Sunday, October 22, 2006

Owly Cat

There is a theory that you’re either a cat or a dog person. I like most animals. I remember seeing Salvador Dalí interviewed once and he said his favourite animals were rhinoceros and filet of sole. That seemed like a good choice. I’m particularly fond of a family of coots that builds a nest below my bedroom window every spring. I watch them squabble and fuss and get anxious. I watch their nest blow downstream in strong winds and I have even watched in horror as our resident heron has stolen their eggs. I’ve grieved with them, but I have not bestowed upon them names or the responsibility for uplifting my spirits.

I suppose you could say I’m a remote empath when it comes to animals. I like David Attenborough and Big Bear/Big Cat Week. I don’t believe in animal testing. Actually I don’t believe in medicine so testing is kind of superfluous. If you do believe in medical conditions and have one called an allergy, you can buy a hypoallergenic cat. Hypoallergenic used to only apply to jewellery but now it’s got into the domestic pet market, it’s become a serious player.

The Allerca cat is been especially bred by isolating naturally occurring genetic divergences. Allerca Lifestyle Pets goes to great pains to clarify that its cats are not genetically modified. This is a relief because you wouldn’t want to have one that contaminated all your neighbours’ organic cats. You’d never forgive yourself. Still I balked a bit at the idea of having a cat especially designed to suit medical conditions. They do come in various colours so it is entirely possible, and I believe ethically sound, to choose a kitten that blends with your décor. People do that anyway. If you’ve got a white sofa, you want a white cat so the hairs don’t show up on it. I will check with Peter Singer and get an exact fix on the ethical ramifications if anyone’s really interested.

Allerca Lifestyle Pets helpfully offers a number of ‘cat facts’ on its website. I always thought cats were somewhat aloof so I was very surprised to find that ‘both humans and cats have identical regions in the brain responsible for emotion’. That is strange. You don’t see too many cats weeping over an Arsenal defeat. Then again not many Arsenal fans enjoy you winding your finger around their ear in my experience. When it comes to ears, ‘cats have thirty-two muscles that control the outer ear compared to six in humans’, according to Allerca Lifestyle Pets. That explains a lot. Then I read ‘a cat’s brain is more similar to a man’s brain than that of a dog’, and that turned me. I wanted a hypoallergenic cat. It would be just like a man, except clean and toxin-free.

Bad news awaited. An Allerca kitten costs US$4,000! Admittedly there’s a whole package including vaccinations, neutering, microchip identifier implant (to compensate for the, you know, breeding issues), allergy testing devices, a set of nail caps (to protect the nail extensions) and a ‘starter pack’ containing cat food, toys, extra nail caps and ‘other kitten sundries’ plus a one-year guarantee. That’s handy. If you’re paying that much for a cat you don’t want it off the road for any length of time. Still, it’s a lot of money, even for a pet especially tailored to your lifestyle.

I got to thinking. An animal I really like is the owl. Owls don’t make very good pets as they are only interested in being awake when you’re asleep and they might eat your neighbour’s gerbil. So, I phoned up the nice people at Allerca Lifestyle Pets and said, ‘I know you don’t do genetic modifications or anything but would it be possible to have a pet with the body of a cat and the head of an owl? Well, they couldn’t have been nicer. It turns out that owls and cats are even closer in genetic makeup than cats and men!

So, for my US$4,000 I got an owly cat called Barney (pictured). Barney enjoys Arsenal home games and has settled nicely into my loft. I couldn’t be happier.

Picture from


Anonymous said...

I know I don't usually leave comments here but you should know that I always read and laugh.

It's a FUN BLOG.

Lesley Cookman said...

OK, OK, so I didn't believe it. Now I do. I'm currently rehearsing for a play where somebody talks about having her budgie tinted to match the walls. This is a COMEDY, this is meant to be a FUNNY REMARK. I will keep this website to myself, or it might undermine the whole premise of the play...

That's so pants said...

Have you seen the film 'Frances'? Biopick of Frances Farmer. Her mother bred patrotic red, white and blue chickens.