Achilles and Hector, nature vs. nurture, “Star Wars” or “Star Trek,” Domino’s pizza delivery and the dreaded Noid—history is strewn with great rivalries. We often are drawn into these dust-ups and forced to take a side, pick a tribe. Sometimes, it’s easy. I attended the University of Kansas so I naturally, almost as if it were predestined, cultivated a dislike of the Missouri Tigers. Other divisive disputes are not so easy to sort out. Perhaps the greatest feud of all is cats vs. dogs and, as an extension, the most potent and existential of all questions: Are you a cat person or a dog person? Breaths remain bated as the answer is anticipated.
When I first entered the world of animal welfare, I was asked this question almost before being asked my name. It seemed innocuous enough to me. The question was not “Do you love cats and hate dogs?” It was more in the vein of “which way do you lean?” A query akin to “What’s your favorite color?” There’s no wrong answer, right?
I learned a hard lesson that day. I announced, unassumingly, that “I am more of a dog person.” The room grew dark and items seemed to shift (I am pretty sure the clock melted in a Salvador Dali-esque twist). Then half of the room erupted in applause and high fives; the other half furrowed their brows and flared their nostrils. What had I done?
Let me explain. I am an animal person. I like them all and I will help them all without preferential treatment. We had both dogs and cats growing up, and I loved every one. Yet you must understand, our childhood dog loved to play, snuggle and was simply desperate to be near you. Cuddles Boots Ryan, our cat, did not like to be touched and would punish direct eye contact. She used to lounge beneath a weeping willow in our yard, awaiting the opportunity to attack neighbor children; it was when she was happiest. I had been preconditioned to be a little more of a dog person.
Dogs are what led me to animal protection and sheltering. Once I joined the field, I acquired a new appreciation for those who meow and I can now admit that I am both a cat person and dog person, as my co-workers can attest. I recently acquired an office cat named Sebastian, who is 13 years old and came to NHS as a stray. I love him dearly and we have long discussions. Sometimes we argue, but we never part angry.
There is no need for this war to rage on. Be a cat and dog person—why choose and miss out? Let’s achieve peace among pet people in our time.