WHY CATS RULE THE WORLD

My beautiful picture

Cat video of the week is of a cat saving a small boy from a neighbour’s dog, somewhere in California. The dog sinks its teeth into the kid’s leg and drags him off his tricycle – only for the heroic tabby to spring boldly to the child’s rescue and chase the dog away. Well played, puss!

But watch the video again, once the first flush of ailurophiliac euphoria has worn off. The dog is shown lurking with sinister intent before it pounces. The cat fearlessly flings itself into the fray with a stuntman’s bravado, not even pausing for an arched back and warning hiss. And the video seems to have been professionally edited from suspiciously clear CCTV footage shot from several different angles. It’s almost – yes! – as though it were made by a cat!

Because this is brilliant propaganda. It tells cat-lovers what they want to hear – that cats are capable of being just as loyal and brave as dogs are traditionally said to be, rather than just selfish, bird-killing, toxoplasmosis-spreading lollygaggers. But this is surely wishful thinking, because if there’s anything cats aren’t, it’s loyal. Oh yes, they can pretend to love us with their mewing and purring and treadling, but that’s because we’re their designated can-openers, which absolves them from having to go to all the trouble of hunting and killing for anything but fun.

My beautiful picture

Cats are so inscrutable, it’s tempting to invest them with human motivations and emotions, but in fact they’re simply a triumphant four-legged incarnation of the Kuleshov Effect, in which spectators interpret an actor’s blank expression in various different ways according to context. Thus, you might think an expressionless cat sitting next to a bowl of soup is hungry, though the truth is that the bowl will be empty because the cat has already polished off the soup before you arrived. You might assume an expressionless cat sitting next to a mewing kitten is being caring, though the cat is almost certainly sulking because the kitten is getting all the attention.

And you might suppose that an expressionless cat sitting next to a coffin is sad, though, in truth, the cat is probably wondering whether to wait for someone to open a can of Whiskas or leap into the coffin before the lid gets nailed down so it can start chowing down on the corpse. And look! Here I am, indulging in anthropomorphism as well. For all I know, the expressionless cat is thinking about how Schrödinger would like it if he were to be shut up in a box with a flask of poison. Or maybe it’s just thinking about the box, and what fun it would be to spend an afternoon climbing in and out of it.

My beautiful picture

Pro-cat propaganda must be working, because we don’t just forgive cats for being lazy, egocentric, greedy predators who wouldn’t hesitate to toy with us sadistically if they were bigger than us – we admire and adore them for their bad habits. We love how they invite us to tickle their fluffy tummies before turning, without warning, into flesh-shredding machines. We love how, when we have a deadline looming, they came and sprawl over our keyboards so that mysterious Lovecraftian incantations like “yggnuifhŸsÍW{[noSVkjchlthlvol” appear as if by magic in the middle of our report or letter or article. We especially love it when they mew piteously to be fed – when there is already food in the bowl. They’re just reminding of us of who’s boss. (And there I go with the anthropomorphism again.)

If a dog or child were to act up like this, we would kick them out into the street, but somehow cats have engineered it so that the more psychopathic their behaviour, the more we love them, especially since now we can post film of their antics on social media for the delectation of our fellow can-openers, to set alongside The Greats – Maru, Henri le chat noir and Grumpy Cat. There are more cats on the internet than anything except porn, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were planning to take control of that too. They might have done so already, if the X-rated but hilarious Indifferent Cats in Amateur Porn site is anything to go by.

The premise of the 2001 film Cats & Dogs is that cats are plotting to rule the world, while dogs are trying to stop them. Which just goes to show how much dog-loving Hollywood knows. Cats rule the world already, and they don’t even need opposable thumbs.

Bow to your masters.

My beautiful picture

This piece was written for the Sunday Telegraph, but at the last minute got bumped  for something about Nick Clegg.

As with everything I ever write about cats, this is dedicated to the memory of Tiger (1988-2003), who is much missed.

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6 thoughts on “WHY CATS RULE THE WORLD

  1. Ginger cats are the best. I’ve had three (two were brothers; Jeeves and Wooster). If you’ve had a ginger cat you’ll never want any other kind. They’re funny, intelligent, playful, loving and will sit and watch the telly with you.

      • I think about 75% of ginger cats are male- so there are plenty of females around. Apparently, there’s a sort of colour discrimination taking place in cat adoptions. Gingers are very popular but all-black or all-white cats are viewed with suspicion.

        My ginger cats were very talented. They’d wear a top hat and carry a cane while dancing to Me And My Shadow on top of the television. Mind you, now that I come to think of it, they only ever did it when I’d had quite a lot to drink. When I sobered up in the morning they’d just look at me and purr…

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