I’m guessing because quite a lot of them don’t get on?
Animals being quite territorial beings, they take a while to get used to each other unless they smell friendly, so when a cat and a dog first meet, they tend to not get on. I think generally, any two animals that are raised together will get used to each other. So in practice, lots of people who have both, don’t see the enemy thing so much (though they blatantly still compete a little for affection and attention etc. Though that’s probably all part of natural inter and intra species fun and games.
Look at a pair of dogs playing, it’s very similar to a pair of dogs fighting.
I think the cats and dogs thing is partly about the fact that there’s considered to be some divide between what humans like. Are you a dog person or a cat person?
I personally love both, but since I started hanging around with dogs more, they seem to like me more than cats do.
There’s also a narrative argument. Certainly for Tom and Jerry and Pete (was the dog called Pete? Or am I making that up?) they just needed an extra layer of antagonism, someone to put Tom in his place (I just looked it up, his name is Spike, I should really research things in order).
The irony of course is that the odds are that Tom and Spike Pete would probably both get on quite a lot better. There isn’t a predator prey relationship between them, and they’ve both grown up together. They should be able to share the same space.
The creepier thing is that Spike appears to be friends with Jerry. The size differential makes a mouse much more like food than a cat (also carnivores are less tasty, alledgedly, as a vegetarian, I worry that people will notice this and eat me first in a cannibalism survivalist situation).
Of course, in any kind of undomesticated environment, dogs and cats would be competing for the same resources, and the odds of them not being enemies is unlikely. Interspecies friendship in the wild isn’t as common as the Animals of Farthing Wood would have us believe.
There’s something of an inconsistency of narrative meaning in the world of children’s cartoons about animals.
Although maybe that in turn comes down to talking. When the animals are able to communicate, they end up making friends. We even see this in the Tom and Jerry movie.
Sure, there’s still bad guys, but that’s like reality (and even more like the movies). Essentially what we see is a representation of speaking and communication as an aid to peace making.
Uncommunicative animals tend to fight and battles (and occasionally dance to New York). Once they learn to speak, we see them live in harmony.
This is the kind of message I like to promote. I’m so damn repetitive.
Talk to your enemies, you might have more in common than you think.
Illustration by Maria.