Okay, I don’t really think dogs are better than cats.
But cats get less veterinary care, are more likely to be homeless, and are more likely to roam free. Sounds like lots of people do think cats aren’t as good as dogs.
Are Cats And Dogs So Different?
Of course they are. They’re different species with different needs and different traits.
But that doesn’t mean cats deserve less care than dogs. And that’s what is happening in our culture.
It’s A Dog’s World
In 2011 (the most recent data I could find), 44.9% of people did not take their cats to the vet. In contrast only 18.7% of dog owners failed to take their dogs to the vet.
Go to any pet store, expo, or website and you’ll see far more products developed to keep dogs safe, well-trained, and entertained than those for cats.
In my town, if I see a dog roaming free, chances are good that within moments I’ll find their person frantically driving around calling his name. Or I’ll see a lost pet sign on a sign post.
But I see cats running across busy streets all the time.
Yes, cats do rule the internet.
But it hasn’t yet caused people to worry more about their wellness and safety, has it?
Keeping Cats Safe
I first thought about the differences in how people keep their pets safe when I began reading books about sailing voyages. You see, many more people sail with cats than with dogs.
Cats are compact. They’re agile. And they can poop and pee indoors without problem.
They’re a natural companion for anyone taking a long sea voyage.
But after a while, I had trouble concentrating on the stories of people taking long sailing trips because I couldn’t stop wondering how the cat was going to get it.
It’s not like there’s much suspense. A dark night. A sleepy crew. The sound of a splash before the person rolls over. The next morning wondering what happened to the cat.
Even sitting at my desk writing this I cry at the thought of those poor cats alone in the vast ocean swimming to the point of exhaustion as their home sails out of sight.
I’ve also read about people sailing with dogs. The dogs have their share of adventures too. But people who sail with dogs equip them with life jackets, tether them to the boat, and confine them below at night. All good practices if you want to keep any animal safe.
My dog Honey likes cats. And I’ve thought about adopting one when we move aboard a sailboat. But not until I know how to keep my kitty safe.
Creating A Safer World For Cats
The statistics about cat care don’t tell the whole story. I’ve met some amazing people who work hard to give cats better lives.
I know of people who devote hours each week to Trap Neuter and Release programs to reduce the feral cat population. I’ve seen the online pictures of my Facebook friend who set up a warm shelter on her porch for the wild cats that no morsel will coax indoors. My local shelter has an excellent barn cat program that adopts out animals who would never tolerate life indoors but need someone to look after and feed them in exchange for keeping barns pest free.
But can we convince more people with pet cats living in their homes to care just a little bit more?
I remember talking to my sad friend from college. She had just come in from “scraping another cat off the road.” While she would miss her cat, she talked as though having cats die young in car accidents was normal and that she could do nothing about it.
I wish I could have introduced her to the cat man who lives downtown.
I’ve never met him. But I’ve admired his cat enclosure. His entire yard, admittedly a tiny city lot, is covered on all sides with a metal mesh frame. There are a few platforms and a tree growing up through the middle.
On a warm day, I see the cat climbing the platforms or just chilling in a summer breeze. My husband has spotted the cat walking on leash with his person around town.
I’m sure if we could look inside the cat man’s house, we’d see all kinds of stimulating toys that allow his cat to keep his hunting instincts strong while keeping him from getting hurt (or hurting other creatures). And I’m sure his cat goes to the vet for a check up every year.
Sounds like a good life, doesn’t it?
How To Change A Culture
It’s Blog the Change For Animals. I’m supposed to have some inspiring idea for improving the lives of animals.
But I don’t know.
The CATalyst Council is working to ensure cats get better care. One initiative was to name the most cat-friendly towns to bring attention to their cause. But I don’t see that changing minds about cats.
How do you convince people who think cats
- are untrainable (they aren’t)
- need almost no care (if you think that you’re probably doing it wrong)
- don’t need or care about their humans (not true)
Maybe I can’t convince anyone until I actually get a cat and start posting videos and stories of creating a stimulating kitty life like those I’ve shared about my dog Honey.
Or maybe you’re smarter than me. Okay, I know you’re smarter than me.
What can I do, now, to share the word that cats are worthy of as much care as dogs? And what’s the best I can do to help cats have good lives?
Because if a crazy dog lover like me can come to see how unfair it is for people to treat dogs better than cats, there’s hope for anyone.
photo credit: (cat and dog friends) withvengeance86 via photopin cc, (sewer cat) Michael Cornelius via photopin cc, (boat cat) mhobl via photopin cc. Click on image to learn more about the photographer.