October 20, 2006
Recently, when observing my cats, I have doubted my own ‘fitness for purpose’. When I see how their feline skills outwit me at every turn, I wonder if I really am smarter than them. On occasions I have even called into question the sacred superiority of the human race. The cats spend the day sleeping on the most comfortable surface available or playing whenever the whim takes them. They come and go as they please; during the day I spend a large part of my time opening the door for them; at night they launch themselves at the bedroom window when they want to come in and disturb my sleep with their miaoing when they want to go out. They eat whenever they feel like it and whatever they like best. One will eat mackerel but not tuna, another the reverse; three of them will eat the local barbecued fish but only from one stall, where they stuff it expertly with herbs, coat it with salt and grill it to perfection. None of them will eat anything that has been in their bowl for more than three minutes. Periodically I call them all together and give them a stern headmasterly talking to, reminding them that only a short while ago they were scavenging for whatever they could find in the neighbours’ dustbins. I throw in a few tales of my own childhood hardships and privations, eating powdered mashed potatoes, not seeing a banana until I was seven etc. They listen politely but continue to sit stubbornly until their favourite food appears. Now there turns out to be one item that they all unite in relishing: gorgonzola cheese. I have to point out that this is not the sort of place where cheese can be had on every street corner. The few sources of cheese in town are surrounded by a thousand kilometres of cheese desert. Plus gorgonzola is one of the most expensive. But as soon as I settle down with a piece they appear from nowhere, noses twitching, after which they locate the cheese, sniff it hungrily and lick my fingers until they are given a proper taste. Thank goodness none of them has yet sipped my 1996 Gigondas. While the cats are enjoying this life of unbridled leisure and luxury I have bills to pay, jobs to do, people to avoid, emails to reply to; I eat when I can and have to plan where and when I am going out- because of the cats. Today, however, I realised that I am after all smarter than they are. They haven’t yet figured out that some doors open inwards.