The Making of a Speciest

My coworkers often joke that I am a speciest.  Despite devoting the last decade to a career in animal welfare, I have consistently harbored a dirty little secret: I am not fond of cats.
I didn’t grow up with pets, and I don’t remember this being a point of contention at home. There were no teary-eyed pleas for puppies, no recurrent requests to take in the neighborhood cats, no attempts to barter good behavior for the addition of a furry friend.  This is not to say that I didn’t like animals, because I did; I simply knew that pets weren’t a possibility. 

My parents had lived with a cat before I was born, and it didn’t end well.  Though my mom and dad adored Lady Newton (presumably a relation to Sir Isaac Newton, and yes, my dad is a science nerd), her time with my parents was cut short when it became clear that my dad was allergic. 

My parents didn’t tell me very much about their brief time with Lady Newton.  All I knew is they referred to her—and not me—as their beloved first-born child.

I didn’t give much thought to my designated rank within the family but in the years that followed, I became a bona fide dog person—so much so that I decided to pursue a career in animal rescue-- and yet, I never found myself drawn to cats.  Sure, they needed our love and help too, and I was happy to do my part in promoting them and silently wishing them well, but I couldn’t seem to connect with them.  I tell people that I prefer dogs because they are more affectionate, more demonstrative, but that’s not the whole truth, and any cat person will quickly debunk those claims.  The truth is that I’ve never fully trusted cats. 

I came to view my aversion to cats as my own personal failing.  Maybe I was just too codependent or insecure to appreciate these self-possessed creatures.  Maybe I was intimidated by their intelligence. But I began to wonder if, subconsciously, I had been holding on to a grudge that had taken root a long time ago. 

I will never know if Lady Newton and I would have hit it off.  Perhaps we would have been inseparable, our relationship setting the tone for a life-long love of felines.  Or, perhaps we would have always regarded each other suspiciously—her, perpetually aggrieved by the presence of the new kid, and me, forever resentful of the one who got there first.  Regardless, it may be time to let go of past grievances and move forward with an open heart.  In time, I may even warm up to the idea of a feline friend of my own, though I’ll obviously never refer to them as my “first-born child.”  That title has already been designated to my dog.