RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The point that Vickie Fisher hoped to make at her Meadowlark Senior Center presentation on Oct. 23 was something all of us cat-lovers know: “Dogs drool; cats rule.”
Scratch that —”CJ,” her Maine coon cat traveling companion, had drooled during the entire trip from Fisher’s Duke City home to Rio Rancho.
Fisher was at least the second president to visit the city this fall: U.S. President Donald Trump had a campaign visit at Santa Ana Star Center, and now came Fisher, the president of The International Cat Association (TIKA), albeit hearing no cheers, chants or boos.
She had just returned from judging a cat show in Beijing, China, where, she was happy to report, cat ownership has surpassed dog ownership. She chalked it up to the housing preferences: Many Chinese reside in multi-story apartment buildings, not exactly a haven for dog owners.
Fisher’s audience consisted of about 18 women and just two men, probably “confirming” the thought that women are more likely to own cats, and men are more apt to have dogs. I’m a guy and although I have owned a few dogs in the past, they can’t compare with the felines.
That’s especially true when we go out of town for a night: Just leave the food out, make sure the litter box is fresh and make sure they have access to a sunny window or two. That won’t work with a dog or two, especially without access to the back yard. Yeah, you could have a doggy door, but who knows what else is sneaking in?
Here’s how it began, Fisher said, from what she has learned: Prehistoric man had befriended dogs to be their companions and/or protectors. Cats at the time were tree-dwellers, shy and certainly not protective.
Thousands of years later, Fisher said, cats became “connected” to humans — and not because they’d become great companions or protectors, but because of how they helped what was then an agrarian society.
“They are fantastic ‘mousers;’ mice liked getting into grains, and cats followed the mice into town. People said, ‘This is pretty cool,” and brought cats and people together,” she said.
Felines apparently arrived in America via ships, which were transporting that wheat, corn, rice, etc., being devoured by the mice — hard to keep off ships.
“Cats were the first insurance policy,” Fisher said — even before Allstate’s “Mayhem” and those “good-hands people.”
For ships, she said, a 1494 maritime law resulted in fines to captains on the high seas arriving with damaged goods and grains if there hadn’t been any cats aboard, which could have prevented such losses.
Fisher doled out other tidbits about felines: Egyptians worshipped cats; the first cat shows were in England in the 1800s; there aren’t as many paintings with cats as dogs.
Here’s where I wanted to jump in. You know some of those famous paintings — not done by Rembrandt or Monet, mind you — like “Dogs playing pool” and “Dogs playing poker”? I didn’t, but I recently looked on eBay and not only saw several versions of each of the “dogs playing,” but also some of the cats playing those games, too. (The things you can learn on eBay, eh?)
Not too long ago I learned about why cats meow and was surprised by the reason — although I should have known that after more than three decades with cats in my life. They rarely meow at each other, unless they’re angry, afraid or in heat. (Ours are fixed).
They only meow at us because we’re constantly talking to them — they recognize we’re trying to communicate with them and they meow at us in an attempt to reciprocate.
Truth be told, I’ll take a meow any day over a bark. Among the myriad pet peeves of mine are barking dogs; if they’re being protective, I get it. But a handful of dogs in yards adjoining mine bark whenever there’s a sound or a porch light turned on. I know: It’s the owners’ fault. Agreed.
More good news from Fisher:
• “The world’s most-popular pet is the cat.” (The market research firm Euromonitor did research that determined that in terms of raw population, cats out-number dogs to the tune of 2 million. One simple explanation is that cats are more compact.
• “The adoption rate of cats is going up.”
• “Cats are becoming more and more popular.”