For a man who has so meticulously crafted his persona over many decades, whose career is in fact defined by playing up his persona, there's one detail that is curiously missing from Donald Trump's public image -- his pets.
His wives and girlfriends, his children, his grandchildren, his parents and siblings, his many residences and how they are furnished -- he has carefully cultivated all of these to reflect on him in just the right way.
But something's absent from this detailed portrait of the household side of his persona -- where are the pets? An obsessive image-maker like Trump would never leave that detail out of his home life.
And now he's the first president in a very long while to not bring any pets with him into the White House. He has obsessed over the color and pattern and material of the curtains in the Oval Office, which presidential portraits to hang, what kind of furniture there should be. There's no way he simply overlooked the obligatory "pets" aspect of the White House's image.
What is Trump trying so painfully to hide? If he were to own some dogs, how would that subtract in any way from his persona as a no-nonsense, ruthless alpha male who calls the shots at the top of an empire? It would seem to only enhance the overall image.
His children and his first wife are all dog owners, and they don't hide it. They're proud to be photographed with their dogs.
It must be that -- unlikely as it sounds at first -- Donald Trump is actually a cat person.
That would explain why he is so scrupulous to not have pets. If he gave into his natural inclination, he'd have one or likely several cats. But that would totally kill the image he has sought so hard to project -- an alpha gorilla... who has a soft spot for kittens? His image would be done for, never to recover.
And maybe Trump's media persona, which points to being a dog owner, is not quite who he really is when the cameras are off. The portrait that comes from journalists who he calls every day, like Maggie Haberman from the NYT, or from sources close to him, as recounted in Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury, is of a man who is spontaneous and discursive rather than no-nonsense and to-the-point, magnanimous rather than ruthless, averse rather than drawn to confrontation, and being an impressionable marshmallow rather than a rigid ideologue.
Other telltale personality traits of cat people that Trump possesses in spades -- mercurial rather than predictable, a cad rather than a dad, prickly rather than tough-skinned, neurotic rather than level-headed, uncomfortable with intimacy, socially isolated (having few close friends), and generally being suspicious and mistrustful of others.
His career field is likewise full of cat people and devoid of dog owners. His career is performing a role -- being Donald Trump -- and he's made most of his fame and fortune in the media and entertainment sector. He's in show business, not real estate development, and creative types are far more in favor of cats than dogs.
So, too, are those from the pastoralist culture of honor that his mother's side of the family comes from (Isle of Lewis, Scotland). Anywhere that people make a living by herding livestock instead of planting and harvesting crops, they may keep some work dogs, but are always inclined to cats for household pets. Islam, the religion of honor-driven pastoralists, considers dogs to be unclean and taboo. But the feeling is only somewhat lesser in the rest of the Mediterranean, or in Britain, a nation of shepherds and cat fanciers.
Trump is also a notorious germophobe -- no way he'd take a liking to dogs, with their smells and their slobber. Nope: he'd insist on an animal that actually cleaned and groomed itself.
As high-strung as he is, he would benefit greatly from having a pet that would jump onto his lap, begin purring, and let him pet its fur. Prickly cat people know that there's nothing as soothing as that little ritual bonding experience.
However, Trump craves everyone's undivided attention and obedience -- so perhaps there's another reason, aside from the death blow to his image, that he has not taken a cat into the household. He would respond well to it, and it would totally suit his personality -- but the cat being on its own social schedule might set off Trump's temper about being ignored or rejected, even if only temporarily.
"And after all I've done for you. No, that's OK, you just go ahead, take your nap under the chair over there. I didn't want you taking a stupid nap on my lap anyway."
It must be burning him up to have to restrain his cat fancying side. If he got a really large, rambunctious Maine Coon that looked and behaved more like a tiger, it wouldn't hurt his image. Maybe in retirement.
Related: earlier posts on the topic of pets and their owners