By Dr. Becker
People who love cats (we know who we are) understand how loving, funny, adorable and perceptive they can be. We also know that not everybody shares our sentiment, usually because of preconceived ideas and misinformation.
Too often kitty owners hear thoughtless comments from individuals who have a preference for dogs and don't mind saying so. If you're reading this and recognize yourself, it's time to take a step back. Some things should never be said to a cat owner, because it not only reveals ignorance — it may even hurt someone's feelings, which you certainly don't want to do.
If you're on the receiving end, you might respond by reminding catty commenters that you know a cat who could come and suck their breath away while they're sleeping, so they should be careful. Of all the darn things people say about cats, here are some of the most common.
1. "I like dogs better because they're more friendly."
When people say this or something similar, they don't seem to realize they're essentially asserting that you don't like friendly animals. It's true that cats don't generally come running with sloppy kisses whenever you come home from work. Instead, they often enter the same room (if they come in at all) and assess the situation, which dog lovers often interpret as standoffishness. Cats aren't aloof as much as they're more circumspect, dignified and discerning.
2. "I can tell you have cats."
As a cat owner, you may indeed have a cat hair on your sweater. One response might be, "Yeah, you'll have that." It's something you experience when you own a cat, just as you sometimes have toys in the living room when there are kids in the house. But as Vet Street comments:
"If you say this when you're walking into a cat owner's home while wrinkling up your nose, you might as well just walk on out again. You're not welcome there, even with your assurances that cats don't really bother you, because I'm willing to bet that you and your bad manners bother everyone living there. Cats included."1
3. "You might be turning into one of those crazy cat ladies!"
People who make such comments might think they're being funny, but it does seem to be a veiled insult. What constitutes "crazy" when it's connected to a lady (or man) who has a soft spot for cats? And who is it that determines what crazy looks like in this instance? It might be interesting to ask just what is meant by that statement.
There are millions of cat owners out there, but those who are certifiable (like the ones who show up on the evening news) are rare, and sometimes even heroic. Liking cats doesn't make anyone crazy any more than liking dogs or any other animal does. It's quite rude, whether the person saying it realizes it or not.
4. "If I had cats, I wouldn't let them get on the counters."
You may immediately think, "Well, good for you. We'll get you a gold star for that." The reality is, cats are cats, not humans, and people with such outspoken sentiments may not realize it's something you're dealing with and not choosing to make an issue out of it in front of people. It's basically tantamount to telling someone how to raise their kids or keep their house clean, which is not cool.
5. "I could never have a cat because I'm allergic"
Perhaps the best thing to do is express sympathy, because pet allergies can really be a pain, and it's indeed too bad they're unable to experience the awesomeness of having a kitty in their household. However, it's surprising how many cat owners do have an allergy, but have learned how to manage it because they can't give up their kitties! Ways to do that include:
✓ Stop biologically inappropriate foods and start a species-appropriate diet. I've had dozens of houseguests over the years comment that although they're terribly allergic to cats, they are surprisingly fine at my house. I can thank my cats' raw food for that bonus.
✓ Bathing your kitty thoroughly with a mild, organic shampoo, perhaps once a week
✓ Have a systematic cleaning routine to get rid of cat dander by dust-mopping, vacuuming and/or laundering furniture, drapes and cat beds, etc.
✓ Use an ionic air purifier
✓ Make the bedroom of the allergic person a cat-free zone
✓ Give cats optimal levels of omega-3 fatty acids in his food to reduce shedding and dander
6. "Cats are always so lazy."
Every cat owner knows cats have a secret life that outsiders know nothing about, which may involve literal flights of fancy when they're chasing their favorite ball, catnip mouse or milk carton ring. Unless they're old and more inclined to ease back in their dotage, cats can have a rich nocturnal life that can be hilarious (and admittedly, exasperating at times). But just like people, cats do enjoy some down time.
Such comments make it clear you're in the presence of someone exhibiting a sad lack of knowledge on the subject of which they speak. You can be patient with them if you wish.
7. "Where will the cat go when the baby comes?"
While there are those who can't understand how people with small children can have cats in the house, it's a little-known fact that in households that include pets, babies have fewer allergies, even later in life. Additionally, having a cat in the household can also help teach small children how to understand and respect animals, but that, of course, requires close supervision and guidance, especially on the part of the child. Also, as Vet Street cautions:
"Old wives' tales about cats 'stealing' a baby's breath or smothering a baby while he's sleeping are unfounded. Regardless, babies and young children should never be left unsupervised with any pet, be it a dog, cat, guinea pig or hermit crab."2
Response: 'Cats Aren't Always Appreciated, and Neither Are Some People'
A Popular Science article quips:
"Some people just don't like cats. That's okay. Some people don't like pizza. Or dogs. Or Harry Potter. But some cat-haters aren't satisfied with not owning cats themselves. They need to drag the rest of us down with them … The first thing you notice when you dig around in the seedy underworld of cat-bashing is that it's an old hobby."3
The article quotes an individual who asserts that cats are "selfish, unfeeling, environmentally harmful creatures," which breaks down some of the most common — and most mean-spirited — assumptions: that your cat probably doesn't love you, isn't really showing you affection and might be driving you crazy.
Don't believe any of it. We own cats because we know they're adorable, understand their quirks to be no worse than anyone else's and not some diabolical plot, as Steve Martin used to say, to steal your checks out of the mailbox and cash them in to go buy cat toys, which you can't return because they have cat spit all over them.
In reality, cats can be cozy comforters who may have a sixth sense to stay near when you're having an "off" day, are not afraid to concede an emotional connection with you, miss you when you're gone even if they'd never admit it and have very naturally taken over part of the household, just as other family members do. It's really rather ironic when you think about it. People who have no cats have no idea what they're missing.