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Washington Voices

Front Porch: An apology to cat people

Thu., Jan. 2, 2014

Cat fanciers have no sense of humor.

At least that’s what I thought after I wrote a little piece last summer expounding on the fact that I just don’t get cats. I wrote about how, as a person who admittedly never owned a cat, I just didn’t see what the attraction was. I went on to describe cat traits I had observed – tongue-in-cheek, I thought – that weren’t so appealing to me. Although I did leave out the egregious matter of cat-butt prints on food preparation surfaces. And I made the apparently big mistake of contrasting cats with dogs, a species I understand and appreciate. I most definitely get dogs.

I kind of thought it would be a fun little journalistic voyage and that maybe there would be a bit of a chuckle in my cat ignorance and observations. Oops.

I heard from cat lovers. A lot. Frankly, most people understood my intent and seemed to smile even while pointing out how wrong I was. In detail. But boy, some manned the barricades and really took me on, like one person who stated outright that she wanted to deploy her claws and come scratch my couch. I was told that I should occupy my mind with things I actually know something about. And even though it was several months ago that I ventured into cat world, I am still hearing about it.

Obviously, I unintentionally hit a nerve, and there’s nothing funny about that.

Readers took some pains to point out a variety of cat qualities, especially as compared to doggie behavior, and so as to give a little equal time, I’ll share some of them.

Cats will do their business tidily in a litter box, so you don’t have to rush home to let them outside. They don’t bark all night. They don’t charge into a fence and bare their teeth at small children passing by. They are not inclined to sniff your crotch. Nor do they hump your leg. They do not prevent postal workers, delivery people and others from reaching your front door. Barn cats keep mice away.

The sound of purring is delightful. They are not needy and clingy and can be left alone for a few days (food and water provided) and get along just fine. Feline indifference humbles us when we get too arrogant. They don’t jump up on you and knock you down. Their wagging tails don’t break things on your coffee table. They are not prone to incessant licking of their humans.

Now most of these things are what cats don’t do that dogs will do, which was kind of interesting to me. I didn’t hear much about what they do do. However, I’m trying to come around here, so I’ll let that go. My sister-in-law tells me how much her dear Georgie means to her, how he sits in her lap after dinner and purrs as she strokes his fur – an activity that is good for them both. And I’ve heard how much her granddaughter enjoys his antics. Cats are big on antics, I’ve learned, both from friends and family and from about a bazillion Internet videos.

I’m working hard to try to get cats, and I’ll admit I’m not quite there. I am still a work in progress, catwise.

But here’s the point: I realize I genuinely offended a lot of nice people when I kind of mocked their pets. Now I don’t mind if someone takes umbrage when I venture an opinion about, say, declining standards in communication or husbands with selective deafness or too much advertising money in politics. But I’m not such a Grinch as to want to cause pain over beloved four-legged family members, which by extension a lot of folks interpreted as a put-down of them for loving cats.

The important thing here is that we love our furry companions, be they cats or dogs. As one person wrote in, having both a dog and a cat in the house is the perfect solution. She said there’s a saying that to lead a balanced life, one needs a dog to adore him and a cat to ignore him.

So here we are at the close of the holidays and the start of a new year – the season of giving, of trying to find the best in ourselves, of celebrating family and faith and charity, of starting anew. With all of that in mind and with affection for all who take the time to read my words, I’m sorry if my stab at humor cut the wrong way.

But don’t get me started on dressing up cats and little dogs in mini-people clothes and wearing them as handbag accessories. I really and truly don’t get that.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at upwindsailor@ Previous columns are available at columnists.

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