Final Word

The Cat and its subjects


Probably no other animal on the planet has more proverbs, expressions of wisdom, and repeatable quotes been penned than the domestic cat – which treats every human it meets, as a subject.

In recent times a political sub-text came to dominate this column, and I felt it was time for a change. I was thinking about this while my wife and daughter were swooning over the litter of no less than six new kittens that arrived in our home. Suddenly I realised that I could easily think of many proverbs and expressions in which the domestic cat features.

Observing, like one often does with cats, how demanding for attention they are, one of the first expressions that came to mind is that they do not belong to a human, but in the cat’s eyes, all things belong to them.

The ancient Egyptians are probably to be blamed for this state of affairs. Not only were it them who first domesticated cats, to protect their grain harvest in their silos against rats and mice, but it was them who once worshiped cats as gods, and cats have never forgotten this.

At the royal tomb at Thebes the following inscription is to be found: "Thou art the Great Cat, the avenger of the Gods, and the judge of words, and the president of the sovereign chiefs and the governor of the holy Circle; thou art indeed...the Great Cat."

Fishing around on the sea called the internet, I quickly discovered that there are hundreds of proverbs and expression in just about every known culture, featuring the cat. And, having mentioned fishing, lets start off with the Chinese wisdom in their proverb: “All cats love fish but fear to wet their paws,” the oft human tendency to seek results with the least effort.

And, then there is the expression of an instruction given to someone, and ignored: “I gave an order to a cat, and the cat gave it to its tail.”

The Irish over time delivered a rich harvest of expressions in which the cat featured, amongst which is the waring “beware of people that dislike cats.” However one of the truest ones I came across is the Spanish proverb that holds that “it is better to be a mouse in a cat's mouth than a man in a lawyer's hands.”

And, when it comes to quoting politicians, when it features cats they also seem to get close to the truth. Thinking of the kittens that recently invaded my private space and the middle-of-the-night noises that preceded their arrival a few months earlier, I can testify that Abraham Lincoln spoke the truth when he said: “No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.”

I don’t think too many people will disagree with the political correctness of the sentiment by Winston Churchill when he once said: "I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."

by Piet Coetzer

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Final Word

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