Review: The litter traits of feline friends exposed

ONE OF the less endearing tics of glossy magazines, from Titbits all the way across the block to Tatler, is an obsession with lists. In one column, it's who's in or the dos of shopping; in the other, it's who's out or the don'ts.

Apropos of not a lot, this small corner turns glossy for a nanosecond with a list of its own that infallibly categorises every one of us. (Space does not allow the normal tabular layout, with lots of creative white space.) Either you do or don't read Shirley Conran / eat chicken biryani / approve of Wales / do press-ups / worship a god / nod off watching Arsenal / take the Independent / fondly remember Spandau Ballet / loathe cats.

And there's the rub: if you don't regard 'feline' and 'friend' as two words that were just made for each other, then you won't have been watching 'It's A Cat's Life', a film for Short Stories (C4). You missed a treat. In Britain there are six million cats, which, in case you didn't know, means these islands contain twice as many cats as Welsh people. Not all of them are owned by those who fall into the 'I adore cats' category. One female moggy is responsible for 20,000 offspring in five years, with the result that 200,000 are made homeless every year.

These statistics issue from the Cats Protection League, the subject of this documentary. When a bunch of people call themselves a league, usually their motives are either impeccable (the League against Cruel Sports) or very peccable indeed (the Premier League). The cats' league seems to mean well, providing board and lodging for cats suddenly deprived of both, but their methods are sometimes iron-fisted in the way that only the morally convinced can be.

One London branch of the league answered a call-out about a woman who locked her cat in an outdoor rabbit hutch at night - presumably the owner calculated that here was the one place where her cat wouldn't breed like a rabbit. The owner had been shopped by someone else in the block of flats and in the ensuing melee it dawned that this was that rare curio, a natural history programme that was actually about Homo sapiens.

Observe, for instance, from the previous scene, in which the cat-owner opening her front door is not asked if she wanted to be filmed, how primitive our concept of privacy still is. Note, from other footage, how when communicating with cats the human voice can go up higher than Callas ever got in Tosca. Further research demonstrated that some owners who are forced to expel their cats say things like 'Oi dint really want to get rid of 'er, loike' and wear T-shirts bearing the slogan 'I'm Too Sexy For My . . .' (punchline mercifully tucked inside trousers).

One day someone will make the definitive series about cats - Martyn Lewis, perhaps, the good-news heavyweight who's already done the book - but Short Stories is not the place. If BBC2 hadn't got there first with its own, longer version, Channel 4 could have called the strand 27 Minutes, because it operates on the same rambling remit. 'Let's go find some quirkiness,' you can see them enthusing every Monday morning, as they commission another production company to tail a tinker, a tailor or a candlestick maker. Such programmes work on the rule that if you point a camera at the most innocuous of nobodies for long enough, their individuality will out. And generally, the rule holds true. It did here.

Secretly, this was yet another programme about the recession, because cats are often the first economy measure in cash-strapped homes. Openly, Public Eye (BBC 2) was yet another programme about child abuse, a subject that seems incapable of going away. This time the context was divorce, and the growing tendency of some spouses to allege child abuse solely as a device for gaining custody. The programme used actors, who usually bring a layer of artifice to the proceedings, but not this time. If this is the way some people treat each other, then even the most wretched of cats have it easy.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing