I'm “bi.” And I'm doing just fine!

I'm “bi.” And I'm doing just fine!

“One is not born, but rather becomes ‘bi',” you might say if you have the gall to distort Simone de Beauvoir's famous adage. Can you love cats and dogs with equal fervour?

June 7, 2019

I love both cats and dogs.

I spent a dream year—in the country, on the bank of a river—with both species. Perlo and Souris shared the garden, the sofa—and my undivided affection. My Labrador-Chow-Chow mix and tri-coloured cat taught me that the love of animals can't be divvied up into categories. I learned that this love is, in fact, purely exponential.

For practical reasons—as the saying “like cat and dog” goes—few of us actually share our homes with a cat as well as a dog; to be exact, only 13% of Canadian households.

Born of a mother who favours cats and a father who leans towards dogs, I grew up in a feline-centric household. My only childhood dog was a Bouvier des Flandres. Rempart was as gentle as a lamb but died when he was much too young. Later in life, I shared an apartment the size of a litter box with Chatte, a Princess (with a capital “P”) alley cat with piercing green eyes. Despite her despotic nature, she delicately rounded me up when it was time for her to give birth to her 4 kittens in the padded box I'd prepared for the momentous occasion.

Today, years after my “Perlo-and-Souris years,” I live with Atom du Val de Chauffour, a rough-haired Teckel who answers to his nickname Nono. My affection for cats remains boundless but for the time being I can't imagine a happy living arrangement with my 22-pound hunter and any cat (which I am well aware he'd consider his prey, and ultimately his feast).

South of the border
Roughly one-third of American households include a cat and dog. Did you know that the White House under both Clinton and W. Bush was home to a cheerful combination of cats and dogs? Might this “bi” status have been merely a reflection of political calculation? Or could it be that these Presidential households were on to something? Might each species respond to specific human needs and actually be complementary?

Navigating a mountain of “owner” surveys, researchers of all stripes have sought to answer one of the most pressing questions in psychology: what's the difference between dog and cat lovers? (Curiously, no study has explored the unique mentalities of “bi” animal lovers!). Dubious conclusions proclaim dog owners to be extraverted and less prone to “neuroses,” whereas cat lovers are generally described in terms of their sensitivity and openness to new experiences. These pseudo-scientific findings—never far from cliché!—also tend to attribute each of the animal-owner camps with inherent “masculine” or “feminine” traits. Men, they conclude, prefer dogs for their social nature, strength and faithfulness. Cats—with their privacy, elegance and independence—are said to be more appealing to women.

These questionable hypotheses are not only blatantly sexist, they also ignore the unique nature of all animals and the individual bonds that unite them with their human companions. I, for one, on countless occasions, have witnessed my dog Nono purring with content. And what joyful moments I've shared playing ball with Chatte the cat.

If it's true that our animals reveal a lot about us, what does an equal love for cats and dogs say? Could this be the fruit of reconciliation between the masculinity and femininity that live within us all? Could living with a cat and a dog signal an enjoyment of the best of both worlds? A sort of “animal polyamory”?

Perhaps. I'll have to sit down and discuss it with Nono.

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