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“God gave us the house cat, that we might stroke the tiger.” — Anonymous

If someone should give you an adorable puppy for a gift, return the leaky little vessel at once and insist upon a kitten instead. Forget all the nasty things you’ve heard about cats, for when you honestly compare the two animals, you will much prefer the cat.

Cats are independent, it’s true. They are not the tail-wagging, boot-licking sycophants that dogs are. Cats have never been cursed with the slave mentality that makes them worship two-legged creatures. Dogs enjoy being chained up, penned in, having their tails cut off and their hair trimmed in outlandish patterns. Cats may choose to ignore most people, but they can be immensely affectionate with the lucky person who merits their regard.

Cats have been accused of being finicky eaters. They are not. They are discerning creatures. Dogs, particularly those of the hound variety, will eat anything touched by human hand, never mind the cost in gastric discomfort. I once knew an obese beagle that was notoriously flatulent, an animal totally without dignity. She would sit up and beg for food during every meal, ruining the carpet with the food the children passed to her and fouling the room with her sulfurous gases. Cats rarely overeat and are seldom overweight. I have never met a flatulent cat.

Cats are often accused of cruelty, of toying with a helpless baby bird or mouse before devouring it. Actually, the cat is giving its prey a fighting chance to get away, proof of his sense of fair play.

Cats are also accused of promiscuity and yowling during lovemaking, sometimes with total strangers. Dogs are also quite capable of mating without benefit of clergy or formal introduction, and often they become mysteriously glued together with a resulting din that would make the cat’s brief love call seem like a whisper in comparison. Moreover, the dog in search of love does not care how many suitors his lady-love already has. He will join a group of 12 or 20 waiting for the same lady dog’s favors. He has no pride. He will copulate in broad daylight with an audience of thousands. Not so, the cat. Cats are romantic enough to require privacy and the evening hours for their lovemaking, preferring the softness of a full moon.

The cat seems to be strictly heterosexual, but the randy dog will attempt to make love to members of his own sex, a bathmat, a teddy bear or a neighbor’s leg. I have never found the dog’s penchant for sniffing the posterior of other dogs particularly appealing. Cats would never do anything so disgusting.

Cats are more temperate in their toilet habits than dogs, and they are infinitely more fastidious. They only urinate when necessary, while dogs, especially those on leashes, can manage up to 83 separate offerings in less than an hour. Never will a cat foul the sidewalk or the neighbor’s lawn. He covers his waste as readily as any Boy Scout.

Dogs often have bad breath. Even milk-bone cannot erase it. Cats rarely do. I have never known a cat with halitosis, but I’m not saying it can’t happen.

Cats never engage in anything as idiotic as chasing cars, joggers, bicyclists, or postmen. Nothing ever escapes their notice, but they are calm, taciturn and non-judgmental.

Cats are good listeners. They will nod, look wise and listen without comment while a person unburdens himself, something only the most skilled of psychotherapists can manage.

Cats walk with the grace of a ballet dancer; they are poetry in motion. Their velvet paws are always clean; they will never track mud into the house.

If you love a cat, it is because of his dignity, his beauty, and his grace of movement. It is not because of anything he does to try to earn your love. He will sit on your lap and let you stroke his soft head while he purrs with pleasure. Don’t expect more than that.

Nadine Smith

A native of Oklahoma, Nadine Smith holds a master’s degree in adult education from Arizona State University.

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