This Cat Lover's Claws Are Out

Jan 17, 2018

An open letter to Robert Chipkin, researchers at Vanderbilt University, and all dog triumphalists, ever, for the end of time: Your dog may be smarter than my cat. This is not a great feat. My cat’s brain is about the size of a walnut.  

Crows are smarter than my cat. Dolphins are smarter than my cat. You are smarter than my cat, too, as a human being (I assume. I’m willing to go with that).

Your dog may be more trainable than my cat. In fact, I’m sure he is. And birds are more capable of flying than my cat, and snakes are more slithery than my cat, and fish are better at breathing underwater than my cat.

My cattily made point, if you haven’t already gotten it, is that comparing your dog to my cat is like comparing the proverbial apples to oranges. They’re different species, and they have different qualities.

I don’t want or need my cat to behave like a dog, so stop measuring cats by doggy yardsticks.

Will there ever be seeing-eye cats? Actually, I Googled it, and there is at least one seeing-eye cat. But I’d turn to a dog for that job, as not all animals are meant to be aide workers.

Not all human beings are, either. Some of us are great ER docs. Others of us are born to be solitary, brooding poets. You wouldn’t disparage Emily Dickinson because she wasn’t yelling out “stat” in a hospital ward, right? That’s because she’s a poet, not an ER doc.

My cat is a cat. She behaves like a cat. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of us are introverts. Some of us extroverts. Some of us favor blue. Some red. Would all you red-favoring extroverted dog lovers just let us blue-inclined, introverted cat people be?

Back to Robert Chipkin, who snidely asked cat lovers to explain “why cats consider delivering satisfaction to their humans is a bad thing.” Dude! They do deliver satisfaction to their humans. So much more than many dogs, in my experience (not to mention humans). You just don’t see it because you’re not looking for the kind of satisfaction they deliver.

That cats don’t deliver it the same way dogs do doesn’t make them any lesser, it just makes them less... doggy.

It’s so like a dog, to come bursting into the room, panting, and assume that the standard by which you operate is everyone else’s standard, too. Take a seat, my friend, and consider that not everyone is coming at this from the same place, okay? Sit. Stay. 

Naomi Shulman lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, and is a writer and cat-lover. In a recent NEPR commentary, Robert Chipkin compared the intelligence of dogs and cats. We invited cat lovers to respond.