Of all of the animals humans commonly associate with, only two can be said to have a true symbiotic relationship. Most of the animals we use: birds of prey, horses, cows, sheep, etc were “broken” to the lifestyle. The word is far too often aptly chosen. However, cats and dogs are different. Cats and dogs domesticated themselves. We like to focus on the ecological niches that civilized humans have destroyed over the millennia. In a way it gives us a perverse sense of pride. But I would like to, for the moment, talk about the ecological niches humans have created by their existence.
The domestication of dogs actually predates civilization by most accounts. And it surely functions as a very effective hunting partnership. The help of a dog makes hunting far easier on humans who cannot follow a scent trail, but must instead rely on other secondary signs like broken twigs and disturbed earth. In the mean time, a group of humans can kill prey at a distance, greatly reducing the danger the dog would otherwise face in bringing down the prey itself.
Cats have the dubious distinction of being the only animal that willingly allied itself with civilized man. When civilized man began to store large quantities of grain, most particularly in Ancient Egypt, he attracted rodents by the bucketful to the readily available grain. The rodents attracted small cats who delighted the Egyptians by being quite willing and able to kill and eat the rodents that would otherwise have taken all of their grain. The partnership was so beneficial that the Egyptians venerated cats, and made one of their most important goddesses a cat. The goddess Bast’s job was to guard Ra, the sun god, from an evil serpent as he rowed the sun across the sky each day, which also suggests the Egyptian cats found river snakes to be delicious as well. And while the medieval Europeans certainly took a dislike to the cat, most cultures across the world have found their inclusion to be beneficial. As do we.
We had a cat. Jet. Our relationship with her was mutually beneficial. She gave us comfort. We gave her shelter. She brought us bugs. We gave her other foods. We had hoped that she would be with us in our life after civilization. She was a natural hunter, mostly hunting for bugs, but we planned on getting her a mouse to “play” with. There was a hunting experience in which she jumped in the air to catch a fly. We were quite proud of her for that one. She was always full of energy and life, and very young on top of that. She was with us for such a short time, but despite that she had a full life. It was difficult to say goodbye to her, as it would be to say goodbye to any family member. It may be hard to understand for anyone without a cat or a dog to love, but they are part of the family. They connect with you. You get attached. You bond. And one day you have to say goodbye. But is it worth it? In a word, yes.
– Miranda and Ben