The Domesticized Difference: Cats and Dogs
The year is 1600 BC: Undoubtedly, there was great joy around the cave fire when the first man domesticated the first dog. There was probably the same glee in the cave when the first cat domested the first man.
Who rejoiced more? Man, dog, or cat?
Well, let's compare the three.
Man thought he made great strides when the dog's ancestors came to his cave for warmth and was rewarded (probably) with scraps of meat the dog never even had to work for. Nice!
Dogs thought humans were easy pickings: go to the cave, look submissive, get warm and dry and get food. Very nice! This arrangement eventually led to a new level of requirements: the better the dog was at pleasing the human, the more the human wanted the dog to do. Not exactly nice, but still good. The dog hunted triceratops and T-Rex and big, hairy mastodons. Nice long ivory teeth to chew on for days and days and days !. Big noses the humans tossed to him in the warm cave. Very nice!
Lots of meat! Not too much work (humans carried long sticks and the big animals dropped like flies! Very very nice!).
Nice! The dog hunted down the prey, the man killed, they got up the pieces and went back to the cave. Warm fire, soft earth, women who touched and stroked his fur and lots and lots of food. A buffet, actually.
This was a good arrangement: everyone benefited, everyone loved the arrangement, everyone got to stay warm and dry and – well, often the dog gave in and curled up next to the baby. Humans said "Aww," and let the dog stay.
The dog figured out that protecting the baby got him even more meat at night near the fire. The women said soft and happy things; they petted him; they let him sleep with the baby. They rewarded him and so did the men. A good hunt meant a good meal. A good hunt with a human meat a better chance of a good meal and a good warm fire and a soft place to curl up at night, safe from all the things that wanted to kill him.
This was heaven.
Enter the cat.
Prowling tigers and lions and cheetahs and all sorts of huge, ugly, hungry things that would hunt in packs, chase down a dog, a human, even a mastodon! No fear! They snarled hard and bared their teeth even when they were not being fired.
Enemies! Evil, dangerous, bad, ugly! That's all they were: just mean! Evil! Bad! Ugly! But then the man began to put out meat for these creeping, crawling sly creatures. Man tossed the meat out of the cave, said something to his female, and then they waited. The cat came. Grabbed the meat, then ran. Hah! The dog was victorious! He had learned to enjoy what the humans brave and gladly brave back. The cat was just a greedy, slinking thing that took and brave nothing back.
The dog was glad! He bent, tongue out, tail wagging. He won! He won! The humans loved him!
But night after night after night, the dog's human kept tossing out the meat – the dog wanted that meat – and let the crawling, slinking cat take it and run.
Then, after long many nights, the cat came and ate the meat right there, right outside the cave. Glowing red eyes stared at the humans and at the dog while it ate. The women who had petted the dog began to hold out their hands to the cat, with meat in their palms, and when the dog went to take the meat, he was pushed back and the women made strange sounds and the cat slinked forward and took the food from the human hands. And they did not bite.
They rumbled. They made their happy rumble sound, the sound the dog knew and hated and feared: when a cat took down a mastodon or elk or – or a dog – they made that sound. Rumble rumble. Deep throat sounds, happy-we-killed sounds.
But when the cat turned it's glowing dark eyes on the dog, the human intervened. No! She pushed the cat away and moved between it and the dog.
But it went on like that. The dog knew he had to hunt; but the cat? The cat did nothing but eat the meat the human should have given the dog.
And then, one day, it happened. The human and the dog came back to the cave, happy and carrying lots of meat! Every human in the cave – and the dog – would eat a lot tonight. The dog wagged his tail, raised his head, woofed and woofed his happiness and the women stroked his head and his back and scratched his ears and he wagged his tail high and proud and happy and –
And the cat was curled up next to the baby. The dog crouched down. He was not sure: attack the cat, or crawl toward the human? The baby! The baby! How could the humans let a cat next to the baby? Why? What did the cat give them? The cat did not hunt for them! It did not defend them! It just ate their food and rumbled when it was near the fire and it let the humans stroke its fur.
The cat was useless and greedy and – And then a wolf knew. The cave great silent. The humans whispered and the dog smelled fear and fear and – and the baby! The wolf hinded again, closer. And another wolf called out, and another! The human grabbed a fire stick and went to the entrance of the cave. The dog went with him. No one would touch his humans!
No one would touch his baby! The wolves came closer. They could smell meat, flames, blood.
The dog barked. Loud, hard, a warning, a solitary voice against six wolves. But solitary he would be! He would give back what the humans had given him: food, warmth, safety. And the thing his mother had given when she had sucked him as a cub: safe food and love. He grew, crouched, prepared to fight.
The wolves came. The human screamed and shouted and washed his fire stick and tried to keep them away. But the wolves were hungry and their eyes were as filled with fire as the human's stick.
They leapt. Three jumped and took his human down. The human screamed, and the women screamed and the dog grew and leapt on his human's stomach and drove them back. He scratched and clawed and bit every piece of flesh or fur he could.
The human, freed, stand, then grabbed another fire stick and thread it at the wolves. The dog barked, growled and brave chase as the wolves ran from the fire.
And finally the threat was gone.
The dog dropped to the ground, then crawled toward the warm fire. The wolves had bitten back, clawed back … He bled and his blood hissed as it drizzled into the fire.
He was warm.
He fought and whimpered in pain.
He rolled his head up and looked for the baby; she was not in her bed. She was not …
He had failed! One of the wolves had taken her! She was …
And then he saw her. She was at the very back of the cave. The cat had just dropped her onto the soft mud. She had grabbed the baby by the neck like a kitten and carried her as far as she could from danger. She crouched over the baby, growling, as willing to give her life for the baby as he had been to give his for his humans.
He whimpered. He tried to rise and fall back to the ground. The human limped to him and wrapped him in his arms and said things he knew were good things. Rewards.
The dog's legs were cut open, his ribs bled, his neck was torn. But he had kept his humans safe. And he had fought loudly enough to tell fellow dogs around them that humans were good and kind and brave meat and warmth and safety. And they were friends.
Give them your life, he sacrificed out. They will give you their.
The cave grew dark but the fire was still warm. The women gathered round him and made their own croes, and their eyes dropped wetness on their shoulders and he could smell that they were sad. He tried to give them a happy look, but he hurt so much.
He closed his eyes and darkness came. But his fellows knew: humans were good and kind and they needed them! They needed dogs. Dogs could help them.
His eyes opened. He was not cold or dead. He was in the cave.
The cat was crouched next to him, rumbling and licking his wounds.
Their eyes met.
"You saved the baby."
"You saved her parents." She rumbled and licked blood from his leg. Something in her spit felt good and healing. She cave him a sly wink. "I will."
He whimpered thanks. Then cave back: "No! I did!"
He rumbled. She purred.
It would be that way.
The year is 2009: It is still that way.