The Junk Drawer: ‘Felines, canines — both are fine in my book’


Author’s note: Back by minimal popular demand, it’s The Junk Drawer. This column, which debuted last spring, takes a turn from the traditional columns — its topic changes. Each installment, I will be looking into a different topic which strikes me as interesting. Last year, I tackled such titans as breakfast, board games and the pigeons that rule Webster University’s parking garage. Look for this column in The Journal’s opinions section for an in-depth rambling from yours truly on the topic of whatever.

There’s an age-old battle, one as fierce and provoking as any debate over religion and politics, and everyone will defend their position until the end. Which are better: cats or dogs?

I want to preface this column by saying the only pets I have ever owned are two goldfish and some lackluster sea monkeys. I have never had the honor of owning a cat or dog, so my musings will be on my experiences with those two animals. I’ve been bitten by dogs twice and scratched by cats on occasion. And though I see myself as a dog person, I can’t be hating on cats.

According to an article in March by LiveScience, dogs may have been domesticated approximately 33,000 years ago with new discoveries of dog fossils in southern Siberia. That’s quite a long time to be “man’s best friend.” In contrast, a Washington Post article in 2007 said cats may have just wandered into human civilizations about 12,000 years ago and stayed.

The origins of the two pets set the stage for how some people view these creatures. Dogs are usually characterized as loyal, steadfast and protectors of the family. A cat is stereotyped as aloof, cautious and more of a loner. However, I’ve met dogs and cats who are exact opposites of their traditional characteristics. I’ve known dogs who don’t enjoy being around strangers and just walk away when company is over, and I’ve played with cats who enjoy being held and entertained.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each animal. Dogs are known for their intelligence (not to say cats are idiots, though). They can be taught to sit, stay, roll over, jump and any variety of tricks. Canines go for walks and play fetch. Cats may be a less active animal, but they can find comfort in the smallest of city apartments and care for themselves a lot better than their furry rivals — as long as you don’t mind cleaning out a litter box.

I can name dozens of breeds of dogs off the top of my head, and I watch Best in Show competitions to expand my knowledge of dogs. However, other than the basic Siamese and Tabby, I mostly just see cats as … cats.

The battle between cats and dogs goes beyond the back yard and living rooms. The world of music has its noticeable references to felines and canines: songs like Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” and George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog”; artists such as Bloodhound Gang, Wolfmother, Def Leppard and John Cougar Mellencamp. Former rapper Snoop Dogg transitioned to a reggae phase and renamed himself Snoop Lion (personally, I think his next move should be a blues singer named Snoop Grizzly, followed by a stint as an electronic dance music producer called Snoop Narwhal).

The sports realm tends to favor cats, as more professional U.S. teams — Florida Panthers, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats — possess a cat as their mascot. However, the dogs come away short — Minnesota Timberwolves. There are also numerous college teams across the country with the two — Gonzaga Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, Washington Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats. Even Webster University’s Gorlok has parts of a cat and a dog in it.

Overall, I would rather own a dog than a cat. But I have to meet the cat before I judge it. If the cat wants to play with me, that’s awesome. If it just wants to go away and hack up a hairball, OK. But with the right owners and love, both animals can provide years of companionship and fun for anyone.

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