‘Cats 101’: a dog person brushes up


Over the years I have written numerous columns about dogs. I have talked at great length about my own beloved Cocker Spaniel, Mikey, including a column about the terrible day I had to finally put him to sleep. I also wrote a little series of columns about my daughter’s crazy adopted dog, Little Suze, who needed to be put on doggie Prozac because of her separation anxiety and fear of abandonment issues. I even got a good friend mad at me because I wrote about how it’s dachshunds (she loves them) that you need to be worried about biting you, not pit bulls, because weiner dogs bite more people each year than any other breed of dog. In fact, I even got in trouble for calling them weiner dogs, which apparently is something a real dachshund-lover would never do.

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

BY DARYL FISHER, News-Ledger Features Editor

Anyway, I have really enjoyed writing dog columns over the years, and since there are so many dog owners in West Sacramento who can relate to the trials, tribulations and joys of having a dog, I have often received quite a bit of positive feedback from writing them. However, after last week’s column, which was about what to do with the family dog when vacation time rolls around, I received a phone call that started off with a rather alarming question.

“So,” asked the caller, “what’s your problem with cats?”

“But I don’t have a problem with cats,” I quickly assured her.

“Then how come you only write about dogs?”

“Well,” I said, scrambling for an answer, “I guess it’s because I’ve never owned a cat and don’t know much about them.”

“Then you do have a problem with cats!”

“No, not really, it’s just that I was raised in a house with dogs and have always liked having one around. And then when I got married, it turned out that my daughter was very allergic to cats, so that was the one pet my kids were never allowed to  have.”

“So, you’re blaming your hatred of cats on your daughter’s allergies, hey?”

As our conversation continued, it dawned on me that cat lovers take their relationships with cats very seriously and that in journalistic fairness, I did need to learn more about cats and maybe even write a column about them. The only cat I had ever been around was a big fat black and white one named Timmy, who belonged to my brother and often made us laugh by the way he would sleep on top of my brother’s warm television set in the winter time and then sooner or later fall off of it, landing with a big thud on the carpet. My brother was very proud of the fact that Timmy was apparently the only cat in existence who didn’t know how to land on his feet when he fell off of something.

So, in preparation for writing this column, I decided to call a very nice lady and longtime subscriber of the News-Ledger that I was sure knew everything there is to know about cats (she has a whole house full of them) and our conversation went a little something like this:

“Why do you suddenly want to know all about my cats?” she asked me.

“Because I got called out the other day for only writing about dogs in my newspaper column.”

“Oh, I’ve noticed that, too. But maybe you’re just a dog person. You know, it’s really true that there are dog people and then there are cat people, and they’re very different.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“I’m not really sure,” she said, “but I think it has something to do with the fact that cats are a lot more complicated than dogs, and a cat owner has to expend a lot more mental and emotional energy to successfully cohabitate with them.”

“How so?” I asked with interest.

“Well, first of all, you have to take the time to understand all their peculiar behaviors. For instance, you have to learn what all their different vocalizations mean. Cats meow and purr and trill and hiss and make all kinds of other strange sounds that all have a meaning, and if you don’t know what a cat is trying to tell you, you can end up making them miserable, not to mention getting yourself scratched or bitten. They are also nocturnal and territorial by nature, sleep a whole lot during the day, need to scratch and knead, scent mark everything in sight, and God forbid you don’t keep their litter box clean.”

“You know,” I said, “I’m afraid all I really know about cats is that I read somewhere that they kill over 65 million birds all over the world every year, not to mention all the countless vermin they pounce on and kill nightly.”

“It’s true that cats are little killing machines,” said my friend, “and many of their unique behaviors come from the fact that we only think we can totally domesticate them. All I know is that I have always loved cats and I can’t imagine life without having them around.”

“So, of all your cats, which one is your favorite?” I asked.

“Oh, that would be a big old loveable tomcat I’ve had for ages.”

“What makes him so special?”

“Oh, I don’t know, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that he’s just like my husband.”

“Really? How so?”

“Well, among other things, he expects to be fed on time, he walks away from me when I’m talking to him, and, if I were to ever let him stay out at night, he would get himself into all kinds of trouble.”


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