It is an age-old icebreaker question, one that is safe to discuss (unlike sport and certainly politics) and almost as classic as discussing the weather: ‘Are you a dog person or a cat person?’
Most people seem to identify with one or the other, and definitively too. ‘I’m totally a dog person; I can’t stand cats,’ or just simply, ‘I’m a cat person,’ as they snootily look down on all dog people as somewhat inferior.
Can this seemingly innocent question reveal insights into our personalities? Are our preferences for dogs or cats reflective of our inner selves?… and are dog people and cat people even different anyway?
Raining Cats and Dogs
Let’s consider dogs… they are the perpetual optimists of the animal kingdom. Often a bundle of joy, always ready for action, pleased to see you, and displaying what is an infectious zest for life. Sure, they may have the emotional range of a teaspoon and not be the ‘sharpest tool in the shed,’ but what does it matter when you’ve got a ball, all the food you can eat, and the prospect of a biscuit every time the human has a cup of tea? Dogs, it seems, live in the moment and are eminently likeable as a result.
Now let’s take a look at cats… in the world of pets, they are its philosophers and politicians, it seems. Often aloof, seemingly perpetually preoccupied with thoughts of their next meal, and showing affection on their own terms (or to get something in return). Any demand to know your whereabouts is not out of concern, of course, but because they need something from you, like opening the door for them or making them a meal. As they say, ‘dogs have owners, and cats have staff’.
Yet, while dogs are always friendly and welcoming, dog people really dislike cats… however, self-proclaimed cat people, whose pets wouldn’t cross the road to say hello, rarely seem to express disdain for dogs. Why is this?
Are cat people inherently kinder, or do dog folks harbour some deep-seated resentment and animosity towards cats?… Is Clifford the Big Red Dog a source of childhood trauma, or is it envy in later life towards their carefree, cat-loving friends, going away at the weekends… or maybe just the sheer exhaustion from those rainy, 4 AM dog walks? Who knows!
Dogs vs Cats vs Humans
Taking a step back, we humans do seem to almost universally admire dog-like qualities – optimism, loyalty, and supportiveness. They are behaviours we value, cherish, and like to have around us, and seek in others, including at work.
Yet, in the hustle and bustle of modern life, what are the behaviours we tend to incentivise and observe in success? It can have a distinctly feline flavour. Outwardly friendly, with a focused (underlying) agenda – concentrating on our needs, desires, and ambitions first rather than those of the pack. Social, yes, but on our terms, much like our furry, whiskered friends.
Throw me a bone here
Now we may all identify as either a dog person or a cat person, but in reality, we are all the same… human… And as humans, it does seem we are trending to behave increasingly more like cats than we like to admit while all the time aspiring to be more like dogs. There is some contradiction or dissonance here it feels.
So this is my manifesto of the week (and next)… to try to emulate a little more ‘dog-like’ qualities… with friends, family, and colleagues. Hopefully, it can generate a little more goodwill, optimism, and trust all around… and who knows, I may get an extra couple of biscuits.
Have a good rest of the week and weekend, everyone