I’ve been spending a lot of time around kids these days. It’s something that I make a point to do as often as I can. I consider them my teachers, as they often remind me of what’s important in life. And then there’s the questions. I love the questions that kids ask! They often offer me an entirely different perspective on life; a priceless gift.
Take for instance one question I have been asking myself lately:
Why do most people prefer to watch cat videos over dog videos?
It’s my understanding that the ratio of cats and dogs in the world is approximately equal, but when it comes to cat videos, they are viewed four times more often than dog videos.
I want to give credit where credit is due. It was young students who first got me turned on to the wonders that You Tube has to offer in terms of animal videos. I had no idea. To me, You Tube was a place to search for performances of opera arias as a musical resource. The kids taught me that You Tube has much more to offer-something that has clearly been more popular with the rest of the world that the latest uploaded version of O Mio Babbino Caro.
I’ve often raised the question regarding the dog vs cat videos at dinner parties. It seems to me a good deflection from the political conversations that seem to be taking place at most gatherings these days. Not that I have anything against talking about politics. But I suppose it’s the peacekeeper in me that seeks to avoid conflict when views don’t coincide and conflict erupts. One thing is for sure, America’s political views are in stark contrast with each other. And there are only two sides, it seems. I’ve had the good fortune of speaking with Tom Friedman about this, and he describes it as tribal. “It’s like the Sunnis and Shiites” he says. I couldn’t agree more.
So, in such moments, I will often look for a common interest, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t have a favorite animal video?! Most people will chime in eager to leave the realities of politics behind, even if just for a moment. And as this conversation grows, and people start to pull out their phones to share their must-see video. The trend towards cats is apparent.
This is when I ask the question.
The answer is always approached as a no brainer, and by far most people (cat lovers especially) tell me that cat videos are just better than dog videos. Many people responded by telling me they think we tend to humanize dogs, but not cats (cat lovers not so much). We seem to feel comfortable laughing at cats, especially when there is a cucumber placed behind them. We find it funny when they fall off of tables, and we love to see them entangled in a trap that has them confused and hopeless. But we don’t want to see a dog get hurt, do we? Somehow, even though there are two sides to the conversation, everyone ends up on one.
Often when I get this discussion going, the people involved really get into it. They start to say how great it is when such and such cat did such and such a thing. They interrupt each other, passionately wanting to share stories. Both sides do this together, the Sunnis and the Shiites. Both seem to be on the side of the dog.
When I asked kids about this on my recent visit to an elementary school in California, the answers completely surprised me. One girl offered the argument that many people are allergic to cats, and therefore watching them through a screen was a good solution. A boy chimed in and said that cats often hurt people by scratching them, and dogs less so. Another child said he felt that his dog could defend him from danger, whereas he was not confident about his cat’s attack methods toward a potential burglar.
I was surprised on this visit to learn how much kids valued their pets. Like their parents, they were passionate and wanted to share stories about their beloved animals with the group. When it came time to create a song together about what we all had in common-something we do through the programming I curate with The Canales Project-pets were on the list, along with family and friends.
I don’t know the answer to the question of dog videos vs cat videos yet. But I do know that both dogs and cats have tremendous potential to bond humans and to open our hearts, no matter what our age, demographic, or political affiliation. It seems dogs do this through empathy, whereas we bond together over a common desire to laugh at cats. Perhaps we fear cats, as they seem so different and their logic makes no sense to us. This is certainly the case when it comes to cats near cucumbers (if this reference makes no sense, just type cats and cucumbers into You Tube).
As someone who has felt that the role of music in society is to open the minds and hearts of people, I feel I must now turn my attention to a new type of teacher, and someone who is quickly emerging as the main competition to any entertainer on YouTube: the cats.