In human society animals have very little worth as sentient beings. Sure, we value them as a food source and we don’t hesitate to use them as tools when they can make themselves useful. However, on their own, as living creatures that exist and have needs, we care for them very little. I am sure everyone reading this knows this fact as well as I do. And we are all guilty of it in various forms. For instance, I am probably not going to rush to the aid of a magpie but I would probably help a fellow human, even if doing so put myself in danger. I’m not saying this is right or wrong, it’s just the way things are.
Obviously some animals have more public worth than others. It’s all relative. While I may be indifferent toward magpies, others may see them as beautiful creatures for whom it is worth risking one’s life. North American society in general values different animals than does Asian. Dogs and horses are probably near the top of this list. And it’s understandable. Humans have a long history of working and living with those two species. Furthermore, dogs and horses have become incredibly useful in our evolution. They are tools who have a very large return on investment.
Dogs aid humans in countless ways. There are police dogs, military dogs, disability assistance dogs, and therapy dogs. We put them in shows to raise our personal status. They are our companions and family members. We put pressure on governments to protect their welfare. We license them and write by-laws to keep them off the streets. We train them and play with them and judge others for not training and playing with them enough.
What baffles me is that there is another species who has been domesticated and has evolved in a similar way to dogs but has almost no value in our modern society. Like dogs, we raise them in our homes, buy them toys, and post pictures of them on the Internet. Yet the public at large grants them minor worth. These animals are abandoned every day in terrifying numbers, left to fend for themselves without even any by-laws in place to pull them off the streets.
Of course, as per the title of this post, I am talking about cats.
According to The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies out of over 84,000 cats admitted to shelters in 2008, over 45,000 were killed. 45,000. It’s a frightening number. Those are just the cats lucky enough to make it to a shelter. How many cats were killed on the streets? There is no way to know. There is no record.
For whatever reason, cats have a negative connotation. They are associated with “crazy cat ladies” and hoarders. They are bird-killers like Sylvester in Looney Tunes. They ruin gardens and harrass our dogs. They are a public nuisance on the level of raccoons and Canada geese. Even as pets we dislike them. Cats hiss and scratch and destroy our things. They are too independent. Cats do what they want and can’t be trained. They aren’t affectionate and loyal like dogs. They don’t greet us at the door when we come home.
Of course, if we treated our dogs with the same negligence we do our cats, they’d probably react much the same way. Cats are far more tolerant of us than we deserve.
The title of this post is misleading. Cats are definitely not dogs in any physical way. As I’ve discovered, they don’t think in the same way either. My point is that cats can and should have just as much value as dogs. Both as pets and as useful helpers. Perhaps there will never be cats in the military, but I don’t see why they can’t help children learn to read like dogs do in multiple literacy programs. I am sure cats can provide assistance to people with disabilities and give comfort to hospital patients, just like dogs.
I’m making it a mission of mine to help change public perception of what I think are loving and useful creatures. Even my own fumbled attempts at bonding with my cat have blown me away. I like to think I can prove that not only are cats trainable – even older, grumpy ones like mine – they are just as intelligent, just as affectionate, and just as much fun as dogs.
There is one caveat. I am just one person. If I am going to show the world just how awesome cats are, I am going to need your help.
For this Blog the Change for Animals I am asking for submissions of photographs, stories, videos, drawings, letters, haikus, or whatever other creative mediums you can come up with that showcase the importance and value of the cat. I am hoping to collect as many as possible to share in July’s Blog the Change Event. If I get enough, I’ll share them in multiple posts. I’d love to make the celebration of the cat a regular feature. After all cats have endured, I think they deserve it. Don’t you?
If you love cats and have something positive to share, please respond in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s show the world how worthy these beautiful animals are!