In dogs vs. cats, the line is furred

Just when Kit-Kat seems convinced he's a dog, he enacts a lightning species change

There are cat people. And there are dog people. Or so we are led to believe.

I have known some persons who claim, not without a touch of pride, that they are one or the other.

Ian told me firmly he was not a dog lover, and then launched into an exposition on the vastly various virtues and charming independent-mindedness of cats. His own cat, to whom he had just introduced me, stood like a coiled spring in the grass opposite his front gate. It ignored us both, concentrating on an imminent leap and potential mouse.

"I did like one dog, once," he added. Somewhat reluctantly he admitted that this canine exception to the rule had shown unusual intelligence and even seemed to understand him (Ian) in surprisingly canny and rather appealing ways.

On the other hand, most dog enthusiasts seem to think of cats as distinctly inferior, if they think of them at all. They talk with endless relish about the endearing antics and brilliance of their dogs, but may mention only as an afterthought that a cat also lives in their house.

On balance, I have to say I am more on the dog side. But there have been few periods in my life when I haven't lived with both cats and dogs. When Brambles, in the ripeness of his years, left us, we had a couple of dogs-only weeks. But then we ended up not with one new foster cat, but two.

These newcomers are as different from each other in character as they are from our two dogs. That is why I question the great "cat lover" "dog lover" divide.

Our two felines are called Biscuit and Kit-Kat. Kit-Kat (the very young, very black, very thin one) thinks he is some kind of dog. He comes rushing to greet us when we come home. I thought dogs did that, not cats. He rather reminds me of a quote from a story a friend read about a cat who was convinced it was a dog. At one point "it ran across the road, as it thought, barking."

Kit-Kat is not frightened at all of our comic duo, that knock-about pair of canine buffoons named Bugsy and Muffy. He teases them endlessly. He steals their bed space. He makes as if to eat their food. He swipes them with his lanky foreleg. He lies in wait for them on secret chairs or behind unlikely objects.

He jumps up on my knee in blatant disregard for the fact that they happen to be engaged in close-quarter quality time with me and should be shown due respect by smaller, younger, and reputedly feline creatures.

And just when Kit-Kat seems convinced he's part of the dog gang, he enacts a lightning species change and is all cat, enticing, tempting, even begging the dogs to chase him wherever he dashes – knowing full well that at the last moment he can spring four feet into the air and land on a shelf where no dog may follow.

Then Kit-Kat makes them feel even smaller by pretending they no longer exist as he sits with exquisite neatness in a space of no measurable width between nervously fragile ornaments and carelessly washes his paw. It is a tasteful gesture conveying, with devilish courtesy, an unmistakably rude message.

The other cat, Biscuit, is not inclined toward athleticism.

At first she convinced herself that, in spite of all our attempts at friendship, the world in general was against her and we, in particular. She disappeared into the inaccessible depths of a basement room where, for about 20 years, we had tossed everything that had no other home in the house. In there, she was uncatchable. We had to clear the room. I lifted the terrified Biscuit onto a high, deep shelf near the freezer, and there she stayed pro tem.

Later, after moving her to several new trial sanctuaries, she finally agreed to a deeply comfortable cat bed perched on the boiler near the back door. This is now her full-time home, broken only by an insistence on our part that she spend a certain time at ground level for ablutions and a modicum of exercise. I say it is her "home." More accurately it is her throne. She is an Egyptian cat-goddess reigning thereupon.

Biscuit has a sweet and gentle disposition. While Kit-Kat has not yet gathered that humans do not relish a hooked claw embedded in tender skin, Biscuit keeps her claws permanently sheathed. She purrs now – a sign of growing self-confidence – if we no more than look at her. Stroked and petted, she increases her purring like a car revving. But when the dogs and other cat are out of sight, Biscuit comes into her own.

With all the means of communication she can muster (this includes an imperious stare and a curtly demanding "Miaow!"), she strides about and expects to be brushed. And brushed. And brushed. And, yes, brushed.

We mentioned this love of endless grooming to a friend. "Really?" she said. "I've never heard of a cat that likes being brushed! Dogs, yes. But not cats."

Her remark only underlines my contention that, when it comes to dogs and cats, no lines are clearly drawn.

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