Friday, February 29, 2008

Cool for cats

I was basically okay, then I started vomiting and running a fever, then I was completely shattered and now I am basically okay again. Nobody else I know was sick so who knows what that was. Still, how was your week?

For some reason, throughout my life, most of my friends have been cat-lovers. Out of all the people I have ever been close to, since my first friends at primary school, I can count on my fingers how many of them have not either had cats or previously owned cats which they often refer to. Since only 8% of UK households are cat-owning, this is a little odd. Especially as I don't like cats.

Cat the CatIt is not that I dislike cats, but I am indifferent to them. Of course I wouldn't want to see them mistreated or neglected, but the same applies to most non-human animals. To me, a cat is no more aesthetically pleasing or companionable than an iguana or a cormorant. Yet I'm not concerned than my friends see things differently. From my perspective, having a deep and meaningful relationship with a creature endowed with a 30g brain is arguably less strange than the compulsion to reproduce. I experience neither, but I would live a lonely life if I condemned others for their peculiarities.

And when inevitably the things outlive their owners, I do sympathise. Even though I have never been particularly devastated by the death of a pet (even the mysterious and downright sinister disappearance of Cosmo the Stick Insect), I understand that this was my friend's friend, even if it licked its bits and had the conversational skills of a table-lamp. Yet, whilst I respect our difference, I do wonder why so many cat-people are my friends.

It is not as if I have a narrow social circle. Or that I smell of fish. Indeed, I imagine it something to do with some attribute I am attracted to. rather than something about me, because these cat-people seem to come from all walks of life. No landed gentry, but I have had cat-people friends resident in council flats and listed buildings, in all manner of work and none at all. And whilst cats are most often owned by women, a similar proportion of my male friends have always been cat-people, with no particular trend relating to sexuality or marital status.

Anyway, my social circle does not include a very high number of what I might imagine to be the modal average cat-owner, who is retired, widowed and female. But it is a loved-one from this very demographic who got me thinking about this recently; my Granny has a cat. She didn't obtain a cat. She didn't adopt a local cat that preferred her house to its own. She merely took temporary custody of the cat (imaginatively entitled Cat) during a marital breakdown in the family. After six months, it remains at Granny's house.

Granny has never been a cat person and at eighty-four, conversion would seem unlikely. She acknowledges that the creature scratches at everything but those items allocated for its scratching, that it wishes to eat everything but its own food, that it molts exclusively on dark-coloured clothes and soft-furnishings and it won't let her get on with her knitting. She doesn't find this stuff cute and is determined to get rid of it should it ever bring a half-dead rodent or bird into her kitchen.

Cat the Cat againHowever, when the cat sprang onto my lap to be stroked, Granny handed me the scarf that she uses to cover her lap when the cat wants stroking.

And indeed, Cat does fulfill one of the two useful roles that a cat may have in the lives of people; to sit and purr whilst being stroked for a prolonged period of time. That is a nice thing that not all cats consent to.

(The other thing, by the way, is to catch and eat small rodents in those environments where overpopulation is a menace; on a ship at sea, on a farm, etc.. Outside such environments, cats are an alien predator in their local ecosystems. But don't tell my friends I said so.)

So if Granny can keep a cat after all these years, maybe one day I too shall understand. But in the meantime, what is it with you guys? After all, I instinctively imagine that lots of people reading this are also cat-people; certainly enough of my favourite bloggers are. What is it that cat people have in common which make them such good company?

Also, a little survey to test my hypothesis (if this appears to be a mess or doesn't appear at all, my apologies, I couldn't make this work as I'd like for some reason);

My Cat-People Survey
Are you a cat person?

Meow (yes).

view results

( The ginger cat was a random cat that was sitting outside my Granny's back door. Had Granny welcomed it in, I would have really started to worry. )


Jess said...

What is it that cat people have in common which make them such good company?

Well I don't know that I am particularly good company, when it comes to that. Which is probably why I like cats: they tend to be quiet like me, and look after themselves. Except the two with whom I currently live, of course. They're always whinging for attention, usually when I'm doing something important. And then I have to get up and play with them, and pat them, and kiss them on top of their fuzzy heads, don't I? Otherwise they sit there looking disappointed. It's the disappointment I can't take.

I see that Cat is an extremely contented cat. She's making a happy face, there-- the ears and whiskers forward, the eyes half-open. Oh, and look at her little pink nose. Ohh.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why cat people are good company: but as a cat person myself I'd say they obviously are!

