IS YOUR CAT TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING? ROB INGRAM FACES FACTS ABOUT OUR FURRY FRIENDS’ FEELINGS.
LOOK, I DON’T know if men are from Mars and women are from Venus, or what. But our brains are definitely wired differently. The Chosen One, for instance, believes she can read the expressions on cats’ faces. “I’m concerned about Polly,” she told me the other day. “She’s brooding about something.” How could she tell? Well, she told me, the cat was looking distracted and anxious. Now, this is daft. Cats have faces, not expressions. Just to be sure, I checked out our cat’s face closely. She just looked straight back at me with that “You lookin‘ at me?” scowl shared by cats and inebriated Glaswegians. The most interesting thing about cats’ faces is that they sometimes display face-shape characteristics similar to humans. Our cat, Polly, for instance, has a face resembling that of television horseracing tipster Ron Dufficy. Maybe they share an expression of complacency or shrewdness, but I don’t think so. It’s just the shape of the face — the spacing between the eyes and the short upper lip. Whatever, the similarity is so marked that I sometimes wake at night with a start thinking I’m sharing a pillow with Ron. “What do you fancy in the third at Rosehill tomorrow?” I’ll whisper. But the reply, a gust of feline halitosis and calcium-enriched jellymeat, is about as useful to me as a late scratching. And, speaking of scratching... I’ve tried to explain to The Chosen One that the genetics behind human facial expressions go back to Neanderthal DNA. Okay, the prevailing expression of the early human may have been “D’oh!”, whereas ours is, “What the…?” But both are far from the cat’s sole expression, which is “You’re sitting on my chair!” I’ve even attempted to explain to The Cat’s Mother the differences in the muscle maps of human and feline faces. If I remember correctly — and I pretended I did — the depressor anguli oris and the zygomaticus allow us to express surprise, happiness, fear and disapproval, while allowing the cat only to yawn and eat birds (expressions of boredom and birdicide). But she insists the cat has a full spectrum of expressions and is on the verge of being able to speak to explain them. If you watch science programs on TV, you might have seen one about the differences in male and female brains, where researchers insist there is nothing parents can do to suppress the innate tendencies of boys to gravitate to guns and trucks, and girls to dolls and tea sets. And cats. Boys like the more robust rough-and-tumble interaction with excited dogs. But, because cats show affection when it suits them, girls conjure up an imagined maternal bonding. And, apparently, it follows through to our adult nature. “We all know the saying: dog is man’s best friend,” said the science-show presenter. Well, actually, I disagree. A good tax accountant is man’s best friend. And maybe a consistently astute television horseracing tipster after that. Meanwhile, the discord at home about cats’ expressions is still to be resolved. But, in the country, there’s always somewhere to go to sort out your problems — the Men’s Shed. When I arrived the blokes laid down their tools and made another cuppa. And, by the time I left, they’d solved the woman/cat empathy for me. They reckon because cats do what they want, never listen, are a bit unpredictable little women in bad fur coats. I can’t wait to discuss this theory as soon as I get home.
FACES IS THAT THE THING ABOUT CATS’ FACE-SHAPE THEY SOMETIMES DISPLAY TO HUMANS. CHARACTERISTICS SIMILAR