Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cats and Human Nature

Cats or dogs. The preference of companions among humans is often the subject of heated debates. Some people prefer the docile nature of cats, others the active loyalty of canis major. Even though I like to claim Switzerland in controversial issues, I am not neutral in this particular topic and would much rather own a dog than a cat. My reasons for this preference are many, but the purpose of this post is not to divulge every one.

However, one detestable feline trait I choose to address is their stubborn selfishness. Before you take offense because your cat sheds angel feathers instead of fur balls, hear my argument. In my experience, cats have an insufferably free spirit and will resist nearly every form of training. If some sort of discipline is enforced, it’s as if they decided upon it in the first place, like a child choosing to go to bed five minutes before his parents send him. The litter box, for example. New cat owners immediately purchase a plastic tray so the cat won’t poop on the carpet. It’s not a training process, it was the cat’s idea all along, and the plotting beast lies on the kitchen tile contemplating where to place its excretions until the scent of pine breeze drifts from the laundry room.

This may seem like a miracle compared to the painful process of training a dog to wait for a grass toilet, but this controlling, conniving nature of the cat permeates every aspect of its life, not just where to drop the gravy.

Try telling a cat to stop jumping on the counter. Try shouting at a cat to quit biting the computer cord. Try beating a cat with a broom to stop it from scratching the furniture. Chances are the stubborn brat will look at you with lazy eyes and obey until you turn your back. My cat is fifteen years old. In all five thousand plus days of his existence, the table has been strictly labeled off limits, and every time he rebels we have shouted, clapped, smacked, shoved, etc. to get him off. Last night, I walked into the dining room after the house is asleep and the idiot is perched on the table like a king on his throne.

There is no fear of punishment, no desire for hesitation, no respect for authority. Cats do whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want, and if on some occasion you think you have finally crushed its rebellious spirit, wait a few minutes. It’s not refraining out of obedience, it’s refraining because it doesn’t really feel like walking all the way over the couch and shredding the fabric. Maybe in a few minutes. Maybe tomorrow. All in good time.

This is why I love dogs. Tell a dog enough times with enough force and you could stack fine china on a tower of toothpicks. Wag a finger and a dog sulks. Pitch your voice and its tail thumps the tile. Dogs have a memory. Dogs have a desire to please. Dogs are obedient, trainable, loyal.

Another example.

Tonight, I went into the living room with a delicious bowl of ice cream. I had just fed the aforementioned cat and now prepped to watch the next installment of The Lord of the Rings. I set my bowl down on the floor and began to load the DVD player. Out of the corner of my eye, I see an orange mass waddling slowly in my direction. I give a sharp reprimand after seeing his projection would take him directly to my dessert. The second my attention returns to the television, his returns to my bowl. I wave an annoyed hand in his face, call him an insulting name, and slide my bowl once again. This continues the entire time I am eating. The audacious animal sticks his nose in my face, breathes into my bowl, sniffs the spoon and my fingers—all while I am trying to eat. This is not an act of flattery or cuddling. This is a mission to sneak a lick of Blue Bunny Strawberry Banana Frozen Yogurt. A treat dripping with sugar and chocolate syrup, which would be the death of such a fragile animal should I grant his wish. Curiosity kills.

I voiced my disgust in a fit of sarcasm, and my dad answered me with something unintentionally profound.

“Cats are independent,” he said.

Independent. This is the word I had been looking for. This is the word I had been replacing with “stubborn, annoying, selfish, disobedient, dumb.”

Immediately I was struck with the concepts of free will and human independence in connection with the Father. As I make the comparison now, I think about how very similar we are to cats.

I think of how many times I do something humanity has been commanded to avoid for thousands of years. I think of how many times I stare at a passage of Scripture, read a blatant command from God, and decide to wait for my own convenience. Maybe in a few minutes. Maybe tomorrow. All in good time.

I think of how many times I shove my face into God’s business, poking, prodding, begging, pestering for something I want without listening to the constant refusal and warnings, without respecting his knowledge and wisdom, without knowing what I want most could kill me.

I think about how many times God looks down at me and wishes I was more like a dog. How many times He longs for me to fear and love His voice. How many times He wants me to yield some of my independence for obedience, selfishness for loyalty.

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