Want a great conversation starter for the Thanksgiving table? Raise this perennial fave: "Are you a cat person or a dog person? ... and what does that say about you?" This is perhaps the safest topic given the vagaries of family dynamics on the fraught subjects of religion and politics.
This issue came up while I was in Pomona, CA (presenting poultry concepts to vet students at Western U). On the A.M. news a local crew covered this human interest issue, thereby inspiring me to address the ideal turkey-day topic ... and just in time.
But be warned: While this issue won't typically provoke passions to the tune of politics or religion, the occasional clan dynamics that arise on this point just might surprise you. After all, the canine/feline thing can be a serious point of contention even among the most rational — and ordinarily family-friendly — pet owners.
The cat people? They have lots to offer on the intelligence and independence of their species of choice. Waxing poetic on the lithe grace and wild feline charm of the cat, it’s argued no dog could compete with such animal perfection. And I'd never argue to the contrary, especially when it's clear I'd be excoriated for anything less than a wholesale endorsement of cats as our ideal companion animal specimens. Their presence in our lives, they will argue, offers a continuous stream of near-magical experiences.
They will also assert that cats are more intelligent and infinitely more interesting based on their famed fickleness and selective ways. Dogs are just not discriminating enough. They'll attach to anyone. Cats, by contrast, choose companions based on their individual preferences.
And so flow the passionate arguments from the dogged peeps. They, too, have a way of taking anything less than a complete acceptance of the concept of canine superiority over cats as a direct affront to their dogs' unique role in the evolution of humanity as we know it.
OK, so perhaps I exaggerate. But there's no mistaking that most humans do harbor a seemingly deep-seated preference for one or another species. And those who do tend to want to place those of us who do not share the same sentiments into one or another camp.
Admit that a horse, chicken or goat might assume that primary place on the sliding species scale and you might get a pass. But probably not.
Just last week, one of my long-time kennel staff practically accused me of being "not a cat person," which I took personally. I mean, I adore cats. And one thing is to be more of a dog person (which at this point in my life I can kind of see how that might appear to be the case). It's quite another to claim that cats aren't up my alley.
So personally did I take this perceived insult to my person that I may well have cause to revise my initial statement. It's OK to talk dogs and cats around the holiday table, but for the love of God, keep it light!
OK, so now it's your turn: Are you innately one or the other? And what does that say about you? Does it matter whether your veterinarian is a dog or a cat person?
Dr. Patty Khuly
Note from the editors: Dr. Khuly will be taking a break for Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday, but she will be back on Friday with a fresh, never-before-seen post. We wish all of our readers a safe and wonderful holiday!