As I type, a striped furry tail is rhythmically brushing my laptop’s keyboard and intermittently blocking the screen. My cat, Walter, is lying across my desk lengthwise, intruding into my workspace.

This tabby is Nancy Anderson’s cat, Walter. Credit: Nancy Anderson

But I don’t mind. I’m a cat person. I’m crazy about this entitled tabby who eyes me with a tincture of disgust and gives a harrumph of a meow when I gently nudge him a little farther away.

We used to be a two-cat home, but Arnold died in May. So now my husband and I just have Walter. 

My friends, with very few exceptions, are dog people. They have labs, golden retrievers and other big-pawed canines who obey commands and gaze at them with unconditional love. Two of my adult children also have dogs.

Sometimes I feel like the odd person out because I don’t have a dog. Dog people are cooler and more esteemed than cat people. If you have a dog, it’s normal to dress him in a themed collar, bandana or sweater. It’s acceptable to take him on vacation, float with him on your paddleboard (as one of my friends did recently) and include him in family portraits.

This is Anderson’s granddog Fawn sitting in the leaves. Credit: Nancy Anderson

If you have a cat and do these things, well, you’re weird. Besides, most cats aren’t interested in dressing up, traveling and water sports, although they don’t mind being photographed as long as they’re front and center of the frame.

Sometimes I think about getting a dog, particularly when I witness the sweet, intense relationships my children have with their good-natured mutts. When I broach this topic with my husband, though, he reminds me that having a dog is like having a baby. It’s a lot of responsibility.

Still, it lingers in my mind. But I worry I’m not the right personality type. I can be a little skittish around dogs – horses, too – because they want me to be in charge. They want me to be the alpha animal. Although I’m tall with a voice that carries, I’m not always comfortable in that role.

Two decades ago, when I was horseback riding with a large group, I found myself atop a runaway horse named Goldie. She was at full gallop and I couldn’t stop her. A more experienced equestrian caught up with me and told me to pull on the reins.

Another of Anderson’s granddogs, Remy. Credit: Nancy Anderson

“I am,” I yelled.

“I mean really pull on the reins, as hard as you can,” this young woman cried from her mount.

I yanked them back with 100% more power and Goldie finally stopped. But that horse had me figured out. She could sense I was unsure. She knew I wasn’t in charge.

Unlike horses and dogs, cats don’t want you to be the alpha. They don’t care if you’re uncertain and vulnerable. They prefer it that way.

I wonder if dog people have an easier time parenting. Kids also seem to want adults who forge ahead with confidence. While I firmly took the lead in a few areas when raising my brood, I was soft on many things. I wonder if I held those reins too loosely, too.

As a cat person, I mostly tried to be present for my children. I wanted them to know I was there for them, no matter what. But I didn’t force it. They could sniff around me, ignore me, and, in their own time, jump in my lap, literally or figuratively.

I’m a sucker for any innocent creature with imploring eyes, so I might someday find myself with a dog. He’ll just have to accept that I’m not in charge. Walter is.

Nancy E. Anderson

Nancy E. Anderson is a writer, communications consultant and swim coach. She has lived in Evanston since 1992.

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  1. Hello Nancy:

    I hear you!!! My husband decided to give my 9-year-old daughter a German Shepherd puppy and now I have to “help” take care of him, being a cat person. I have 2 cats (11-year-olds) Lucas and Mimi. So their lives are now disrupted, and mine too. I love animals in general, but I’m a cat person and now I have to deal with a puppy. He is adorable, but now my house has to be divided into two sections, I have a huge crate in my living room, and I have to buy and feed more furry mouths. I don’t want to vent (that’s precisely what I’m doing…) but this is not easy. Sincerely, I don’t know what to do. As a mom, I know what it is to always sacrifice what I like to give preference to my kid, but for a puppy… not sure. Am I a bad pet owner?