Cats remain one of the world’s great mysteries. These creatures have been living among us—sharing our beds, cupboards, and couches—for at least 4,000 years. In that time, they’ve managed to polarize mankind, splitting it into two camps: you’re either a cat person, or you’re not.
Their divisive reputation makes a lot of sense when you consider how terrible they can be. These are animals that freely piss on your belongings, torture and maim for fun, and bellow loudly through your house at 3am. Their typically aloof temperament and propensity for murder has even seen one conservation organisation deem them the “ecological axis of evil.”
But who are cats, really? Is this an unjust accusation? What do they truly want from us?
If you look to science, the answers are still unclear. Animal experts have been stumped by feline behaviour for centuries: mainly because, unlike dogs, cats flat-out refuse to cooperate with controlled researchers. “I can assure you that it’s easier to work with fish than cats,” revealed psychologist Christian Agrillo to Slate after he finished a cat-focused animal cognition study. “It’s incredible.”
So with science failing miserably to step inside the black box of the feline mind, maybe it’s time we turned to other methods. Cats have long been linked to spirituality, with Ancient Egyptians worshipping them for their sacred connection to Bastet, a goddess of protection and warfare. Perhaps, then, the answers we seek can only be acquired through more mystic means. But for animal communicators and psychics, the feline mind is well-trodden territory. So, to gain more of an insight, I begin sending them pictures of my own cat as a test subject.
Smidge, now two-years-old, is a grey tabby who I’ve had since she was kitten. She's been pampered for practically all her life, and blessed with daily brushings and undivided attention. She wants for nothing, and her life is better than mine will ever be. So what can animal communicators tell me about the inner workings of her mind? And what can they teach us about the species more generally?
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The first person I call is Jackie Weaver, a celebrity animal communicator who has conversed with the horses of The Americans star Matthew Rhys, as well as the dogs of British TV hypnotist Paul McKenna.
“Smidge comes across as quite confident, and nothing really much phases her,” she says, after studying my cat’s picture for a while. “She believes she’s the most important person in the household, and says that you ‘cater to her needs.’” So far, so accurate. I ask if all cats are this arrogant.
“It’s like talking to a child,” explains Weaver. “If you keep telling a child ‘oh you’re so pretty! You’re so clever! You dance so well!’ then they’ll say it to people, because they just say it how it is. There’s no filter.”
Weaver adds that this attitude may not be true of all cats, and stresses that it’s impossible to fully understand how cats function: “They are just completely individual. Some are happy with their quiet life, some are lazy, some aren’t."
Smidge’s self-importance is stressed by fellow animal communicator Susie Shiner. “Smidge keeps on saying the word perfect,” she tells me. “I feel like somebody—probably you—says she's perfect a lot. She considers herself important, and relevant, and commands authority and respect.”
I nod in agreement. But then, suddenly, things take an unexpected turn. “Smidge is not speaking very much about herself at all,” Shiner says. “She's telling you off now.”
I brace myself. “She says you’re very tied up with somebody else—I think there’s a man that you’re very involved with—and you think about him a lot. She finds all that annoying because it's a distraction from the fact that you've got a really quite responsible job.”
I shoot a glance at Smidge, who is washing her lower legs nonchalantly. “She says you're capable of more, but if you don't knuckle down a bit, you might have a bit of a clip around the ear from your employers.”
Shiner presses on: “She’s also worried about your diet: I’m seeing sweets and chocolate.” I look sadly at the bag of M&Ms by my laptop. “She says they're not very good. She wants more slow burning fuel for you.”
After a brief existential crisis, I reach out to another animal communicator, Jerry Humphreys, to get his opinion. Like the other readings, he mentions Smidge’s suffocating self-confidence. "It’s almost like you’re talking to a queen, not a cat.” I realize that I may have created a monster.
“All our animal companions absorb stuff from us,” he says, not alleviating this concern. “So when you’re sad, Smidge will pick it up and absorb it. When you’re angry, she’ll sense and she’ll absorb it. That’s what our animal companions do—they take stuff on for us that we do not process.”
“As a result, Smidge is a bit of a mirror of you. You know what you want and what you don’t want. You can be a bit aloof sometimes. You can also be very fussy. You like your warmth and your comfort. You don’t like being taken out of your comfort zone.... Do you want me to continue?”
While each communicator has given me a clear insight into the arrogance of Smidge—and, as a bonus, my own deep personal failings—I still feel no wiser about cats more generally. The only thing I’ve learnt from this is that my cat has a chilling ability to peer into the depths of my soul.
And while each of the psychics has marginally differed in their advice, most agree that felines are, on the whole, more spiritual, aware, and intelligent than other animals (although Shiner disputes this, saying that goats are the wisest of all).
“Cats are probably the most sensitive animal I’ve ever come across, and I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” adds Humphreys. “But every animal, as with every person, is different. Every relationship is unique and individual. It depends with how they bond with you. It is also believed that we don’t choose the animals we link with, they choose us—and that is particularly true of cats. They are very fussy with who they connect with.”
“Never underestimate the strength of a cat.”