FROM THE STOOL

CATS

People have very strong feelings about cats. While there is a small core group of genuine cat lovers, most people react to cats with a passion reserved for sex or politics.

While dogs routinely maim and occasionally kill people, chase public servants and paperboys, bark loudly enough to keep entire neighborhoods awake indiscriminately leave massive turds in parks, on walkways and yards most Americans love them or are ambivalent.

Cats, while quiet, fastidiously clean, and litter box trained from birth are misunderstood, mistrusted, and more often than not hated.

Having grown up with a variety of stray cats and having lived with both cats and dogs (never at the same time) as an adult, I have developed some theories which I would like to share with you and would welcome your thoughts on the subject as well.

All members of the cat family exude a certain attitude, which many interpret as independent, smug, aloof, self-satisfied, moody, cunning or treacherous.

Save the sick, badly injured, or infirm it is the rare cat that over time ingratiates himself to his owner, no matter how devoted or attentive. Dogs, however, routinely humble themselves to acquire the odd snack or snuggle. Most cats think nothing of digging their claws into the hand that lovingly feeds them.

Cats, considering their size and apparent frailty, are unusually able hunters and if provoked, savage fighters. Sharp claws, powerful jaws, exceptional speed and agility, expert climbing skills and extraordinary leaping ability, combined with inbred ferocity, provides a street savvy challenge that few dogs can handle. This accounts for the fact that most dog owners would willingly terrorize, drown or shoot any cat if the opportunity presents itself.

Many believe they are allergic to cats and their hair. Bird lovers hate cats because they kill birds. They also kill rats for the same reason snakes kill rats and birds instinct born into them over the ages. Humans slaughter birds and mammals in factories for the same reason cats and snakes kill to fill their stomachs. Few give cats any credit for controlling vermin but never fail to make a cause celebre over a dead bird.

Cat lovers have done little to enhance the public image of cats. While dogs are forever being honored for saving drowning kids, rescuing avalanche victims, seeking out police and fireman in times of emergency, and assisting their often inebriated human partners in shooting other animals and not each other cats get no recognition for the fact that they live quietly, cleanly and require virtually no maintenance.

Cat owners are defensive as in most cases their pets are smarter than they are. Dogs, like small children, require constant companionship and entertainment. Without it they bark themselves sick and everyone around them. Cats enjoy being alone, sleeping during the day and, if allowed, hunt and breed at night.

Dogs expect to share your life and be constantly rewarded for doing so. Cats don't care if you try and share their lives, but expect you to understand their requirements and pay for the privilege of the unexpected nuzzle or purr.

It is risky to stereotype. Not all members of the Moral Majority regard suffering as life's principal goal. Not all the Christian Right favor abolishing Rowe vs. Wade. Not all NRA members favor carrying concealed weapons. Not all cats are mysterious, or maybe they are.