Each day this week, I’ve read one chapter of Jeremy DeSilva’s A Most Interesting Problem (which will be the focus of my next blog post). In the chapter “The Darwinian Road to Morality” by Brian Hare, the author discusses our co-evolution with dogs and the way that “dogs and humans are the first species known to have a between-species oxytocin connection.” He goes on to explain, “During domestication, the same physiological response that occurs between parent and baby evolved between human and dog. Dogs confirm Darwin’s suspicion that love is ancient, evolved, and present in many species.”
The strict mention of dogs here, and not cats, got me thinking. I know that this oxytocin connection has only been observed occurring between dogs and humans, so it wouldn’t make sense for Hare to bring up cats. But has anyone tried to observe this? Or are we only focused on cementing the idea that dogs really are humanity’s best friends? Regardless, it brought up something that I frequently ponder: society’s views of cats vs. dogs.
The old trope of being either a “cat person” or a “dog person” might make it sound like the population is split down the middle, but this is not the case. Both a 2001 and a 2006 Gallup poll had similar results in regards to cats-vs-dogs related questions. As could be expected, dogs were by far the favorite of the majority of the American public. Of course, owners of only cats tended to prefer cats, and dog owners dogs, but dogs were also the favorite of people who owned both and people who owned neither. The only people who actually preferred cats were 61%-69% of people who had only cats and no dogs, and still the margin was much smaller than the enthusiastic 93% of dog-only owners who prefer dogs.
I wasn’t able to find more recent data, but if I could guess how this is trending nowadays, I would say pet ownership overall is up, what with so many millennials opting not to have kids and instead treating their pets as children. I would imagine that based on their general Internet popularity, cats have become at least somewhat more popular. What I find strange is that even with my generation’s love for pets, it still seems acceptable in society to absolutely hate cats, but not dogs. I’ve heard it said that “cat people” generally don’t mind dogs, but “dog people” will go out of their way to let everyone know that they hate cats. Well, based on these facts, what I’m about to say may shock you. I’ve said a lot of controversial things on this blog through the years, but this might be my most controversial opinion yet.
I don’t like dogs.
There, I said it. I don’t just like cats better. I don’t even like dogs. And even with the oxytocin-science backing it up, I don’t see how dogs are as popular as they are. Their barking is loud, their slobber is disgusting, their smell is often less than desirable, and their high energy is draining. I write this wearing both my earplugs and my noise-canceling headphones to try to block out the incessant barking coming from the other side of my wall. What’s so lovable about that?
One recent analysis on the differences between “cat people” and “dog people” has really opened my eyes. It’s been said that when someone doesn’t like cats, it’s likely that they don’t appreciate that cats have boundaries. Think about it. Cats are famous for being assholes (they are not), for not giving affection (they do), and only letting your scratch their bellies for a matter of seconds before they start scratching you. But cats don’t owe you infinite scratches! (And they especially don’t owe you permission to pick them up.) In my experience, cats understand consent better than most humans do. They have very clear limits on what you may and may not do to them, when, and how often. It doesn’t make them mean, it means that if you hate cats, you might have boundary issues.
I fully follow this logic. To me, dogs have weak or no boundaries. You might think this makes me mean, but I have a boundary that other people’s slobbery pets cannot jump up onto me and lick my face. When I pass people on walks and their dogs want to do this, the owners are surprised every time when I quickly move on instead of stopping to make friends with their dog. Boundaries are something that cats and I have in common. Actually, many of the stereotypical personality traits of cats could also be used to describe me. Maybe why that’s why I can get so upset when people go out of their way to denounce that personality.
Not liking dogs may be an unpopular opinion, but it is one that I’m entitled to. Of course, you’re allowed dislike cats. That’s also an opinion. These qualify as harmless opinions because they are subjective and they don’t affect anyone but the one who holds that opinion. Unfortunately, I have seen the word “opinion” thrown around way too much lately, especially in regard to vaccines.
Being against taking a COVID-19 vaccine is not a difference of opinion. If you don’t get it, and your only reason is because you “don’t want to,” that’s selfish. It is not a valid or respectable opinion. It is a blatant, selfish disregard for the health of others. It does affect other people, so when we are around someone who chooses not to get it, we have a right to be upset. This isn’t cats-vs-dogs, chocolate-vs-vanilla, this is life-vs-death. Nearly 600,000 Americans have died from this virus, largely from these same people’s “opinions” that they don’t feel like wearing masks or social distancing. Over 4,000 Indian people died of COVID yesterday alone because there is no vaccine for them to take, while people in America have to be bribed with donuts. These people didn’t die so you could use a difference of opinion to make the selfish choice to not protect your fellow humans. Not getting vaccinated when you are privileged enough to have the option to is objectively immoral.