhood cat- docile pet turned feral killer. 

It is very much a given that dogs 'love' their owners. We leave them for an hour and when we return they greet us with flailing tail, gymnastics and sloppy kisses. Now that is what I call love. When my wife returns from shopping I receive a perfunctory glance and a hefty credit card bill. A cat on the other hand barely breaks into a sweat. Attention is only guaranteed and feet circled if 'dinner time' is overdue. 

Studies have been conducted on our pets looking at the release of the chemical, oxytocin. This is the hormone which makes us all warm and fuzzy inside when we interact with those we love. Tis no surprise that when dogs interact with their owners this chemical soars in both dog and human. Truly an objective expression of mutual love. What is surprising, not to dedicated cat owners perhaps, is that cats also receive a boost in oxytocin under similar circumstances. The increase is less than observed in the 'man-dog' scenario, but significant nonetheless. 

What does all this mean? Dogs and humans have evolved a strong emotional bond akin to true love. Cats, not only tolerate us but seem to actually 'like us' in a manner which transcends the usually accepted notion of 'cupboard love'. This makes sound adaptable evolutionary sense. In a way, our pets are the ultimate parasite. Intelligent animal species exploiting weakness in the ultimate intelligent species. Quite a feat. They are totally dependant on the human host for food and lodging. We in turn garner nothing tangible from the interaction. Although it is certain that we gather the intangible asset of affection, whatever that means. 

Before we become too complacent it is a good idea to heed the occasional story where lonely cat/dog woman gets eaten by loving Mittens/Fido. Hunger is a universal propelling force in nature and is not to be ignored or underestimated. Hunger overrides all other base instincts. It turns the pampered moggy into a Tiger and the coiffured, beribboned pooch into a Wolf, although to be fair, in the case of the Maltese terrier, an extremely crap wolf.

I also like ferrets.....

The noble Staffie: uncle Eric's dog, Eli

1 comment:

  1. In a nutshell, dogs have owners but cats have staff.

    As a manservant to cats (and to Mrs. T.) I know this to be 100% true.