Cat-inet reshuffles: the long history of felines in politics

There’s been another cabinet reshuffle. This time, it wasn’t prompted by a principled resignation over Brexit facts that should have been apparent 18 months ago. No, this is a rare good news story in our raging trashfire of a political culture – a promotion born of strong performance and quiet diligence. Evie the cat has moved up in the the Cabinet Office to be the new face of the Equalities Unit.

She has broken through the glass cat-flap, and stolen some of the limelight from her male colleague Larry – who, despite multiple reports of his aggressive nature, will not give up his prime position at No 10. Typical man.

This follows hot on the paws of the only good April fool joke of 2019 – the entrance installed on Downing Street for the aformentioned prime ministerial pet . We can’t get enough of feline diversions. But why? Of course, distraction is essential when parliament is literally and figuratively falling apart in front of our eyes. But there is a bit more to it than that.

Cats have long cosied up to the powerful – not because they are the devil’s emissaries on earth (although they definitely are, just look at their eyes), because of their peerless killer instinct. That is why they were deified in ancient Egypt. The corridors of Whitehall might hold nothing more menacing for Evie than a large mouse or Chris Grayling, but in the time of the Pharoahs, cats could be relied upon to protect their humans from poisonous serpents. How Theresa May must wish they could do the same for her with the snakes in her own cabinet.

Parrots, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), are the nation’s fourth most popular pet; according to a 2012 survey conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 3.1 percent of U.S. households owned birds. Some parrots can scream as loud as an ambulance siren. These birds are beautiful, but they’re difficult to care for and require lots of space, so the HSUS doesn’t recommend keeping them as pets at all.

As a reward, they were worshipped as gods. Bastet is perhaps the most famous example ; the defender of the sun god Ra, she is usually sculpted in black alabaster. The aloof expression and innate sense of superiority that radiates from the domestic cat is a perfect fit for a goddess, looking down her nose at humanity for all of time. Not only did she protect, Bastet was also a symbol of fertility – I’m sure Andrea Leadsom would approve – although it probably had more to do with cats’ reputation as floozies rather than any “tangible stake” they have in the future as a result of their kittens.

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Happy fur ear

Of course, this status wasn’t all good news – thousands of mummified cats have been found in tombs, where they continue to serve their masters in the afterlife. No such fate awaits Evie and Larry. They will outlast their political contemporaries: Larry is already on his second prime minister, and given the mess we are in, it won’t be long before a third moves in. At a time when the country is going to the dogs, it should be no surprise to see cats stealing the limelight.

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