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The illustrated cat.

Sophisticated or streetwise, poised or plallful, cats have long teased the imaginations of writers and painters into timeless tributes.

A cat may look at a queen-or a king, or you or me-and probably won't think too much of any of us. A properly humble human observer once summed it up, "A cat is a sovereign state with a tail." Apart from the incidental point that some of the most regal cats don't have tails, this epigram expresses pretty accurately the attitude of America's 20 million or so cats toward us people who think we are running the country. The fact seems to be that while a dog is usually willing to accept human beings as equals, any cat-from the disdainfully fluffed-up Persian to the mauled-up ruler of the alley jungles-is absolutely certain that people are inferior animals.

A lot of human beings have also subscribed to this cat's-eye view, and through the ages some of the most highly intelligent and civilized nations have deified and worshiped cats, undoubtedly to the satisfaction of all concerned. There are, indeed, a good many reasons why cats should assume a natural superiority. This can readilybe established by asking any honest man or woman who "owns" one.

The cat probably comes as close as any living thing in our man-made world to being the physically perfect creature. It's swift slink, slow-motion stalk, incredibly competent and graceful springs, and its pound-for-pound strength, fighting power, and physical coordination in general make the greatest human athlete who ever lived seem like a lumbering blunderer. It's true enough, too, on the esthetic side, that the cat, whose skeleton is not unlike our own, has a beauty of line, movement, and. utility against which the Apollos and Aphrodites of the Greeks appear awkward and stilted misfits. Mentally and psychologically, of course, the cat is the least self-conscious, best adjusted, and most self-sufficient collection of reflexes that can be put together.

There aren't many feline "neurotics," and cats generally take the rational view that most human beings-- when not serving the safeand-sane purpose of providing fish, cream, and catnip--should be locked up in strange attics.

Emotionally, the cat is a calculating machine, motivated by the higher kind of intelligent self-interestunerringly aware of what it wants and how to get it.

Blessed with a fabulous sense of self-preservation and survival, the cat generally adopts a live-and-letlive attitude toward its world. People who are not capable of understanding cats keep pointing out that they kill birds. But cats observe the natural process, and seldom kill more than they can eat. The average backyard bird-hunting cat, for example, would undoubtedly look with a superior contempt on the two titled British "sportsmen" who, all by themselves on a single day, slaughtered a "record bag of 3,247 pheasants and partridges."

All the way from Cleopatra's household companions to Mehitable and the kitten on any windowsill, the cat is a philosopher: serene in adversity and unimpressed by victory, a contemplative creature whose purr drowns out the alarms and excursions of our noisy human world. And a cat is capable in its own way of affection for human beings and will give to people who are capable of appreciating it a slightly superior companionship.
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Title Annotation:includes prints
Author:Attridge, Richard
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Illustration
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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