Loyalty can be a prickly thing.
You may think, for example, that something you love, automatically loves you back.
That the time and attention you lavish upon it will inevitably bear fruit and your blind devotion will be reciprocated.
That naive foolishness, of course, makes it all the more of a kick in the unmentionables when the object of your affection makes it quite clear that, to coin a phrase, they’re just not that into you.
I’m sure that most of us will have experienced this to varying degrees, usually in the form of a rejected chat-up line or perhaps an unresponsive Valentine.
But for me, there’s been no better example of just how little value our loyalty can have to another than the spirit-crushing indifference of my portly cat Fred.
For three days my little feline friend went to live with a mate of mine while I was out of town.
It took everything I had to fight back tears as I packed up his things.
The cat basket, blanket, food, treats, three different types of feather toys, catnip balls, laser pen, scratching post (you get the idea) all went into the car.
I’d been dreading it for days and now that it was finally time to part ways, the guilt was overwhelming.
It broke my heart to leave him behind.
Of course I naturally presumed that, having shown him so much unconditional love and affection, my corpulent cat would eventually pine for me, scratching at the door and giving my friend sleepless nights as he paced around the house lamenting my absence.
Alas, the feeling was not mutual.
In fact, the infuriating furball didn’t even bat an eyelid.
Mere minutes after my departure, my cat sitter sent me a video of my furry friend.
No sulking, no melancholy.
Instead the little traitor was rolling on his back, purring as his expansive tummy was tickled and I became a distant memory.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crushed by the fact his loyalty merely extended to whoever was feeding him on any given day, and I vented to a friend at the earliest opportunity. Hell hath no fury, after all.
Expressing a total lack of any surprise, he instead offered an interesting theory. Cats, he suggested, are like women.
They live in the moment, expect to be taken care of and their loyalty is given to whoever fills their food bowl and gives them the attention that they’re after.
Leave them behind or don’t hold up your end, and they’ll quickly move on to a more suitable and convenient alternative.
Men, he theorised, are like dogs – blindly, often stupidly loyal, easily distracted, with a tendency to try and follow the pack.
They’re also far more inclined to follow their animal instincts at the drop of a hat, no matter how stupid the impulse may be or how much trouble their reckless actions might get them in.
I hasten to add that the friend offering this somewhat insulting ‘theory’ is in fact male, and I have several issues with his analysis.
In my eyes, both men and women can fall into either category – as can the pets.
Still, it made me realise that being spurned by a cat after I’d devoted so much time and effort into it felt almost as painful as if it were actually a man.
Since my return though, I have to say Fred seems to be slightly more affectionate for some reason.
Perhaps absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Or maybe the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach.