Alan West resorts to “Cat Stuck On Roof” story.
What I like about cats is their pragmatism and non-conformism, their ‘up yours’ attitude. If cats could be bothered to organise themselves they would be Bolshevists, just like most of my friends. Dogs are, according to their owners, more intelligent than cats. But you would say that, wouldn’t you, of anyone who was unquestioningly devoted to you?
Recent research by Oxford University suggests that a dog’s larger brain is explained by an evolutionary requirement to socialise. Before I accuse my friends of being sociopaths as well as Bolshevists – only one or two are – I must say that I’m not persuaded. Whilst it is true that dogs have got the good sense not to climb trees, and can do all sorts of useful things, like herd sheep and rescue people from avalanches, we should not mistake utility for intelligence.
A cat’s instinct for self-preservation trumps all else – including any inclination to obey simple instructions or to be bribed by food. This point was brought home last Sunday morning when a neighbour’s young cat chased a squirrel onto the roof. The squirrel escaped but Fiver found himself high and dry thirty five feet above ground. My neighbour’s house is a large Victorian semi with a steep slated roof. Its ridge tiles, and those of the house next door, form a sort of elongated ‘H’ shape. When I arrived on the scene a small congregation of neighbours and passers-by had gathered on the pavement below and were offering their advice. Fiver could be seen pacing up and down on the narrow parapet of his open air prison, squawking plaintively. This stream of interested bystanders continued throughout the day and Fiver remained resolutely on the roof.
My two stage ladder could only just reach the guttering. Despite my insistence that I would catch him if he slid down the slates towards me, Fiver wasn’t prepared to fall for it. He ignored inducements like plates of chicken and tuna. So be it, we all said, he would have to remain there.
Neither the Fire Brigade nor the RSPCA were interested. The RSPCA’s advice was “leave him, he’ll come down eventually”. Sunday was a fine, clear spring day but after fourteen hours and a cold night in prospect, the cat was still there. We went out for dinner. On the way home, the moon was out and a there was a distinct chill in the air. The cat was now hunched up against the wind. At least he’d stopped wailing.
In the middle of a sleepless night I had a brainwave and at seven a.m. I was ringing my neighbours’ doorbell. I would carry my ladder through their house and climb onto the flat roof above their kitchen, from where the ladder would surely reach the roof. As it turned out, the ladder was still too short to make contact at both ends but at least it could be placed flat against the slates and pushed right up to the ridge, from where, I reasoned, the cat would climb down the ladder into the arms of his owner. A dog would have complied immediately. Fiver sat on the ridge, now croaking rather than squawking, looking quizzically at the ladder. After a few minutes, he began pacing again, now a little unsteady on his feet, evidently determined to continue his 24 hour ordeal. After a further ten minutes of indecision he did eventually place one paw, then another, on the top rung of the ladder. Then, with all four paws on the ladder, he was on a roll. Very soon he was within grabbing distance. I grabbed him and passed him down to his mother (Jan) who was standing on a garden bench below. Back on firm ground, Fiver shook a back leg in disgust and went off to relieve himself behind a tree. His owners were exceptionally grateful, I was thankful I hadn’t fallen off the roof, and the neighbourhood was collectively able to breathe normally again.
As for Fiver, does he greet me, his rescuer, warmly when we meet in the street? Of course not. He squeezes his eyes at me in that inscrutable way of cats and moves just slightly out of my reach.
A dog would never do that. That’s why it’s called incatitude.