Book of Odds reporter Zachary Turpin recently sat down with Bradley Trevor Greive—author of Why Dogs Are Better than Cats—on a sunny beach on the Tasman Sea and discussed, over smoked salmon and vodka gimlets, what it is that makes canines so special to us.
OK, almost none of that happened. The interview was, in fact, conducted by email. Mr. Greive (who really does live in Tasmania) was still as thoughtful and forthcoming as one could hope for.
Have you always been a dog person?
Yes, I suppose I have always been a dog lover, but I can honestly say I like both cats and dogs. But whilst I can acknowledge that cats are fascinating animals I would no more have a cat as a pet than say, a sea otter, an emu, or a bat. Dogs and humans forged a unique and enduring friendship some 15,000 years ago—this curiously wonderful partnership has become synonymous with the advancement of civilization and the celebration of our finest virtues. Dogs have helped us explore our world, put food on our tables, care for our farms, protect our homes; rescued our loved ones, and stopped postal workers from becoming fat and complacent.
Dogs won the title of “Man’s Best Friend” over all living creatures, not just cats, and I defy anyone to question a dog’s loyalty, courage, affection, empathy, and unfettered butt-wagging sense of joy. When it comes to pets, nothing comes close to the love of a good dog.
What do dogs have that cats don’t?
The list is far too long to repeat here, but far greater intelligence and sociability for starters. There’s really no comparison: a dog is a true animal companion, whereas cats are, by and large, sociopathic, semi-vegetative fluff-balls.
Cats are cute, I’ll grant you that, but as pets they are basically plush toys with bad attitudes. There are some people who, for reasons of limited time, space, income, mobility, intelligence, and possibly self-respect, are better off choosing a cat—but I feel sorry for them. Compared to a dog, having a cat in your home is like listening to elevator music: vaguely irritating but perhaps better than nothing. Cats don’t even want to be pets—that’s why you have to lock them inside the house all of the time. Having a cat is like keeping it hostage and hoping that at some stage Stockholm Syndrome will kick in.
Cats are solitary predators and want to be out hunting—hunting and killing are always on their fiendish little minds and every game they play is a rehearsal for delicious murder. Whereas dogs truly share your home and see you as family, to a cat your home is either a prison or just a safe, warm cave where threats are low and food and water are plentiful.
Cats are like Hollywood socialites—they just want to be noticed and can survive indefinitely on air-kisses and the odd salmon canapé.
You tie the rising cat population to the collapse of civilization. Can you elaborate?
Look around you—cat population numbers are climbing faster than a singed gibbon. There are now more than 200 million more pet cats than dogs in the world today—20 million more pet cats than dogs just in the USA alone! Cats are breeding machines, much like rabbits, mice, and Marlon Brando: in just a few years, two healthy cats and their subsequent offspring can bring more than 500,000 sofa-scratchers into the world. It’s only a matter of time before the whole planet is smothered by cats and we find ourselves buried beneath a mewling funereal shroud.
In just the last 30 years cat numbers have doubled in the UK alone—now ask yourself, what has happened to humanity during that time: kids are getting fatter, divorce rates are sky-rocketing, hate crimes are on the rise, armed conflict is escalating all over the planet, and don’t even get me started on reality television.
Is there anything to be said for felines, or are they basically a wash?
Cats are undeniably attractive and soft to the touch, and as such they benefit greatly from what is known as “Supermodel Syndrome,” which is where we give beautiful creatures far too much credit. Nevertheless, being slim-hipped and aloof is no indication of intelligence, and if it were, Paris Hilton would be a certified genius. The truth is, there’s not a whole lot going on behind those glittering eyes—indeed the only domestic creature with greater claim to idiocy is a person who vehemently defends cat intelligence.
If the best and worst thing about dogs is that they love too much, and thus put themselves at risk of abuse—then conversely the best and worst thing about cats is that they just don’t care. This can obviously lead to pained levels of disappointment, especially if you acquire a cat and hope for the kind of active and intelligent engagement that you can only have with a dog.
However, in some instances, such as when a person has only enough time, space, and energy to engage with say, a goldfish, a sock puppet, or a Chia Pet, having a supremely ambivalent cat in their home is a big plus. Cats are quite low maintenance, mostly quiet, and relatively clean pets—perfect for soulless city living.
Do you think people are flexible in their love of cats or dogs—open to discussion, willing to change sides, to love both—or are they as one-sided and bitterly unbending in the dog/cat debate as they are about, say, politics or sports?
Hmmm, well, the gigantic sacks of poorly punctuated hate-mail and death threats I’ve received over the past 12 months tend to indicate a certain level of humorless fanaticism. But, considering that these threats come from sedentary types in oversized elastic-waisted pants, I’m not too worried. To some degree your pet choice represents a living extension of yourself, so it’s bound to get personal and, in some cases, highly irrational.
Tell me about writing Why Dogs Are Better than Cats.
It’s the funniest book I’ve ever written, and also the most beautiful—the photographs by Rachael Hale and the design by Gayna Murphy are simply dazzling and, to be blunt, I’m immodestly proud of it. I actually came up with the premise when I was in hospital having my knee and shoulder rebuilt for the umpteenth time—the title itself was enough to make me laugh out aloud and then off I went. I spent much of the next few months stuck in bed, which was the perfect opportunity to devour a library of information on cats and dogs, and after that the book basically wrote itself. Why Dogs Are Better than Cats is obviously tongue in cheek—but at its essence it has two serious goals:
First, to champion the many virtues unique to dogs that seem to be overlooked by most of us.
Second, to celebrate the differences between cats and dogs and thus, hopefully, save the lives of millions of cats. Last year alone some ten million dogs and cats ended up in American pet shelters. Half of these never found a new home and thus, after a fearful period of uncertainty, were put to sleep—the great majority were cats. In some places the euthanasia ratio for cats to dogs was as high as ten to one.
People need to choose a cat as a pet because they really love cats, in spite of or, better still, because of all the weird and wonderful things cats do. Cats and dogs may be equally wonderful creatures in the sight of God, but the notion of pet parity is a perverse falsehood pushed on us by pet food manufacturers and pet supply stores who don’t care what animal we have in our lives as long as we buy lots of stuff. A cat is not a cheaper, smaller, quieter, safer version of a dog—it is a supremely different and unique animal. Let knowledge and compassion define your pet choice, not fetid apathy.
What are the benefits of a shelter dog?
First of all, dog shelters are a great place to start your search for a new dog simply because there are always so many different dogs to look at—all ages, all sizes, and every possible breed combination. Plus, every shelter dog will have had a vet check and been washed, wormed and neutered—so that makes life easier too. Finally, and this is the bottom line: when you take home a dog from a shelter, you not only get a new best friend, you save a life.
You have 30 seconds to convey to alien abductors that dogs are better than cats, after which you may be vaporized, you human scum. What do you do?
Showing supreme sincerity and humility, I would get down on my knees and say, “Cats are by far the best thing this pathetic planet has to offer—please, I beg you, help yourself, take all you want, stuff as many cats into your space ship as you can, and then leave us in peace!”
If people want to learn more about you and your books, where should they go?
Well, you can simply go to my website, www.btgstudios.com. You can also follow me on Facebook (look for Bradley Trevor Greive), and on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bradleytgreive. Any more exposure to me than this would go against the Surgeon General’s recommendations.