We Are God's Cats. Let's Be His Dogs.

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By Tom Hoopes


I have a theory: God gave us cats to show us the stupid ways we act toward him, and God gave us dogs to demonstrate how he really wants us to treat him.

 

My whole life long, I have been a cat person. I was heavily influenced by my cat-person mother in this. She greatly disliked dogs and labored to pass that dislike on to her children.

 

She did an excellent job. It was only after years of being worn down by members of my family that I finally gave in and bought Lucy, a yellow-lab mix rescue dog, five years ago. While I am not ready to admit to myself or to the general public that I now like dogs better than cats, the presence of both a dog and a cat in my life has led me to certain conclusions.

 

Dogs treat their masters the way the saints treat God. Cats treat their owners—well, like I treat God.

 

When Lucy has done something wrong, we know it as soon as we look at her. She cowers in the corner and glances guiltily at the scene of her crime. Our dog is a natural penitent. She is quick to confess, and she is ready to accept her penance of being temporarily banished from the house. Then, 10 minutes later, she accepts her forgiveness with even more enthusiasm.

 

Meanwhile, our cat, Flurry, is a hardened sinner. You may have seen the news reports about cats last winter focusing on the work of author Gareth Morgan, an anti-cat activist (yes, there is such a thing).

 

“Your cat is not innocent,” said Morgan. According to his research, a cat like Flurry will kill about 65 other animals a year—that’s more than five a month. Of those, each year she will bring home about 13 carcasses, eat 21, and leave 31 to rot.

 

And how does Flurry act after she has ravaged the native bird population of northeast Kansas? She purrs lovingly and jumps into my lap as if sweetness and innocence and not slaughter and carnage filled her feline brain.

 

Unless she is in a bad mood—then she hisses at me and attacks my foot, as if it, too, were an innocent woodland creature.

 

We may hate to admit it, but we are often like Flurry. We know there is a whole area of our life that God wouldn’t approve of—but we are happy to pretend that isn’t who we really are, and we figure that he will shrug it off, too.

 

Dogs—and saints—are the opposite. They have learned to admit who—and what—they are. They no longer lead multiple lives, pretending to be pious one moment, sneaking their private sin when it suits them, and baring their claws at their loved ones when they are tired or irritable.

 

Compare them side by side, and it always comes out the same:

 

My dog is obedient. My cat expects me to obey her.

 

My dog is humble, accepting herself as she is. My cat is a narcissist, obsessively grooming herself.

 

My dog is patient, waiting all day if necessary for what she wants. My cat is haughty, walking away in a huff if you fail to meet her exacting demands.

 

I am the center of my dog’s world. My cat is the center of a world that includes me somewhere at the fringes.

 

So here is my prayer: “Lord, forgive me for behaving like my cat. Forgive me for treating you like I own you. Grant me a faith that is humble and obedient, a hope that trusts in you to do good things for me, and a love that revolves around you and your will. Lord, grant me the grace to be more like my dog!”

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Contact him at thoopes@benedictine.edu