Just because I hate dogs, it does not follow that I love cats. People who live their lives in binaries often make this mistake. You can, as I do, hate both (and that does not mean I love rabbits). Yet I have one living at home (cat, I mean, not rabbit). The reason is simple: I love my wife.
It means we spend a lot of money on cat food (I had no idea till last week that we spent on cat food enough money to keep the car running on premium gasoline for about a week). It means we (or rather, I) spend time climbing trees around the house to bring the cat down. And it means we take it to the vet at regular intervals. Our son, who inherited cat-love from his mother (I thought when the hate and love genes mingled, they’d produce indifference, but I was wrong), didn’t cost us as much on annual upkeep when he was the same age as the cat.
But does the cat acknowledge any of this? Oh no! Cats have the entitlement of millennials, and accept everything as if it is their birthright. We have a board outside our door that says, ‘All visitors must be approved by the cat.’ That sums it up, I think. The pecking order, I mean. We don’t have a board which says, ‘All visitors must be approved by the greying man in the house with the incipient paunch.’ That would be me.
And what do cats do in return? Do they chase away unwelcome visitors or bring in the newspapers or put on the kettle to show gratitude for the treatment they receive? No, they sleep 24 hours a day, only regretting that the day is so short; another couple of hours, and they could sleep for 26. Our ancestors worshipped cats; felines don’t want us to forget this.
Dogs are not like that. They bark and bite and scare away people trying to sell you a year’s subscription to a magazine. They fetch balls and Frisbees you throw into the distance, and show excitement when you return home from a hard day’s work. Cats, if they deign to look at you at all, simply turn around and continue sleeping.
Christopher Hitchens once said, ‘Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are God. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realise that, if you provide them with food and water and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are God.’
I rest my case.
More from Suresh Menon: