A friend told to me the other day that dogs were far more loyal than cats. After all, she said, everyone knows “dogs are a man’s best friend.”
I disagreed. Both cats and dogs can be amazingly loyal but they show this in a different way. Dogs are pack animals with a strict hierarchy within their pack. They are, after all, the descendants of wolves, which in a pack of ten or twenty can hunt down a deer, elk or moose many times larger and stronger than themselves.
Hunting such large prey can take many hours — requiring great cooperation with-in the pack, of which each member needs to know its exact place to succeed. For this reason forces have naturally shaped dogs to have a strong sense of social identity and possess great loyalty to their leader whether alpha-male or human owner.
That’s at the heart of why dogs appear so faithful and so readily roll over for a tummy rub. If you think loyalty is simply being submissive and showing deference however badly you treat them, then dogs are certainly loyal. In the past truly dreadful experiments (I would not even wish to describe) have been carried out to prove dogs remain faithful however cruel you are to them. Even Hollywood dog whisperer Cesar Millan does not hesitate to use spiked collars and electric shocks to train difficult dogs — and I say this not in judgement but simply to illustrate the way obedience can be instilled in a dog.
Cats are different. Cats are solitary hunters and they have to think for themselves. They are independent in thought and action. You have to earn acceptance from a cat. Occasionally, of course, they are so perceptive they can instinctively feel a bond on first meeting. Either-way, a cat’s natural attitude is one of total equality with you. Cats do not think you are better than them: nor does a cat does want to compete with you. Cats are truly egalitarian.
Some people think cats love people out of cupboard-love. This is another fallacy. Though it is true cats can be trained to jump through hoops by rewarding them with treats, its still only when the cat itself chooses to obey. In fact, performing cats are a nightmare: you cannot herd cats and you cannot more make them love or obey you simply by giving them food.
Another misconception is that domestic cat are like they are because they never grow up. I heard an expert on big cats make this claim only yesterday. He was wrong. It is correct that dogs have been selectively bred for thousands of years in order to cultivate their puppyish traits. This not true for cats, who are happy to live together with human beings, but are essentially undomesticated.
Nor do cats remain kittenish because we feed them. That is convenient for the cat, but don’t read more into it than that. After all a cat that doesn’t like its home will soon go elsewhere. Should it be necessary the cat has the option to look after itself. That is very adult behavior.
Groucho Marx once quipped,
“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend; and inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
That’s great fun, but everyone who truly loves cats knows it’s untrue. The most amazing friendships can be struck up with cats beyond even books and dogs. Cats can be most tender and loyal in their love, but like all things really worthwhile, that love has to be earned.
That’s my personal view anyway. How loyal is your cat and what kind of relationship do you have with him or her? Please let us know in the comments below…