Gemma Nash: Artist

Using sound to reimagine stories about people, places and objects

Indifference to difference: a feline guide to equality

As an equality consultant I find that some people assume that equality means treating everyone the same. However, equality is essentially about creating a fair playing field so that everyone has the same chances in life.  For many groups this means making adjustments, whether they are financial, behavioural or physical, to ensure they have the same access to opportunities.   Treating everyone the same isn’t always the best way to create a fair playing field, as my beloved cat, Milly, demonstrates. Like most cats, Milly lacks empathy, understanding and has a general unwillingness to make allowances for others.  Some would argue that Milly takes these feline qualities to a new extreme!

‘Slightly’ bad tempered in nature, she doesn’t take kindly to any human stepping in her path – you will be swiped, scratched and hissed at. She makes no concessions for people who may be old, frail, walking with crutches or using a wheelchair.   If you are not quick enough to dodge her angry little paws – tough s**t!

She has a very definite ‘no dogs’ policy, and takes no doggy prisoners – assistance dogs included. She once threw herself onto the back of a very gentle and sweet guide dog called Sam. In a desperate attempt to shake her off, a terrified Sam charged across a very busy road dragging his owner with him. At the time I was dating the owner – unsurprisingly the relationship didn’t last long.

She is quite happy to sabotage dinner dates (of any kind) by hissing at the guest, jumping into their plate of food or making herself sick under the table – no exception for sensitive types or anyone with cat allergy. It doesn’t matter how much attention she gets beforehand either, she wants all the attention all the time and will not let anyone step in her way.

As well as monopolising all the attention, she doesn’t like to share her wealth. She is quite happy to eat other people’s food even after she has conned many ‘food bailouts’. Her dinner stealing antics reached a new height when she managed to steal my unemployed ex-flatmate’s last meal of the week.  With no money to replace the meal my ex-flatmate was particularly perturbed – especially as she had taken the necessary precautions to protect her assets by covering her freshly made meal with tinned foil, a plate, and a tea towel. In a similar manner her toiletry habits make no allowances for ones economic status – only the most expensive cat litter will do for her business. When my partner became a student we tried to persuade Milly to try the downshift challenge. Not convinced, she decided our daughter’s new beanbag would be a much more suitable option. She certainly isn’t prepared to be ‘all in it together’.

Her many quirky hobbies lack an appreciation of personal space and she has poor cultural awareness.  She will hog the laps of any human she likes, pawing at their stomach whilst persistently waving her tail in their face.   Luring them into a false sense of security, she sometimes uses her purring charm and sweet meows to entice them into stroking her. After allowing them to stroke her for a while she will then pounce on their hand in a completely unprovoked attack!  However alarming this activity may be, it’s not nearly as inappropriate as her “head/hair biting” hobby. This hobby has included people with ponytails, long hair, short hair, curly hair, red hair, no hair, bald people with sunburn and a social worker wearing a headscarf.  She really doesn’t care how freaked out the other player (aka victim) feels or how politically incorrect playing this game may be.

Operating a rather draconian chair tax, Milly will take ownership of any seat she likes in the house, whenever she likes. You may be heavily pregnant or a first time Mum needing to sit and feed your baby – she isn’t going to budge without issuing a penalty.  It doesn’t matter if the chair includes maternity support pillows, extra lumbar support, a collection of your child’s favourite toys or even comes with wheels. A wheelchair is not a mobility aid but rather her chair on wheels – and tipping her out of it will result in a particularly heavy and painful fine. Adding insult to injury she owns an entire free second chair collection (next door) for when she is away from her constituency. The cat is not for moving!

Milly’s ‘free spirited’ nature really does show us the drawbacks of a non-concessionary world in which everyone is treated exactly the same – just imagine what life might be like if we were ruled by a coalition of Millycats?!?

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