Friday, 29 May 2009

How The Cat Lost Its Thumbs

Many years ago, long before people had iPhones and governments had come up with laws about the curvature of cucumbers, all animals lived in harmony under the benign reign of their king, the Lion.

Humans were considered equals, not feared, and cats still had thumbs.

Soon, the cats found that their clever little brains enabled them to make the other animals do things for them, things they themselves couldn't be bothered to do or found below their dignity.
So they started to order everybody around, humans included.

Most of the other animals were peaceful enough to not mind doing the odd job for someone else every now and then, but the cats became increasingly demanding and haughty at the same time, to the point that the other animals agreed between each other that this had to stop.

They sent a delegation of their oldest and wisest to humbly present their case to the Good King.

The Lion listened patiently, as was his habit, and then closed his eyes, resting his chin on his big soft paws."He's asleep," someone whispered.
"He's not, he is thinking," someone else replied, also whispering.

With a swish of tail and throwing back of his impressive mane, after an hour or so the Good King opened his eyes again and looked intently at the cat.

"What," he said in his deep, velvety voice (but those who knew him well could detect a faint growl underneath the velvet), "what do you suggest we do with you, Cat?"

The Cat blinked, and quickly licked its left shoulder.
Then it replied: "If the other animals find it beneath themselves to assist my kind, I am sure the humans won't object. Assign them as my servants, if you please."

And although it tried to stare into the Lion's eyes, it only managed to hold that majestic amber gaze for the fraction of a second before it had to look away, quickly licking its right shoulder.

"Humans!" the Good King now boomed (his voice could do that, you know, without sounding ridiculous or aggressive - just mighty).

The humans, who had of course also been invited to the gathering, shyly came forward.
"Do you wish to serve the Cat?"
A fast, nattering discussion broke out among the humans, making them sound very similar to the monkeys.
Then their leader stood in front of their group, cleared his throat and said: "We will. But the Cat has to be kind with us, keep us company and make us laugh."

"Conditions," the Lion growled, "that are not easy to fulfill."
Once again, he closed his eyes and rested his chin on his paws, and thought long and hard for an hour or two.

Finally, he rose.
"You," he pointed at the group of humans with one long, sharp talon, reminding everyone that he wasn't their King just because he had a beautiful mane and a velvety voice,
"will have the Cat as company, and the Cat will be kind with you and make you laugh, for as long as you will serve its needs."
The humans bowed their heads, looked at each other and nodded.

"And you," now the long sharp talon was directed at the Cat,
"will have your wish granted with the humans assigned as your servants - but from this moment on, your thumbs are gone, and gone forever."

The Cat could instantly feel that something about its paws was different, and true enough, the thumbs it had formerly had were gone.
It shrugged, thinking "so what? I have my servants, I don't need thumbs," and elegantly and nonchalantly, it slunk away from the gathering, the group of humans trailing behind.

- - -

Several thousands of years later, things have changed for the cat and its humans.

There are still those among the human race who are willingly serving the cats' every need and whim, but often, cats do not get their orders executed instantly, if at all.
But, whereas in the past they could still do everything by themselves, if they so wished, they can not do that anymore.

You can't open a tin of cat food without thumbs.
You can't hold a brush properly without thumbs.
You can't clean a cat toilet without thumbs.
And there are many, many more things you can't do without thumbs, even if with your clever little brain you know exactly how these things are done.

Ever since the day they lost their thumbs, cats have secretly been thinking about how they could get them back.
They know a lot about us, and they know how most of the things we do are done, because they watch us, and they watch us closely.

So, the next time you are, say, changing a tyre on your car in the drive and your neighbour's cat is watching your every move, you know why it does that.
And when you hear a nightly chorus of cats on a balmy spring night, don't be fooled - these are not "love songs" or territorial marking, but a serious conference about how to get their thumbs back.


  1. Your writing made me chuckle. I was at a friend's for coffee this afternoon. Friends who are slaves to their cat (and dog) whilst, of course, protesting that they are not.

  2. The story is not entirely mine, by the way. My sister wrote the original German version after we had thought about how come cats seem to like observing people so much.