I'll probably get slaughtered for saying it but I much prefer cats to dogs!
Not that I dislike dogs. Far from it. Some of my best friends etc... I see the pleasure people get from them but to me they're kind of like groupies hanging around rock stars. The relationship is a bit too easy and one-sided. Getting a dog to dislike you is really hard but cats can take umbridge with you for any number of trivial reasons, from buying them Salmon & Shrimp flavoured food instead of Oceanfish Entrée to being squidged along the couch a few millimetres to make room for you to sit there. This makes it all the more rewarding when they do deign to be your friend and approach you for a head scratch. Learning to speak cat is also a more fascinating challenge because cats can make about 100 vocal sounds compared to a dog's measly 10.
There's also a weird gender fluidity issue with cats and dogs. I'm generalising a little here but I'd venture that a female dog appears more masculine and male cats seem slightly more feminine. I'm not saying there is anything sexual in my preference to cats, but I do look at a dog and, regardless of its biological sex I think 'muddy male roughty-toughty rugger player', where as without knowing whether a cat is male or female, I tend to think 'graceful artistic ballerina'. Aesthetically I'm just more drawn to the latter. Dogs strut about like British lager-louts abroad doing the 'we won the war' walk while cats clearly speak fluent French and seem to have done a term or two at a Swiss finishing school. It's a question of culture and deportment!
I never had a cat until I was in my twenties, nor can I remember too many from my childhood. My sister had one. The only thing I remember about her (the cat, not my sister) was giving her a tickle one day revealed a large flea crawling about amid her fur, which perhaps, given my previously discussed entomophobia, should have frightened me off felines for life. For some reason it didn't.
I had a couple of cats while still in the UK. The first was a rescue kitten from Battersea Dog's home. (Yes, they re-home cats too - imagine the fights!). The second was a local tabby called Sapphire. She belonged to a family down our street that had several young children. I think what happened was, as the kids got older and more rowdy, the ageing cat thought 'blow this for a game of soldiers' and started following my wife and I home from work in search of a less frenetic life. Often she would be waiting on our front-door step when we arrived home, meowing to be let in. We took her back to her original home several times, but she persevered until in the end her owner said it would be OK to keep her! She played nicely with Coco our rescue cat and I remember noticing that she was 'left-handed'. She was able to pull open a door with her left paw but if the door was hinged the other way she just couldn't do it, though not for want of trying! So cute!
Unfortunately Sapphire soon died. She was already quite elderly when we got her and after a few years her kidneys failed and the vet almost insisted we put her out of her misery. I was gutted. She was my friend.
Coco made the move with my wife and I to Spain. We got her paperwork sorted out at the vets and British Airways assured us she would be looked after on the plane and met by a specialist pet handler at San Javier airport. When we landed however, the pet handler was nowhere to be seen. I heard a bit of a kerfuffle at the carousel as I approached to collect our luggage and there was Coco on the conveyor belt going round and round in her pet-carrier, meowing her little heart out while all the passengers were going 'aww' and cooing over her!
Our new home was in the Spanish countryside, deliberately chosen so as not to be near any busy roads as Coco didn't do traffic. We 'inherited' two more cats and a mature German Shepherd called Leon. Leon wasn't a house dog. He was a security guard with stripes on his arm and didn't take kindly to Coco when they first met (the fight was spectacular - Leon came close to losing an eye), so we made a firm rule - Leon outside only - Coco inside only. It was for the best.
The other two cats got on fine with Leon and lived in the pigeon shed. These were farm cats and were excellent at their job. I lost count of how many times I went in for the morning feed and would find bits of rat, usually little more than a tale. Any vermin intent on trying to steal my chicken-feed were doomed to a grizzly fate.
Since we had the space we allowed one of the cats to have a litter, then did a bulk deal with the local vet to get all the animals sterilised. My wife had the idea of naming the cats after beverages. The two original cats were named Mocha and Java, then the litter became Expresso, Cappuccino, Americano, Solo and Tea! I didn't realise how different their little personalities could be until I was surrounded by an army of cats. Some noticeably smarter than others, some lazy, some energetic. Expresso stuck out a mile as the best hunter and would be forever diving into the undergrowth and returning with grasshoppers, beetles, mice etc which he would munch away at in a shady spot under a tree somewhere.
As they got older, numbers depleted. Some of the males went off never to return. I understand this is not uncommon with males cats, something to do with owning territory. One poor chap, Solo, a huge black panther of a cat and probably the alpha-male, was the victim of a hit-and-run. He didn't seem in pain, just unusually inactive, so we took him to the vet and an X-ray showed his pelvis was shattered, so we had him put down. Some died of natural causes.
One day though we came home from shopping to find a tiny kitten squaring up to Leon. We assume she was 'donated' by someone local who knew we would take care of her. She was so cute and plucky, standing up to such a big aggressive dog that she immediately captured our hearts. We called her Decaf. She turned out to be a great mother though she only had the one kitten, Latte.
Years went by. The 2008 crash happened and my relationship broke down. I had to leave the house in Murcia and the remaining cats behind when I moved to Olvera. I'm not able to keep pets where I am living at the moment which is a bit of a shame but I often think back to my herd of felines and their unique characters. If money were no object I'd open a cat-rescue centre of my own, but meanwhile I amuse myself by following the cats of Instagram, of which there are many. My favourite trio by a whisker are Negrito, Merzouga and Tétouan, rescue cats in the care of a lady called Martina Bisaz, a travel blogger living in the mountains of Switzerland. Seeing her going for walks with her charges in the backdrop of snow-capped alpine mountains is a sight to behold. Her main insta-handle is @kitcat_ch and there are separate accounts for her black cat @negrito.the.kitcat and her Moroccan twins @poo.fighters. Follow these accounts at your own risk as they are a ridiculously addictive wastes of time!!