Sunday, January 20, 2013

How to Pet a Dog/Cat/Rabbit

One of the fun things about Internet animal humor is that beneath the humor is often a legitimate attempt to understand what is going on in the minds of our beloved companion animals. We don't just put words into the mouths of lolcats, for example, because it's funny. We also do so because we want to know how they think, and we are attempting to express what we think they are thinking.

One of the newest Internet memes is the "how to pet a dog" and "how to pet a cat" charts. These charts are ostensibly instructional charts to show people the areas on a dog or cat's body that we should focus on when petting them.

But if you look at the dog chart, each area of the dog's body is marked "awesome." The artist clearly has determined, as so many dog guardians have, that dogs love to be touched, paid attention to, and handled in every possible way. Dogs love humans! They love us!
Compare the dog chart to the cat chart, however. Things get quite a bit trickier here. While there is one spot marked "awesome," there are a few spots marked "meh," a large area marked "nope," some "definitely not," and then there's an area marked "F**k you!" which should serve as a warning to everyone who can read. While clearly not all cats, or all dogs, are the same, these charts demonstrate the ways in which humans do indeed try to understand what companion animals want, how they feel, and what makes them different.

Finally, while rabbits are not nearly as "known" as dogs and cats are in mainstream culture, in the house rabbit world, people who live rabbits have gone to great lengths to try to understand their likes and dislikes, and what makes them tick. Ian Elwood, a House Rabbit Society educator, has used this specialized knowledge to create a rabbit petting chart. A quick look at the rabbit's chart should tell the uninformed that rabbits, like cats, have some areas of their bodies that are also off limits. So approach a rabbit's stomach, feet, and tail with caution!

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