Silly Questions: Cats take the plunge

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The Independent Culture
NON-SWIMMING cats fill our column this week: 'One must be careful not to generalise about cats,' says Nicholas Gough, who points out that jaguars swim well, tigers snap salmon from rivers, and an animal called the 'fishing cat' may be found in India. But it is debatable whether it fishes.

David Allen advises us that 'cats have ruled the world for long enough to know that the most efficient way of getting fish to eat is to find a human family that eats fish and sit on the doorstep looking helpless and hungry. All cats can in fact swim, but know that it involves getting wet and uncomfortable.' Julia Shipton supports the Bright Cat Hypothesis: 'Cats organise fleets of trawlers to fish for them while they catch up on their sleep.' She also believes that Euro-cats are working on the establishment of a fish lake.

Julian Blake points out that 'individual Western man generally avoids plunging into the water to feed himself', so why should cats do it when a 'quick lunge at the fishmonger's slab' serves the purpose with less effort? Len Clarke mentions Puss in Boats, a shipping company called the F E Line, the Dogger Bank and the Kattegat, but his line of argument seems to suggest that a fear of dogfish may be behind cats' non-swimming.

'A cat,' says C Hull, 'that likes eating fish so much that it has learnt to swim is called a 'seal'.'

The most scientific explanation comes from Stuart Cockerill: 'If cats could swim, they would eat all the fish, making the ability to swim redundant and it would quickly be lost. This would allow fish to evolve again in safety until cats once more discovered their forgotten knowledge.' He believes this cycle has been in progress for several billions of years but that the cats may not have to both in future since humans are eating all the fish.

This week's questions: Why is any misfortune 'an act of God', while the Devil, as in 'luck of the Devil' is held responsible for good fortune? (S T Shaw). Why haven't humans evolved integral shoes? (S Cockerill). What attitude does a standing committee take when it sits, and what does its Chair sit on? (C David Allen). Further questions and answers will be welcome at: Silly Questions, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.