I get why dogs are man’s best friend. Back 30,000 years ago, when we were a shaggy but sharp biped with an uncertain future, dogs saw something in us and made a bet on our promise. They’d be our biggest boosters, slavishly drooling at our side, and ride our coattails to a better life. It paid off spectacularly. They are so well off they’ve completely forgotten how to fend for themselves, trusting that we’ll spend billions each year to feed them, come hell or high water. And let’s not even get into how codependent they are around bodily functions. You can’t leave!!! they bark anxiously when you approach the door. How will I take a dump without you!!?!?!?
People love feeling important, and dogs make us feel great. I get it.
Why, though, are cats #2?
They are obviously not fans. In fact, they’re the opposite. They disdain us. Not to argue with a great science fiction movie, but the animal most naturally oriented to stab humanity in the back is not a primate. We’re family. It’s a cat. They’d do it cruelly, almost casually, pawing us around till jumping on our collective faces while we sleep, then scratching our eyes out.
The stranger thing is how we fawn over them despite their obvious antipathy for us. It’s your girlfriend from sophomore year in college, the one who mocked your musical tastes and your major and told you she would be sleeping around on you, and yet you begged her to stay together. At least then, you learned your lesson by Thanksgiving of junior year. Like Maya Angelou said, When someone tells you who they are, believe them. Even if they occasionally purr.
So why is it? Maybe it’s a size thing? Horses are more generally approving of us, and they’re actually useful in some instances, but they’re hard to keep in the house. Same for pigs, the feral sort excepted. And deer, except they’re a little spooked by us—for good reason, I’d add. And what about snakes? A little cool, but generally they like to wrap around your hand when you pick them up. A little creepy, but unlikely to actually hurt you. Can’t say the same for a baby tabby.
And maybe that’s it: The only thing people like as much as feeling important is feeling hurt and worthless. And cats deliver that in spades.
Anyway, cats. Humanity’s true foe, Joker to our Batman, hiding their contempt for us in plain sight. And yet, somehow, against all odds, humanity’s #2 favorite species.
#3? People, for most of the same reasons.