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. 



It’s often been called man’s best friend and with good reason.

A dog that’s been waiting in the middle of a road for more than 80 days for its owner to return has sparked an outpouring of emotion on Chinese social media, after a video emerged of the pet standing guard near where its owner was reportedly killed.

The state-owned China News Agency reported the dog in the city of Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, had been sitting by the guard rail in the middle of the road for almost three months.

This is not an uncommon phenomenon. Indeed, the dog in China has nothing on Japan’s famous Hachiko, the Akita dog that waited for its dead owner for more than nine years outside a train station in Tokyo in the 1920s.

Do you see that happening with a cat?

Fat chance. You see, in ancient times cats used to be worshipped as gods and they have never gotten over that. So, while dogs look up at you, cats look down to you and generally sneer at everyone until it’s mealtime. 

 They also think everyone’s Egyptian: those were the idiots who started the cat-worshipping cult.  

I admit it, I’m not really a cat person. This is a generally well-known fact. In fact, when I was living in Petaling Jaya in the 1990s, one of the neighbourhood cats got killed. It was actually curiosity that killed the cat but, for a while there, I was a suspect. 

Dogs not only agree enthusiastically with everything you say but greet you every day as if you were a member of the Beatles.

And dogs have functions. There are police dogs, sniffer dogs and bird dogs. 

Which reminds me, have you heard the one about the talking sheepdog? After he’d collected all the sheep, he tells the farmer, “OK, that’s it, that’s the 40 for you”. 

Farmer protests, “I’ve only got 37 sheep.”

Dog: “I know, I rounded them up.” 

And when’s the last time you saw a seeing-eye cat? 

In fact, the beasts can be notoriously picky. I once was  neighbour to a couple – Sugu and his wife Annabel – who seriously adored their cat Ben Hur. OK, it used to be Ben until it had kittens. 

That was a joke and the curmudgeonly cat was really called Bennie. They so doted on the fastidious feline that they even acquiesced to its demand that it be only fed with either lamb or lemon sole. 

Once Sugu thought he would fool the finicky feline and offered the rascal ikan kurau or threadfin. He got scratched for his audacity.

Whenever I visited them, I would seat myself on one of the chairs on their balcony that Sugu told me later was generally occupied by Bennie. 

That explains it. I used to wonder why the cat always used to slink past and regard me with the barely restrained menace of an axe murderer. 

Still, I am pleased to report that its extravagant diet seemed to suit Bennie who lived on to become the Methuselah of cats. It lived until the ripe old age of 24 – over a 100 in our time – and was accorded all the pomp and pageantry of a state funeral. 

Let’s face it. If we leave out pit bulls and Rotweilers, the average dog is a better person than the average person.

 I first wrote this for the Star sometime in November, 2018