It was Winston Churchill who got it right. “All dogs look up to you, all cats look down at you.”
He should have left well enough alone and stopped there. Nope: “Only the pig looks at you as an equal.”
I think not: consider bacon.
But I digress.
We are all dog people in our family and the infernal beasts know it. When we lived in Ampang, for instance, there was a stray cat that patrolled our apartment complex with malicious intent. It generally slept on my car-roof at night and occasionally peed on it in the mornings. For good measure, it sometimes left a scratch or two.
So I was astonished to read that cats actually can understand your words but only those spoken by their guardians according to a new French study.
I’m sure French taxpayer are gratified by this valuable addition into the human understanding of the feline condition. It was discovered by Charlotte de Mouzon et al of the University of Paris after a painstaking study of 16 cats!
“Sacre bleu!” cried Louis Pasteur. “Dog my cats,” exclaimed an equally bemused Mark Twain but in French so as not to offend Pasteur. It was Twain, after all, who’d traced the feline’s self-importance to the Egyptians, who’d worshipped them as Gods.
The cats had never forgotten, that was the problem.
It’s that kind of incredulity that underscores the notion that cats are generally sly creatures which patronise human beings at best.
Dogs are different. Your average dog treats its owner with the reverence people generally accord a Beatle. You can be gone for just awhile but it’s still all wagging tail and unconditional adoration the minute you’re back.
Call a cat, in contrast, and it gives you that measured, what’s-in-it-for-me stare.
They aren’t very useful at all. While there are sheepdogs, hunting dogs and police dogs, have you ever heard of a bird cat?
Ever seen a Seeing Eye cat?
At their worst, I give you the terror of Ukay Heights, that Cat on a Warm Car Roof, the scourge of a hundred car washes.
But there was also Benny.
It belonged to Annabelle and Sugu, our former neighbours in Ampang.
You might say Benny was the Dr Mahathir of cats: it was already in its dotage when it first arrived in Malaysia from New Zealand in the mid-1990s.
He was an imperturbable feline that regarded the world with equanimity: a moth was viewed as indifferently as an axe murderer.
Or perhaps not: the way it regarded me when I occupied his favourite chair by the balcony, its menacing stillness, was a trifle disconcerting.
Its longevity could have been due to his fastidious eating habits. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say it was ahead of its time, a feline foodie which was especially partial to lemon sole but would settle for New Zealand leg of lamb at a pinch.
Anything less was an insult.
Once, Sugu tried switching the sole for Kurau. The cat regarded its guardian with disbelief even contempt.
Then it scratched him.
I rest my case.
PS: Benny lived on for 18 years, it was truly a feline Methuselah.