A friend of mine says she can tell Catholics from Protestants and it's got nothing to do with wide-apart eyes, thin lips, ruddy cheeks, big arses, aitches or haitches, funny handshakes or funny walks. Her theory - and she admits there are exceptions - is that generally speaking Catholics don't like cats and Protestants do. Which means that half of the Catholics in our street our suspect, if the numbers of cats are anything to go by.

I must confess I married a cat lover and it has rubbed off on me. A bit. Sure, they're clean and don't slobber all over your face or suffer like dogs from halitosis, go round in circles blowing bubbles like a goldfish, or piercingly chirp like a canary when excreting, "Who's a pretty boy, then?" Yes, wives are fun.

To get back to cats. It's the heads I don't like. The heads of blue tits and finches that you find beneath the sheets - like a warning: Get Whiskas or else…

We have two cats, Emma and Darcy, whom many people think, how pretentious, naming their cats after Jane Austin characters! Emma is three and was born in domestic comfort next door. Her mother and grandmother are regular visitors. (In other words, Artur and Trisha, we are bankrolling your cats.) Emma is actually named in honour of Gemma, a stray Beechmount kitten who later went to live in Toronto with the in-laws and now spends her days bringing in the heads of squirrels and chipmunks.

Darcy is two and had humbler beginnings. She is named after Thomas Darcy Magee from Carlingford, who also emigrated to Canada, and was one of the founding fathers of the Canadian Confederation. He was a nationalist when he was here but became a Tory loyalist in Canada. He was killed by a member of the IRB, Patrick James Whelan, in 1868 for opposing the Fenian invasion of Canada the previous year. My wife grew up with a descendant of Darcy Magee. I wanted to call the cat Whelan.

Darcy is more of a homebody. Perhaps that's because she had enough of the great outdoors in the first five weeks of her life. She was born to a feral mother and slept rough with her litter mates in a city centre carpark until my wife brought her home with those infamous words, "Isn't she cute?" When she does go out it's usually for brief excursions. Then she's back. And then she wants out again. And then in and then out and then……

No, Darcy prefers toy mice or Christmas tree decorations to living things though she does turn into a growling terror at the sight of even the smallest slice of sirloin. She can also chew her way in seconds through layers of carrier bags if there is fish within.
Once she actually had to be extracted from the Christmas goose.

Cats have been with us for about five thousand years, having been used in Egypt to kill rats and mice that ate stored grain, before being domesticated and turned into deities. You either love or hate cats. In the Far East they like to eat them. Sweet and sour Darcy. Emma with ginger and bean curd. Cats spend two-thirds of their life sleeping which you would imagine would make them unattractive to Protestants who, apparently, since the Reformation have been born with a work ethic. I wish I had a work ethic. In the middle ages the Inquisition associated cats with witches and devil worship. They even tried to torture cats into confessing but they wouldn't talk - and I am not joking!

On the web there are hundreds of sites about cats, from cat lovers to cat haters. One site called 'Cats Are From Mars' provides 'compelling' evidence that cats are alien invaders. Another site is about 'Cats That Own Humans'. Then there is the one called: LIVE NUDE CATS. "Frolicking Feline Photos Inside! You must be 18 months or older to enter this side." There are two buttons: "YES, I am 18 months or older, show me LIVE NUDE CATS." "NO, I am only a kit, save me from evil."

But my favourite is the site dedicated to the advocacy of the benefits of orange cats. This happy cat owner reports the results of experiments on orange cats, including, 'Does an Orange Cat Know What A Taco Is?' and 'Genetic Defects in Non Orange Cats', and argues that black cats are seven times more likely to catch a cold and that calico cats often have difficulty seeing the difference between blue and mauve, whereas orange cats "tend to be more immune to illness, have sharper senses, and are smarter."

Which is probably why Protestants like cats more than Catholics.

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison