Have you ever seen someone in charge of a group of children become overwhelmed with the situation and throw their hands up in the air as an exasperated, “It’s like herding cats!” escapes their lips?
As a person who has raised both children and cats with varying degrees of success (depending on who you ask), I feel I can confidently say that there is definite merit to the above statement. There is so much in common between the two such as the complete lack of concern over what the desired behavior actually is, the need to turn private time into a spectator sport, and the ability to somehow sound like a herd of elephants despite being a fraction of the required size. Of course, there are also obvious differences like feeding, bathing, and how to keep them in one place.
Take the need for good behavior and good manners. Neither small children nor cats care one iota about how their behavior reflects on the adult in the situation as long as they are enjoying the moment in their own fashion. For children, this typically manifests as giggle fits and running in erratic circles around the area while the parent frantically tries to corral them in a dignified manner before resorting to tripping someone. For cats, this often plays out in what should probably be hysterical antics when something that has just been forbidden from the feline is stolen anyway and gets batted around the house for quite some time while a human follows in zigzags, making vain grabs for the item in question and demanding the animal stop the game and return the possession immediately as if actually expecting this to happen.
Next is the ever-popular Olympic sport waiting to happen “peeing before someone or something forces their way into the bathroom”. This one is fairly self-explanatory. There isn’t a parent alive that hasn’t found themselves in the unenviable position of being trapped on that throne with at least one child or cat planted squarely in front of them critiquing the entire process. If the door somehow gets locked before the invasion occurs, there will be fingers or paws (or in my case, both) stuck under the door repeatedly until the event comes to its conclusion. Sometimes there is musical accompaniment if the doorstop is found.
Then there’s the ability of a creature that weighs anywhere between ten pounds and a hundred pounds making adults everywhere suddenly question the structural integrity of their homes just by moving rapidly from one location to another. If there are stairs involved, there is real danger of home décor randomly leaping off the walls and shelving. If there are more than one of said creatures moving in tandem, chances are a local Richter Scale is alarming some poor soul tasked with monitoring geological threats.
As mentioned earlier, there are some distinct differences between raising children and raising cats. Meal time is one instance that springs to mind. Feeding cats is a matter of shaking a food container and getting out of the way of the stampede no matter what is being offered as a meal. For added entertainment, one may choose to hang around and watch as feline paws snake out and grab dishes belonging to other animals in attempts to garner larger portions. Feeding children generally involves dragging reluctant bodies away from video games and television shows, shooting down arguments about why this child doesn’t want to eat that vegetable or why that child expects to have another meal prepared that is more to their tastes, followed by refereeing repeated attempts to sneak the healthy parts of entrees onto the other child’s plate while claiming to have finished everything themselves.
Bathing techniques is another area that differs greatly between children and cats. When cats are involved, the process is almost guaranteed to start and finish within five minutes. The occupants of the home are informed that a feline needs a bath and the smart occupants quickly vacate the premises. The cat is introduced to a couple of inches of water, much splashing and screaming ensues from all parties involved, the cat either escapes or the human restraining the cat decides personal preservation is more important than a clean feline, and bath time is ended. When children are involved, the process is almost guaranteed to drag out over a few hours. The occupants of the home are informed that a child needs a bath or shower and the child in question quickly goes into fits of denial. Eventually the child is introduced to the combination of soap and water, much splashing and offkey singing ensues, the child runs out of soapy water or the house runs out of hot water, and bath time is ended.
When one has had all they can take of children or cats running rampant throughout the vacinity, confining them to one area differs according to species as well. There are a couple of techniques that work well for cats, ranging from using catnip as bait to get them into a room with a door that closes to picking them up by the scruff of their necks and dropping them unceremoniously into a sufficiently sized kennel. Rather than using catnip, I have found that turning on electronics in an isolated location of the home is the method of choice for keeping children in one place for extended periods of time.
So, as you can see, the phrase “like herding cats” is actually pretty accurate when applied to children. Just remember, however, that while there are many similarities in how both are raised, society still tends to frown disapprovingly when children are shoved into kennels, no matter how much they may have earned it.