[the following 578 words were submitted for consideration of inclusion in the Wolf River Veterinary Clinic’s newsletter]
“I have lived with 5 Zen Masters, all of them cats.”–Eckhart Tolle
What is an ailurophobe?
An ailurophobe is someone who hates or fears cats. An AP-Petside.com poll conducted in 2009 (1) revealed that 15% of the adults questioned said they disliked cats a lot (were allurophobes) while the number who said they disliked dogs a lot was just 2 percent (2). Looking at this in the reverse, 74 percent of people like dogs a lot, and only 41 percent like cats a lot.
Can ailurophobes learn to like cats?
I don’t know. In researching this question, I discovered that psychologists have investigated whether there are personality differences between dog and cat owners (3). Here is a taste of what they found: cat owners are relatively low in dominance. People who are high on dominance are generally described as being forceful, assertive, persistent, self-assured, and self-confident. They are the people who stand out in social gatherings, as opposed to people who are low in dominance that come across as being more timid, bashful, shy, and unaggressive. Cat owners appear to be fairly trusting. People high on this dimension are often described as obliging, modest, straightforward, and good sports. People low on this dimension can be more suspicious and manipulative (3).
Why Have A Cat?
My short answer?
As strong medicine for one of our society’s major maladies: Nature Deficit Disorder.
My attempt to convert ailurophobes to cat lovers?
Many of you who I’ve talked with in the intimacy of an exam room, have heard me say; Having a cat is a lot like having a pet squirrel.
Like a squirrel, a cat is a self-respecting wild animal. You might be able to dominate your dog. Good luck trying to dominate your cat.
I am a veterinarian because I like animals. As a child, I read all the Dr. Dolittle books (4). The books were magical! I yearned to be like Dr. Dolittle, to be able to communicate with a variety of species of animals in their own languages. While I have a friend who actually did have (many) pet squirrels, the many cats that I’ve lived with is the closest I’ve come to my childhood day-dreams.
Today, we humans are becoming more and more estranged from our mother earth. In 2005, Richard Louv wrote a book titled “Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder”. In my opinion, the incidence and prevalence of Nature Deficit Disorder has grown a lot over these past 13 years.
One way to treat Nature Deficit Disorder? Live with a cat.
Cats as zen masters?
Zen is an experience that arises from a long and arduous practice of meditation. The definition of zen (in Japanese) is: Kyõge betsuden. Furyû monji. Jikishi ninshin. Kenshõ jõbutsu. In english? A special transmission outside the scriptures. Not depending upon words and letters. Directly pointing at the mind-heart of man. Seeing into one’s nature and attaining Buddhahood. In other words, words are useless in trying to describe zen.
If I were to try to describe a zen master, I would point to the Star Wars character Yoda (or to my 2 cats, Bassui and Mia).
(1) In war of dogs vs. cats, the winner is clear
(2) Interestingly, I was unable to find an official dictionary word for dog hater.
(3) Personality Differences Between Dog and Cat Owners
(4) A series of children’s books written by Hugh Lofting starting with his 1920-book, “The Story of Doctor Dolittle”.
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