We were recently reminded, once again, that some humans suffer from this strange notion that Dogs are somehow a better companion than a cat. There was a rather long soliloquy on the perceived qualities of dog that somehow magically create the “perfect best friend.” Our own humans were mostly silent during this expression of mis-truth by this visiting human, though they did share a few eye rolls with us. Fortunately, no wine was wasted on this individual either – something about eating less sugar and reducing weight – which dogs can help you do by going for a run with you. Ha!
We decided it was time to share a few stories of strong and inspiring cats to refute the notion that only dogs can be brave or loyal or whatever other words dog owners (not staff) are so wont to toss about. Most recently, of course, is the video of the cat defending a human child. The neighbor’s DOG (ha!) had escaped from the backyard, and spotting the child playing on a small bike in the driveway, charged next door and grabbed the boy by the leg. He then started to drag the boy away, only to be stymied by the resident cat. This ferocious feline charged the dog, knocking him off the boy, and administering a quick swipe of the claws. When the dog scrambled away, this feline hero staged a quick pursuit to ensure his departure before returning to the child’s side to check his condition. The cat accomplished all this in the time it took the child’s mother to run out the front door. (Bad dog!)
Or consider the case of Ricki, the resident cat onboard an Italian freighter. Word had arrived that a small plane had gone down nearby and the ship had all hands on deck, scouring the waves for any signs of survivors. The crew searched for hours but found nothing, and when the sun began to disappear over the horizon, it looked as if the effort would soon become a recovery operation rather than a rescue operation. Luckily, Ricki was there, and with darkness now full upon the ship, he began meowing frantically, calling his human shipmates to the ship’s prow. Sailors quickly directed the ship’s searchlights in the direction he indicated, and found a woman from the plane crash just a hundred yards away.
Cats have also served as muse to many artists. Charles Baudelaire, Colette, and Alexandre Dumas have all spent a great deal of pen and paper in praise of their feline companions. Not to be outdone by the French, English writers Cleveland Amory and Doris Lessing have written odes to their cats. Even that great master of English literature, Charles Dickens, was the proud housemate to a cat he dubbed “The Master’s Cat.” Though Dickens came to appreciate the qualities of a good feline later in life, he was soon a devotee of these most amazing beings. The most feline-friendly writer, however, must be W.B. Yeats, who once cut the cloth of his own coat rather than disturb the cat that was sleeping upon it.
Although dogs in the White House tend to garner all the attention, there have been plenty of cats that have occupied the seat of power. Socks, the Clinton cat, is perhaps the most well-known of the more current cats, but Ronald Reagan was also proud to share his time and space with cats. Caroline Kennedy introduced Tom Kitten to the White House grounds and Lucy Hayes was the proud provider for the first Siamese cat in the entire country (rather unoriginally named Siam).
Our personal favorite was an unsentimental gray named Slippers, who resided with Theodore Roosevelt. He had quite a reputation among White House staffers, going where he wanted to, when he wanted to, without ever worrying about the feelings of the humans. He was known to disappear for days at a time, always returning with that distinctly sphinx-like look that only cats know how to do. His most notorious moment occurred in 1906, when he sprawled across the middle of the hall, fully ensconced upon the rug, and quite determined not to move. The problem? The hall was the connection between the dining room and the drawing room and on that particular night, the Roosevelts were hosting a diplomatic dinner. When the door was opened, the guests were confronted with the body of the reclining Slippers blocking their path. The President leapt into action, guiding one of his guests to the edge of the hall and leaving Slippers undisturbed. The other guests were forced to follow suit and Slippers slumbered on, the pecking order clearly established.
And so, we conclude here with a quote from Pierre Loti:
“I share the opinion of the Orientals, who rather despise the dog as being tainted with filthy instincts, while they respect and fear the cat as a sort of little sphinx.”