A Cat Is Not A Dog

I know this seems like a painfully obvious and completely unnecessary statement to make but imagine with me for a moment what would happen if a society decided to remove the distinction between two things that are fundamentally different by nature.

If the government said that a cat and a dog were the same thing it could punish people who wanted to distinguish between the two types of animals but doing so wouldn’t make them the same thing. If they declared that the words “cat” and “dog” were just  synonyms for the same things or outlawed the use of the word “cat” and if for two or three generations nobody was allowed to say, or teach, or publicly acknowledge that cats and dogs were different, few people in the society would be able to consistently identify what defines a cat as distinct from a dog, but if you put any cat next to any dog virtually everyone in that society would still be able to recognize that those animals are distinctly different. (And even if they couldn’t distinguish them, a cat would still not be a dog.)

If a government decided to grant privileges to dog owners or to enact some kind of requirements for dog owners and then someone (whether a cat owner, a dog owner, or someone who owned neither) decided that those privileges or requirements should also apply to cat owners the proper approach would be for them to get the laws changed either by making equivalent laws for cat owners, or to change the wording of the existing laws to apply to pet owners (or “cat owners and dog owners” if they need to be more specific). The wrong approach would be to declare legally that cats and dogs are the same and consequently anyone who kept a domesticated feline was as much a dog owner as anyone who kept a domesticated canine.

Why do I bring this up? Because we’ve been regulating dog ownership for centuries. At first the characteristics that identified a pet dog and the expectations for how to take care of a dog were so obvious that nobody needed much clarification. Later some fringe dog owners wanted to make sure they didn’t get excluded so they got the law changed to allow for dogs without tails, or without fur. They also changed the laws so that it was no longer expected that owning a dog included providing food or shelter for it. Eventually they watered down the legal definition for what constituted a dog to the point that it was essentially a domesticated, four-legged mammal that might reasonably be kept in an urban residence. Ownership became nothing more distinct than having the dog recognize the supposed owner from among a group of strangers.

When the cat owners (or those who hoped to become cat owners) decided that they wanted to have the same privileges as this nebulous, modern dog ownership the dog owners could tell that cats were different from dogs but they had forgotten any way to articulate the unique qualities of a dog that made dog ownership worth regulating and many of them even accepted the accusation that trying to preserve the legal distinction between cats and dogs was an act of hate.

Welcome to 1984.

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About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.

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