Sunday, August 15, 2010


Wasn't there a world-wide scientific survey a few years back to find the smartest creature on Earth? And didn't they conclude that our own New Zealand kea came out on top, heading off octopuses, squirrels, ravens and border collies? An octopus has recently done its species proud and might have to be inched up the smartness ladder a bit but the obvious creatures - the dogs, pigs, monkeys and horses - were left standing at the gate.

There is something wrong here. What about cats?

Question: If we are so smart and they are so dumb, how come I have just come home with the shopping, the bulk of which seems to be cat food, to find them still asleep on the bed with their noses tucked under their tails?

They do nothing around the house except sleep or sit on windowsills. They find the most inconvenient times - just after I've vacuumed - to smack each other's ears and set the fur to flying. They always come inside to sick up on the carpet. They know where the cat-flap is but demand to be let in at the front door. They are always on the wrong side of doors.

They jump on the kitchen bench, but only when disapproving visitors turn up. They sit between me and the computer screen. They know that extending a paw towards wallpaper or table legs gets them instant attention, even if it's noisy and violent. They don't give a tinker's about disapproval but are themselves experts at the death stare. They can even do it, elegantly, with a hind leg hooked behind an ear.

They have no conception of gratitude. We provide them with jellimeat and laps, and in return they offer us dribbles, cat hairs and vet bills. They have ordered the world to suit themselves, so why weren't they at the top of that smart list? Because they didn't deign to take part in the survey, that's why.

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