A dog, the saying goes, has an owner, but a cat has staff. Like most cliches it has an element of truth. Your dog is always happy to hear your footsteps on the walk and not ashamed to slobber all over you to show it, but a cat, eh, a cat might, just might, be happy to hear the sound of the can opener when you open some tender vittles.
Our relationship with these two species began far back in the mists of time during a primitive anthropological era that featured a fellow known as “homo habilis.” For our purposes, though, let’s refer to this individual as “Fred.” One day paleolithic Fred comes out of his cave and spots a lot of unpleasant droppings on his lawn. He calls to the occupant of a neighboring cave, let’s call him “Barney”, and says, “Before I massage your thick Cro-Magnon skull with this club, let me ask, what’s the deal with all these lawn decorations?” And Barney, gnawing on a Louisville Slugger sized brontosaurus-kabob, responds, “Focus those beady Neanderthal eyes of yours on yonder wolf which has been following you around ever since we bagged that last mastodon – the one Wilma and Betty so expertly barbecued right after they discovered fire. Ha-ha, as if they’ll ever get credit for that!” After sharing a good laugh, Fred KO’s Barney and relieves him of his dinner. Eventually, it dawned on Fred that the wolf had indeed been in on the hunt, driving the game right into Fred and Barney’s gnarly prehistoric hands, and was therefore entitled to share. Next, after inspecting the area it also dawned on Fred that it was indeed Barney who had been soiling his lawn. Ultimately, though, Fred became dimly aware that the wolf had been more instrumental in the hunt than Barney, and if, unlike Barney, it could be trained to duplicate the effort, they could clear an easy 50 to 60 mastodons a year before taxes. Thus began the wolf/dog’s long and profitable association with man, the former lending valuable assistance on the hunt and the latter forking over some choice cuts to his faithful companion.
Meanwhile, cats had to wait around until agriculture was invented, probably lolling on prehistoric windowsills for millennia, before making their move. Originally they were big bad predators, lions and tigers and leopards and pumas who could easily kill and devour game of any size, ranging from misses petite and juniors to Men’s 48 Long. But some of them decided to downsize and the result was a teensy tiger who could bring down much smaller game, namely mice and rats. This ability was valuable to agrarian societies. The deal we made with cats was that they would keep the granaries free of hungry rodents and in return we’d give them shelter and throw them some Meow-mix from time to time. But they did their work alone and only tried to cozy up to us when they brought in the occasional mouse corpse and, to everyone’s horror, dropped it on the hearthstones.
Anyway, now that nobody but right wing extremist gun nuts is doing much hunting, and corporate farming has developed better loss control strategies than Garfield could offer, we ought to renegotiate our deal with the critters. The dog wants nothing more than to take a walk with us, because he thinks we’re going hunting. Sure you have to take a supply of plastic bags so as not to suffer Barney’s fate at the hands of an irate neighbor, but you’re getting some fresh air and exercise. And what’s the cat doing for you? Don’t forget to empty the litter box.