AMAZING news on the cat front.
Two-thirds of Australia's 2.4 million cat owners reportedly "think about their cat's level of happiness on a weekly basis". I didn't make that up, but we'll get to the reliability of the survey on which it's based in a minute. First, let's consider the actual claim.
As you are going about your business today - mowing the lawn, doing the shopping, driving hundreds of kilometres on the regular Saturday kids' sport run from one end of the state to the other - think about whether a percentage of the people you come across are thinking about their cats, and whether they're happy.
I don't know about you, but that's a disturbing thought.
If only one person I come across today is thinking about his or her cat's "level of happiness", I think I'd like to know so that I can cross to the other side of the street, or veer my car to the side of the road until he or she passes, or move from his or her aisle in the supermarket to another one, because thinking about a cat's "level of happiness" sounds a little - how can I put this politely? - obsessive, weird or troubling. And I own a cat.
Her name is Puddy. She's a wild and beautiful creature that came into my life about six or seven years ago, but she's also a serial killer that has cost me more blood than any other pet I've ever had. Hence I don't think about her "level of happiness" at all.
She's made it abundantly clear my usefulness is confined to providing her with food and a roof over her head - when she feels like she wants a roof - but that's it.
Any affectionate moves on my part - say, a stroke of her beautiful ginger head or, heaven forbid, a quick hold in my arms - are dealt with briskly by her. I'm allowed two seconds of affection, then out come the claws.
Even saving her life from an ugly tick-bite death a few years ago ended in bloodshed.
One minute I was carefully extracting a tick from beneath her jaw while she snarled from the towel in which I'd trapped her. The next minute - once the tick was safely removed - she was wrapped around my arm, every claw of her four paws embedded in my flesh, every tooth gouging chunks of my hand.
The RSPCA refused to take my complaint, despite the photographic evidence. Puddy got away with that one.
There was the time she decided to follow me down the road, panicked, and miraculously survived a dash across peak-hour traffic to end up beneath bushes in a stranger's back yard. In the dark.
Half an hour later, I finally caught her in a jacket, stalked back to the house, and tossed her inside after she savaged my arm for a couple of minutes.
I don't think she experiences "happiness", let alone a "level of happiness", because she's a cat. She doesn't have "down" days, or bored periods, or angry moments. She eats, she sleeps, she spooks the neighbour's dog on occasion, she does yoga moves in strange spots, and remains inscrutable.
It's why I watch her with a strangely cat-specific admiration. She is magnificently indifferent to my wants or needs.
She inhabits my house but she's a wild animal that, if she were larger, would eat me as soon as look at me. Which is why I have a dog, Lloyd, because he's affectionate. We share a mutual fear of Puddy and whatever dead bird or rodent - or part thereof - she's likely to deposit in the house next.
But maybe I'm biased. Obviously, some people love their cats with a blood-free and untroubled love.
More than 530 of them across Australia took part in the survey that produced the "level of happiness" claim. The survey was promoted by a company that produces cat food. Two-thirds of those 530 people appear to have answered "Yes" to a question about whether they'd considered their cat's level of happiness in the previous week, because to say "No" to a stranger over the phone would probably have sounded heartless.
One-third probably have cats like Puddy.
The survey provided another interesting piece of information.
Cats - and here's a blow for those who buy expensive "Ooh La La Extra Fancy Gourmet Chicken Casserole in Truffle Sauce with Lobster Sprinkles" for our Puddies and Marmadukes - don't really care much about the taste of food. They have 500 taste buds, compared with our 10,000, and favour food for smell and texture, according to the survey.
Given Puddy's tendency to eat dead rats and mice, I should have cottoned on to that much earlier.
A year ago, my beautiful Puddy staggered into the house after eating a mynah bird. Her eyes were glazed. She panted. She appeared close to death. Yet I willed her to live, and so she did, to kill and deposit rodents for another day.
I mightn't think about her level of happiness, but her wild and magnificent indifference contributes to mine.
* Winner of the Gold Walkley Award for non-cat related journalism.
For your amusement, a journalist cat meme generator.
And a video of funny cats, because they are out there, and people like them.