For me, there are various things that I adore about cats; that very independence that makes some people think them aloof (and indeed, some act it) means that when they come over to sit on your lap, or purr, or just sit next to you, it's not because they feel they ought to: they do it because they want to.

And as jess says, you've then got to go and pet them so they don't look disappointed...

Also, they are egalitarian; they don't respect 'authority', and indeed treat everyone as being (almost) their social equal.

Plus I find them calming, serene and graceful. And sometimes comical. And ours are really good (and surprisingly patient) with our small children, tolerating an awful lot (or running away and hiding when they aren't in the mood).

Mary said...

I'm totally not a cat person. They shed fur and they scratch and they poo (and even if they are well-trained to do it in the litter tray, I wouldn't want to deal with that either). They cost money (food and vets bills as a minimum) and they get in the way of your life, holidays and even single nights out have to come with the consideration of "but what about the cat?"

It has been pointed out to me that I want children, and a lot of those issues occur with children. True, but children grow and learn and communicate. After, say, 10 years, your cat will still be as much of an issue in your life as it ever was, but your child will probably have learnt to deal with it's own poo and make the occasional sandwich.

To be blunt, the closest I'm likely to get to a pet is the robot vacuum cleaner.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, children graduate to cars, motorbikes, alcohol and drugs, which cats never do. Cats can't speak our language but they still communicate - if we are paying attention.

I've always liked cats, but as time goes by, I appreciate them more and more.

I was thinking about your suspicion that most of your friends are cat people... that reminds me of my realization that most of my friends are strong writers! I don't think I have a single friend who isn't... probably due to communication issues.

About being sociable - as a cat person, I'm inclined to keep myself to myself offline, but the online world is interesting (and full of yet more writers).

Casdok said...

Im surprised to learn only 8% of UK households have cats!
I am definetly a cat person, possibly cos cats put up with me!!

D Phoenix said...

In Canada, 38% of households have cats. I'm not a cat person, but I'm apparently a useless stats person!

By the way, I use for my polls and they seem to work quite well. It's a free service. You can resize them when you post and manipulate the graphs. If you want to add html to make the poll open up in a separate page, it's very easy to do... just email me!

Jana B said...

Hmm... well, then I was definately destined to visit your blog, since I am a definate cat person. Psychokitty, my beloved feline, has lived with me for 7 years now!

Most cat people are mildly antisocial and low-maintenance as friends... perhaps that's why you like us?

fluttertongue said...

I am most definitely a cat person. So much so that I've taken to walking a particular route whenever possible in order to come into contact with the most cats. I know exactly what it is about them that I love: warm, purry and furry. Like an enhanced hot water bottle.

The Goldfish said...

Thanks everyone :-) Sorry it took so long to reply to these.

Jess - I must say that AJ's theory on this was that all my friends are sad and lonely and so many keep cats. I did point out that if my friends were sad and lonely, what did that make the person who had married me?

Also thanks for explaining that Cat was happy; she didn't look to have any expression to me. ;-)

Jack - yes, young Alex likes cats. Unfortunately every time he meets one, he goes straight for the tail; I'm not sure he's going to find one who's that patient.

Mary - Hmm, it would be quite a long slog before children start self-cleaning if you really couldn't stand it. But I must say that personally, I prefer children to cats. I would rather have a cat than a child because the former is far less work and responsibility, but I'd rather have a conversation with a child. If that makes sense.

Diddums - it is strange that such things coincide, especially if you feel, as I do, that my friends are really quite a diverse bunch.

Casdok - the 8% was my calculation based on the statistics I could find - something like 9 million cats in the UK, with forty percent of all cat-owners having more than one cat. It was a difficult sum, I could be wrong, but I made that about 5 million cat-owners, which is about 8% of 60 million. My sum may be wrong, but it's not going to be a million miles out.

Domnino - thank you, I'm sure I've just pollhost before at some point but I couldn't remember when I came to do this. Now you've mentioned the name that rings a bell. :-)

Jana B - Hi there and congratulations on having the coolest name for a cat I've heard in a long while.

Fluttertongue - :-)

Anonymous said...

I love cats, dogs, rodents, bunnies (which are not rodents after all!), lizards, birds, and fish all more than I love most humans. None of these creatures has ever lied to me, betrayed me, abused me, or tortured me in any way except when dying (not their fault). Humans, on the other hand, have done all these things to me and each other, and are doing them to each other right at this moment.

So, um, how you feel about cats? It's kind of how I feel about human children as a whole. Individual ones may earn my love and respect, but my inclination to love them just because they exist simply isn't there.

Anonymous said...

Okay, it's there, but it's dim.