The human urge to place things into neat little categories is at once a necessary tool for survival as well as a sometimes useless -- and even harmful -- instinct.
Like most people, I learned to compartmentalize animals into arbitrary categories of those we love and those we eat, those we live with and those we use.
Interestingly, we also categorize people according to the animals they have an affinity for. We ask: "Are you a dog person or a cat person?" As if we have to choose. Growing up, I did choose. I was what people approvingly call a "dog person." And I made certain not to be mistaken for a "cat person."
Even though I had never spent any time with cats, I bought into the myth that cats were aloof, unsocial, manipulative, unaffectionate and independent to a fault. As an animal advocate of more than two decades, it pains me to say that I genuinely disliked cats for the first 20 years of my life.
It wasn't that I had ever had a bad experience with cats. I had no
experience with them, until I started housesitting for a family in my early 20s. It wasn't the humans who changed my mind. It was their cats.
They were -- despite what people had said -- affectionate, social, vocal and responsive. As soon as I was able, I adopted two cats of my own and two more when they died, and I honestly can't imagine living without these enchanting creatures.
And I'm proud to say that they're stellar ambassadors for their species, shaping and changing perceptions for the better -- whether in person or via the photos I post of them every day. They epitomize the best of the feline traits, while exhibiting characteristics people think are reserved only for dogs. They greet me at the door when I come home, they come when I call their name, they bring me their toys and drop them at my feet.
In other words, cats don't fit into one neat little compartment -- just like humans don't.
We don't have to choose which particular species we have more affection for. We can be "animal people," who revel in the company of the feathered and the furry. The more relevant question is "who do we want to live with?"
With a Perspective, this is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an Oakland-based vegan author and educator.