Cats, cats and more cats

12 de February de 2020
Source@Wikimedia commons

It’s the Year of the Rat according to the Chinese zodiac. In fact, the rat is the first in a cycle of twelve animals that take turns representing each passing year. Besides the rat, there’s the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig.

Traditional lore claims that one day God said to the animals that the first twelve to arrive on 1 January would henceforth represent the years one after another following the same orderly cycle. The ox set off early because he’s a slow walker. However, the rat took advantage of the ox, travelling comfortably atop his back. When they finally stood before God, the rat jump ahead of the ox, which is why he is first in the cycle. That was not the only trick he played though. He had also told the cat that the day they were to present themselves before God was 2 January. It is said that this is why cats chase rats.

Cats have been trending in recent years in Japan. The Japanese word nekonomics (Nekonomikusu ネコノミクス) has been used to refer to the economic effect brought about by the cat industry. The term was coined based on abenomics, the economic policy promoted by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzô Abe.

You may be asking why the cat is not one of the animals of the zodiac. It could be because it’s a very familiar animal that’s widely present in Japan. Personally, I live in a flat as tiny as “a cat’s forehead” (neko no hitai, 猫の額). As the end of the month draws near, I’ve got to make every penny count, so I have “cat food” (nekomanma, 猫飯) for lunch. It’s a breeze to prepare; I just put a bit of dried bonito (katsuobushi) and soya sauce over white rice. But I shouldn’t eat it if it’s too hot because I’ve got “cat’s tongue” (nekojita, 猫舌). When the dish is ready, I have to make sure to put the remaining katsuobushi back in the drawer, or my cat will eat it. “Katsuobushi for cats” (Neko ni katsuobushi, 猫に鰹節) means something is very dangerous, so I’ll have to be careful. Argh, I’m hungry! I want to go home. I’m writing this in the office, where “there’s not even a kitten” (Neko no ko ippiki inai 猫の子一匹いない); in other words, everyone’s already gone home. Today, Eric used “the voice of a cat being stroked” (nekonadegoe, 猫なで声) to ask me to take care of a task for him. I said yes, but I shouldn’t have. I’ve already got loads of work to do and would like “the cats to give me a hand” (neko no te mo karitai 猫の手も借りたい). Anyway, I’ll have a coffee and keep on working for a bit. Oh my gosh! Someone dropped a 20-euro note. Should I do “cat’s droppings” (nekobaba, 猫糞) and swipe it for myself?

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