THE SECRET LIFE OF THE CAT INDEED.

So after lots of hoopla and advance PR last night I sat down with my cuppa and bun, ready to be amazed and educated about ‘The Secret Life Of The Cat’ – a Horizon special on BBC2.
Regular readers will know that while I don’t consider that I am (yet) in the Crazy Cat Lady category (although there are some who know me who would disagree) I am the current slave to 3 moggies and have always shared my life and home with felines.  Suffice to say I love cats and I would never choose to live without at least one.
But like anyone else who lives with kitties will tell you, they are a bit of a law unto themselves and we all know that they do have a ‘secret life’ – whether that just goes on in their little cute heads or in reality remains to be seen. I was hoping that august broadcasting corporation that is the BBC was going to enlighten me last night.
The programme started well enough with ‘cat scientists’ (really?… and if so I want to be one.. where or what do I study?) arriving into a very pretty village in Surrey.  We got images of cutesy rose covered cottages, a village green, and the centre of operations, Cat HQ was the local village hall.  All very ‘Vicar of Dibley’. 
We then were introduced to some of the cast of 50 kitties who were going take part in the experiment.  50?  Yes.  In one village?  Yes.  The Brits love their pets.  I wouldn’t think you would find too many Irish villages where there were 50 (unrelated) cats.  In fact we were told there were 10 million cats in the UK.  That they know that is amazing in itself.  Needless to say we don’t know how many pussies there are in Ireland.
As the programme outlined the science behind this week long study we were also told that most cats only roam a short distance from their homes.  Male cats about 100m and females about half that.  Cats spend most of their time at home with only about 20% of their time outside.
By now my tea was drained and my bun polished off and I was getting a bit antsy.  This was all very nice…. but WHAT IS THE SECRET LIFE OF THE CAT? 
Well revelations were thin on the ground.  We learned that one cat, Claude leaves home every evening and heads down the road to another cat house where he lets himself in the catflap and helps himself to the neighbours’ cat’s food.  Wow ? No not really!
As any cat owner knows, cats retain a very high percentage of their wildness which is most evident in their ability to hunt and kill their prey.  I have been gifted with mice (dead and alive), spiders and once a baby rat.  The Surrey cats were far more exotic in their hunting endeavours with a rabbit, a mole and a shrew among the reasonably limited ‘kill’ over the week.  As I wrestled with the concept of loving cats while contemplating the wholesale murder of the entire cast of The Wind in the Willows, I heard one of the Cat Scientists work out that from 50 cats this haul was very modest and he concluded that cats don’t pose a serious threat to local wildlife.  Good
In fact this element of cat’s lives really produced the only interesting piece of information as far as I was concerned; although it wasn’t really a surprise.  Apparently cats are becoming more domesticated and less wild as they work at fine tuning their relationships with us, their families.  The exception of course are farm cats, who understand very clearly that they have work to do on the farm keeping down rats and mice around barns and animal housing. 
As the programme wound its convoluted way towards a subdued climax we were introduced to the Edwards family whose cats, we were told excitedly, provided the biggest surprise of all.  “Oh here we go” I poked the sleeping feline beside me on the couch.. “now we are going to find out about your secret life.”  He opened one eye lazily and then went back to sleep. 
Back to the Edwards family who have six cats.  “And the biggest surprise of all is that these six cats who are un-related all get along just fine.”  “Whaaat” I roared at the telly.  “I could have told you that.”  We have usually a permanent quota of four cats but sometimes when we foster for the DSPCA we can have up to 10 and we have never had a fight.
“Well that was all very underwhelming” I said to the sleeping mound of fur beside me.  He didn’t move but I thought I saw one side of his mouth curl into a wry smile.
“The Secret Life of the Cat” he seemed to say…. which bit of ‘secret’ don’t you get? 
As I tried to contain my disappointment I had a picture of the little village in Surrey now abandoned by TV Crews and Cat Scientists, its Village Hall returned to its original use.  In my mind’s eye I see a moonlit, midnight gathering of cats on the village green.  Tails up, purring contentedly… and just faintly I am sure I can hear something else.  Yes.. the cats are laughing.
Cat Scientists indeed….  I think TS Elliot had it right in his wonderful poem, The Naming of Cats.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover–
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.

Yep.. old TS knew what he was talking about.  The Secret Life of Cats is as deep a secret as the inner workings of a Masonic Lodge.  If you are not a cat – forget it – the cats ain’t confessing.
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4 Comments

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  1. Hi Barbara– Yes, indeed, I know my Katie Cat has lots of secrets going on inside her little head. Cats are very mysterious.

  2. I didn't see the programme but twitter was going mad about it. I love your thinking of all the cats getting together and saying,right the camera crew have gone now lets get back to what we usually get up too.

  3. You said it all, Barbara, and you are so right. Those of us who love our moggies know it's impossible to classify them. The thing that surprised me was that the cats in the experiment were fitted with rather large and cumbersome cameras and tracking devices and they didn't seem to mind. The experiment must have cost a fortune and was it worth the money? I don't think so.

  4. I would love to fit a camera to one of our cats, who spends WAY more than 20% of her time away from home. I want to know which neighbours are feeding her. We have her on a strict diet but she's still the size of a house.

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