My mind turned to cats and pets this week because despite some marvellous adventures in radio land, recording something with BBC Radio 4, and other little moves forward to more exposure and more work, there was something else on my mind.
This was because my darling kitty Bessie, a loveable, sweet-natured black elderly girl has been unwell. A week ago she had two hours of dental work, two extractions and a thorough clean. From this, she was subdued and in pain, but still affectionate. Then the violent sneezing started and she did the cat thing of hiding. I was terrified. After some frantic calls and visits to the vets at the very magnificent low cost Celia Hammond clinic in Canning Town (do support at every opportunity), it transpires she has caught mild flu (despite vaccinations)and needs some more pills. These are diluted in water and squirted down her throat in an oral syringe. She doesn’t like this much but is stoical.
And today she woke me up with some familiar headbutting and purring in my face – followed by a sneeze. Yes, a little yucky, but I don’t mind. She’s rallying. I burst with relief and pleasure at her affection.
I fell into deep thought about our relationship to our animals. They are the little aliens in our midst. The Other creatures we cannot possible know, truly. I love them in this capacity. I don’t want a substitute human baby. I want to enjoy this delightful connection with a creature that is not human and believe we learn from each other. I know all the arguments about how we have changed domestic pets and they are scarcely ‘themselves’ – whatever ‘themselves’ is deemed to be. Bessie IS connected to me. She likes to know I am there and she comes to me for comfort and fussing. She may indeed know I am ultimately her food source, though as a disabled person, the physical aspects of her food are done by various assistants – yet she is not bonded to them purely because of that. And anyhow, recently I came across an article that reasoned we are all trained by ‘cupboard’ love at one level or another, in evolutionary terms. It ties the bonds and love is perhaps the flower at the end of this need.
How wonderful that we can love our pets and give them such a place in our lives where they don’t ‘do’ anything. Nothing obviously productive, barring the odd example of assistance dogs and so on. (Imagine assistance cats! No, you are NOT going there, you are going up THIS damn tree because I WANT TO!).
I am a dedicated animal lover. Deeply and for all my life. I’m anti-vivisectionist, and anti-animal testing, yes, as a disabled person.
Yet I do wonder about that part of society which loves ‘useless’ animals more than people. Is it because they cost less?!
My point is of course that to me animals (pets and wild) are treasures to value, love and care for, part of our incredible journey as beings on this planet together.
It should not always come down to a reductionist view of monetary and productive value for any living creature.