Being catty

What springs to mind may be spite, arrogance, aggression or vicious intent but what is often overlooked, by the untrained eye, are the higher qualities of poise, elegance, sweetness and affection. Cats are invariably agile, clean and sleek and have been worshipped, in the past, as Gods.

It seems a shame then that cats are usually associated with their lower vital propensities when perhaps all they are doing is trying to survive and progress in the world like the rest of us.
I used to love cats best of all animals when I was a new vet because I really admired their self-sufficiency. They can survive with or without us and yet they choose to be with us.

They are usually highly intelligent and entertaining which also makes them good companions and worthy of admiration.

One of the most striking things about cats from a veterinary perspective is their ability to heal themselves. We used to joke in veterinary circles that you only needed to put the bits of the cat in the same room and it would heal. This was generally proved true!
I loved this about them because it showed a connection to a power that I had forgotten.
Unfortunately, this uncanny ability that cats possess amongst others such as clairvoyance and being able to survive a fall from a thirty storey building has not always afforded cats the respect they deserve.

In days of old they were both revered and despised. We were frightened by them and burned them with the women we condemned as witches. They featured as totems of evil and superstition and have been hunted and tortured out of fear that it had better be them than us.
Despite all of this, our beloved felines have triumphed and asserted themselves once again as masters of the universe in many households. The Warner Brothers, having identified Cat Supremacy, produced an entertaining film entitled, ‘Cats and Dogs’. This exposure of cats efforts to take over the world and reassert their rightful place as rulers was presented with such clever, good humour that many people believed it to be simply a work of fiction.

Along with alligators and hippopotami, cats may actually be one of the only surviving non food producing domestic species remaining from the days of Ancient Egyptian reign. Unlike alligators and hippopotami, they have made their way into the lives and homes of millions of people the world over. Apart from the obvious difficulties an alligator or a hippopotamus would have convincing us they were useful additions to the household, this demonstrates a certain dependence and determination on the cats behalf.

There are other reasons why this may have happened. Working for a living became necessary after their God head status came under threat. To give them credit, they have survived through much change and evolved to be much more than hired killers.
Their natural hunting instincts certainly served them well in days of old when the price of a cat was weighed upon the number of rats and mice it caught.

‘When rats infest the Palace, a lame cat is worth more than the swiftest horse’ Chinese proverb

It is a shame perhaps that these same hunting instincts are now responsible for bringing the wrath of environmentalists and bird enthusiasts down upon their heads. I remember a shift in my own feeling towards cats once I realised how destructive they can be in environments that are not a natural habitat for them. There was much controversy many years ago when the Shire of Sherbrooke, in Melbourne, banned cat ownership in an attempt to protect its native bird population. The excuse that a well-fed cat will not kill anything can be proven to be false. In fact, if the cat killed just because it was hungry it may be forgiven more often.

To conclude in a way befitting the respect owed to these long standing sufferers and survivors of domesticity, I think Christopher Smart in his ‘Jubilate Agno’ of 1763 sums things up very eloquently.


For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry,
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving Him.
For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him.

It is perhaps the last stanza here that now appeals so much to me when I recall the gratitude I have to all the cats that have made such a difference in the lives of my own children and myself.

By the way, I suspect the feline bid for Earth Supremacy is still well underway and progressing nicely. Frankly, as much as I like and admire them, I think they take themselves a little too seriously.

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