There is a general consensus that dogs are clingy drama queens and cats are independent divas. That Monday on 122 Queen Drive proved that this is not always the case. The following conversation took place once the owner of Mr. Holmes, a cat, and Lizzy Cutipie, a dog, shut the door to leave for work.
“You always get a pat on the head.”
“It’s because I act like I want it.”
“Well, do you?”
“Do I what?” asked Lizzie lazily as she was making her way to the kitchen. Mr. Holmes followed. “Do you want a pat on the head?”
“I don’t much care.”
“You don’t look like you don’t care.”
Lizzie smirked as she glanced back at Mr. Holmes, flipping her short tail as if to show off its sleek shiny well-trimmed shape. She knew it triggered Mr. Holmes because his tail was always furry and easy to grab on to. It was one of his many insecurities.
“There’s a difference between what you are and what you pretend to be,” she said wisely.
Mr. Holmes gave himself some time to process this, and then he replied, “I think I should conclude from this that you don’t actually want a pat on the head.”
“You know, I think they named you wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
Lizzie huffed as if to say she was giving up on making him understand, and proceeded to open one of the bottom kitchen cupboards with her snout. “Where are they?” she mumbled as she was sniffing through the cupboard. “She brought them yesterday.”
“I, for one,” continued Mr. Holmes with his head held high, “would enjoy the occasional pat on the head.”
“Is that so?” said Lizzie without any interest whatsoever and attempted to open a box of treats with her teeth. “Stupid human…”
“Yes.” He sat down, licking his paw. “Some attention from time to time would be nice.” He looked longingly at his paw for a few seconds, as if he wished he could pat himself to make up for the hurting he felt somewhere deep, deep inside. It felt more like a distant echo of a dull ache rather than sharp pain that makes you wince instantly.
Mr. Holmes’ hurting was silent, too silent to hear. Even for him.
“Yes!” Lizzie managed to open the box, and she took one treat between her teeth and pulled it out. As she was happily munching on it, she asked: “Why don’t you just come and ask for the stupid pat, then? It’s not so hard.”
“It’s not hard for you.” Mr. Holmes sighed. “I… it’s not like me, asking for attention so straight-forwardly. There’s a level of… difficulty.”
“What kind of difficulty? You just run at them and start shouting, sometimes licking their face to keep them in a good mood. Aah, these snacks are good.”
“I don’t like demanding things. I like being able to be on my own, independent and strong.” He raised his stout high in the air to prove his point. “I’m a strong cat.”
“Even strong cats need to eat, you know.”
“It’s not about eating. She feeds me every day. She’s a lovely human.”
“If you say so.”
“I love her very much.”
“Don’t you love her too?”
“She gives me food, so I guess I have to.”
“That’s not very nice.”
“No, I suppose it’s not.”
“I think,” said Mr. Holmes after mustering the courage to say his thoughts out loud, “I think I want her to pet me on her own. Because she wants to, not because I ask for it. But every time she doesn’t, I get sad. I pout. When she does come and pet me then, I sneer at her because I want to show her she had hurt my feelings by ignoring me. I want her to apologise and give me attention even though I sneer, until I eventually stop sneering and start purring. But it never comes to that. She always stops after the first try. And then she ignores me even more.” He stared at the floor, his ears low, his tail between his legs. “It’s like I always get it wrong.”
Lizzie started munching on her second treat now, and it made her mood significantly improve. Perhaps that was the reason why she tilted her head to one side, her raised ears intently listening, her head nodding. “You do get it wrong.”
“What do I do?” His green eyes were faced toward the window now, his gaze full of longing, the morning sunshine reflecting in his pupils. “I wish she loved me the way she loves you.”
Lizzie licked her teeth, savouring the last few bits of her treat. “Look, Holmes,” she said resolutely. “Look at me, I said.”
Mr. Holmes glanced at her with caution.
“Now you listen to me.” She took a few steps toward him, sitting opposite him and staring him in the eyes like their owner often did when she was having conversations with other humans. This was the human way, and Lizzie thought it was fun to imitate it sometimes. It was her own way of ridiculing humans while also finding their methods a tad useful. Mr. Holmes was right. They weren’t so bad overall.
“Stop with this right now,” Lizzie said.
“Stop with what?” he flipped his tail, confused.
“With this horrible self-pity fest. She does love you, just like she loves me. If she didn’t, you wouldn’t be here. The problem is you. You’re making things unnecessarily difficult for yourself just to prove to yourself that you’re a strong enough cat or whatnot.”
He wrinkled his snout in confusion. “Well, what should I do then?”
“Get over yourself. The thing is, Holmes, she can’t know you want her to pet you. She doesn’t speak our language. The only language that’s applicable here is action. Show her you want love, and she’ll give it to you, no questions asked.”
“Is it that easy?”
“What do you think I’ve been doing my whole life? You watch me jump around her doing tricks every morning. I admit it is nice to get a cuddle sometimes. Although usually I just do it for my treats.”
“You can get your treats yourself, though,” objected Mr. Holmes with a look at the open box in front of them.
“Hmm,” said Lizzie. “I guess you’re right. I suppose I like the cuddles more than I’d like to admit.” She nudged him playfully. “It’s hard to be vulnerable, you know. It’s a real challenge, my cat friend. But it pays off in the end.”
“How do you know?”
“I’m not the one complaining about not getting enough love.”
“Yeah. Now help me get this box back in the cupboard. If she finds out I steal these, I won’t get any treats for a month, and that would probably destroy my mental health.”
“And I thought I was the drama queen.”
“I’m a dog, remember? I have to keep up my image,” she said light-heartedly. After some struggle, they managed to close the box and put it back in.
“Seriously, though,” said Lizzie when they made their way to the living room, ready for a mid-morning nap. “Just go get the stupid pat yourself.”
That evening, Mr. Holmes was waiting at the door with Lizzie. When he heard the footsteps and the key rattle in the door, he started flipping his tail excitedly just like his dog friend did.
He wasn’t pretending, though. Not that Monday and not any day afterwards. He learned a lesson that day.
If you want love, sometimes all you have to do is to give it first. Lots of cuddles ensue. And treats. Don’t forget the treats.