The domestic housecat: it offers fluff, hugs and a wonderful array of meowling noises between the hours of six AM and breakfast. Photograph: me.
Just as the frenzy over some kind of rather expensive but shiny smartphone threatens to overbalance the collective sanity of our national press, it seems like a good time to finally review what must count as one of the world’s finest achievements: the domestic housecat.
Since the first cats were identified roaming various sandy parts of the world humanity has upped its game and risen to the challenge of creating similarly wonderful things. Cheese, for example, has been a big hit, as has democracy and Ikea furniture. So what can feline evolution do to wrench back the crown?
The modern domesticat housecat is a creature of rare beauty. Slimmer than a Ford Transit van yet a trifle heavier than a trifle (mmm, trifle) its moderate heft makes it ideal for holding over one shoulder so that it gets a better view of the pigeons in the tree across the street. Fluffy around the edges, it remains relatively comfortable when – and it will do so often – it falls asleep on your lap, stomach, feet or legs (other favourite spots: your laptop, your bag, the sofa, the sink, under the boiler). Jonathan Ive has not, to my knowledge, compared cats to any model of camera, but I’d suggest a Zenit E SLR, mostly because I own of those also and they too tend to be a little temperamental. The proof of concept model – the kitten – is similar but smaller, with brainfuckingly cute mannerisms and a head that appears, like an SD anime character, to be two sizes too large.
Photo: Ralph Cat, in “kitten” beta version.
Domestic cats are widely available in the UK, often for little or no up-front cost. I share ownership of two versions – one in “grey tornado of fluff” finish and another in “basement cat black” – both of which we adopted*. On the front can be discerned a giant array of whiskers, used largely to see whether it is possible to crawl behind the fridge again or whether the latest human attempt to block this space has proven successful, while on the back is a port through which the manufacturers of Catsan are kept in business. Cats cannot take photographs, and have no need to as their owners are guaranteed to spend hours photographing them instead and sharing the results with anyone and everyone online.
Although a standard for speech and video communication is supported – the cat will honk, meowl and burble, while the human end automatically steps-down to a kind of childish babbling interspersed with terms of adoration – it seems limited to discussions revolving around food, cat hair on the sofa and who’s the most adowable fuzzywuzziest wickle fuwbawl oh-yes-you-are. The cat’s eyeball – using a technology that I shall call the retina, because that is what a fucking retina is, thank you very much, Steve – delivers astoundingly crisp images of toy mice, pigeons, food and sunny spots on the carpet. Or so it seems.
Various companies have produced cases for the domestic cat. Some even look like bees. They provide no real protection, however, and clearly anyone who attempts to throw a cat across a room, bee-costumed or not, should be hurled into a vat of angry scorpions.
With fluffy coats, adorable big glassy eyes, fwuffy paws, a battery that lasts most of the day before the low power alarm is sounded at great length, a surprising amount of pep when toys are produced and a frankly adorable habit of following you around the flat while purring with sheer delight, the cat has once more pounced over the competition, stolen its mouse and hurried off to hide it behind the toilet. Dogs might be man’s best friend, but the domestic cat is – apologies – purrfect.
* Buying details: please do not buy a cat – many hundreds are waiting to be adopted. If you own one, insurance is absolutely fucking vital and not very expensive. Monthly food tariffs vary from £20 (Rahph cat, Whiskas) to far more (Hunter cat, special medical food). Vet checkup costs (at least £100/year) apply. Meow.