animal psychology, Humour

Domestic Deity or Just a Damned Cat

The cat sits, ears a point, disdainful of his subjects, on a laundry basket throne or next to the TV.  All eyes upon him, (of course) he gazes at nothing in particular, waiting to be served.  I have never questioned this — I am a cat-person, in his thrall, trained since birth, a hand maiden of the mighty Mog.

‘Don’t get up and feed him the instant he meows!’

‘But he’s hungry.’

‘He’s just a damned cat!’

My husband is not a cat-person — here’s the dilemma — the main cause of tension in our household.


Guinness, The Fat Cat, epitomises the power of self-confidence.  He strutted into our house three years ago, stood his ground when the dog rushed up to him. Their noses touched for an instant, the dog was transfixed, then wham, the paw of steel, the dog was dismissed, blooded, dominated.

Guinness moved in with his own household — his man, Midnight.  Cat psychologists say domestic cats are solitary, that is nonsense — Guinness has a butler, his own Jeeves, someone to see to his personal grooming, to suffer fur balls on his behalf, to hunt for him, to taste his food, to intercede with the other servants (me and the dog) and to do his meowing.

Guinness and Midnight

Midnight, (‘now he’s a proper cat!’ says Alan) is The Fat Cat’s batman, they met in a previous life, not in the army, but in prison — prisoner of war camp — Stalag 46, in Brighton, in the war on the Feral Feline Freedom Forces.  The Fat Cat was in charge of escape and very good at it, but so confident was he that he would present himself every morning outside the prison, at the camp commandant’s bungalow for breakfast.  After breakfast he was marched back to the pound where the other prisoners greeted him as a hero ( the Steve McQueen of the Cat Rescue).  He would eat again and sleep all day, Midnight, The Proper Cat, watching his back.

He, The Fat Cat and his side kick, were released on licence to live under house arrest in Worthing, that pit of iniquity (I was chased by a mugger once in that East Sussex town fallen from glory).  Once respectable, it is now a forest of parking meters roamed by drug addicts, prostitutes and cats. Still uncontainable, it was here that he forged links with the underworld — colluding with local foxes, pimps and mini-cab drivers, wandering the streets at night, his were the green eyes under every illegally parked car, his DNA was on every discarded take-away carton.

He came to Wales, under cover — he’s a sleeper, don’t tell anyone.  Urban gangster lying low — some say he worked for a Russian bank, no one knows the full story.  Now he’s free to come and go he mainly does what he does best — he’s a sleeper after all.  Under his protection, Midnight (his faithful lieutenant and proper cat) does the rest — Farm Cats Inc.  (Non-exec. Chairman: Guinness, ‘The Fat Cat’)

Farm Cats Inc. — FC and the Hit-man


Filling the Spiritual Void — the anxious atheist

When we introduce children to scientific thinking and our reasoning becomes increasingly evidence based, our world becomes more secular and religious concepts begin to seem weird – that is when we humans may be missing a trick.

The French are ahead of us in this: for more than half a century their state education system has been secular so that, for many, religious faith is alien and impossible to fathom, it does not fit into our way of thinking anymore.

This may deprive us of several useful psychological tools.

The concept of an over-arching God, a power greater than ourselves, particularly a beneficent power was very useful. It may have been delusional but it allowed us to relinquish overall responsibility, taking us out of ultimate control. Being in charge is very stressful – all those decisions – having to understand everything and be assertive. It was much easier to have faith in the overall management and just pray – now we are self reliant but full of self doubt.

It is a sort of growing up, a loss of innocence, a loss of humility and a growing sense of our own importance, grinding self-reliance and sneaking insecurity that can be so destructive – it takes us to the Accident and Emergency Department in the middle of the night when by morning we are feeling better.

Other things have contributed – we are empowered and less restrained by gender and class, we are more free-standing, not so much a part of a family or a close supportive community.

We could however acknowledge one overarching power that is not God, but is greater than ourselves – that is the accumulation of human development, knowledge and co-operation. It is the billions of years of natural selection and adaption and one man’s knowledge and understanding, built on that of other men (and women), built on that of all men and women, since the beginning of time – that great pyramid of our achievements. But it’s not a pyramid, is it? It’s an infinite pyramidal mesh – immortal, invisible.  It is wisdom – sounds religious to me! It does sound like something worthy of faith and that is, I think, what we are missing — faith, or rather confidence, in ourselves — in our wider self which is immense.

And we miss the idea of an afterlife which is the ultimate in delayed gratification, of investing ones efforts in long term projects!  The converse which is a finite life without judgement, without a final moral reckoning lays us open to short-termism — live while you can and die happy (only we don’t).  Does this have a negative effect on future generations?  We are not, after all, going to be looking down from Heaven and seeing the consequences of our actions — nor burning in the fires of hell and damnation for the things we did that we knew all along were wrong.


Pious role model from Limerick Cathedral

We have to think of our descendants as our afterlife — that’s not too difficult and, believe me, they will judge us!

The Commandments were set in stone — that was the point.  You knew where you are with commandments set in stone, you had a moral compass that avoided constant moral negotiation with oneself — my Mum knew exactly what was right and what was wrong and there was no room for negotiation — no shades of grey.

The irony is that today everyone has protocols for everything except the really important moral dilemmas where a protocol would be really useful.

We wanted to have it our way with our wonderful free will and just like that day where it all started in the Garden of Eden we can’t un-eat the apple.