Grace Dent on TV: Why wouldn’t a cat start lobbying for John West tuna chunks at 4am?



The home of mainstream, brain-relaxing telly, ITV, ran two The Secret Life of… documentaries on the most broad and inclusive of subjects this week: cats and babies. Well,  I say inclusive. I didn’t bother with the baby one. I have a Facebook account, thus there are no more secrets about the world’s “bubbas” left to uncover. They look like pickled eggs and they make you very boring. The secrets are out.  I did, however, due to the marvellousness of the cat documentary, catch up on its forerunner, The Secret Life of Dogs, which ran last year and is still available on ITV Player. I suggest you do, too, as to my mind most decent British people identify as either a cat person or a dog person.

Of course, some people claim to love both cats and dogs in equal measure. These are the ilk of person whose homes are awash with hard-luck-story iguanas, and who have gardens which give refuge to one-eared donkeys. I hope to move into this stage in later life and spend my retirement in a swill-spattered dressing gown, nursing a micropig with a pipette while listening to light Radio 4 dramas. Obviously, some people don’t like cats or dogs – or any animals – but I tend not to keep these people in my life long enough to bother charting their whims, follies and tiresome dalliances with EpiPens.

Cats and dogs are, as these documentaries showed, some of the greatest gifts our planet has presented us with. I am dubious of anyone who can stand in a wet field being circumnavigated at high speed by a joyful soggy labrador, or play fetch with an earnest yet effervescent spaniel-eared stick-retrieval-machine, without feeling a terrific sense of life being lived as it should. Or who doesn’t secretly savour those detailed chats one has with one’s cat over whether it is reasonable to expect a door to be left open permanently as the bloody cat thing won’t commit to being in or out. “I can’t do this all night,” one might say,  before doing it all night, and then every other night for anything between seven and 13 years.

I loved these documentaries because instead of being overly scientific or scare-mongering, they opt for “lightly educational and heavily warm and fuzzy”, taking a damn good shot at capturing the odd, life-enhancing bond between pet and landlord. I won’t degrade cats by denoting the terms of their living conditions as “ownership”. We all know deep down that cats see us mainly as heated furniture, or simply suckers with opposable thumbs who are jolly decent to get that giant cat bed nice and warmed up for their day of sponsored idleness. Even these amazing cats we met this week, I wager, have a great capacity for heinous self-absorption and betrayal.

That cat that fell from the 20-storey window and survived, the other one who helps the lonely  little boy, the feral cat that acted as a guide-cat for a blind labrador – yes, they all made my eyes very soggy. But I bet if you changed any of these cats’ preferred biscuits to an inferior brand, or took up playing the banjo or any instrument it did not care for, the cat would move in with your next-door neighbour without a backwards glance. There was a lovely, heart-melting story about one large, careworn-looking Bagpuss type that had saved his family from gas poisoning after waking a woman up by scratching at her cheek.

“He knew! He wanted to save me,” said the woman. It was a gorgeous piece of telly. Obviously, knowing cats as I do, there’s a strong chance that the cat was simply alerting the woman to the tin of John West tuna chunks in brine going begging in the downstairs kitchen cupboard. To a cat’s logic, 4am would be a wholly reasonable time to begin lobbying. This is because all cats are bastards. Amazing, furry, sociopathic bastards. This would have been my title for the documentary, if I had been in charge.

Every single cat in Britain is, without exception, uniquely mentally awry in its own way.  I would devote an entire TV channel just to a single camera viewpoint of cats inside their homes or on window ledges, shouting at squirrels who have dared to enter their peripheral viewpoint. Or to looped footage of any dog sneaking up to steal a shoe it knows it is not allowed to chew  before running off with a “nothing to see here, hahahahaha!” swagger. Or footage of dogs waking themselves up by breaking wind. Or footage of dogs trotting over grass casually, then discovering a patch of something very stinky, then rubbing their ears and then their shoulders in the scent, before dropping on their backs with their feet in the air for a joyous, full-body, “I’m rolling in decaying rat” wriggle.

In fact, I could probably fill an entire evening on ITV with just the footage of the sort of stuff that clutters my iPhone memory. The truth about cats and dogs is that a lot of idiots like me just can’t get enough of them.

This week Grace watched... The Secret Life of... ITV

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum