Johnny Morris, the animal expert
The crowd behaved like animals, just like animals. I suppose we hear that about twice a week nowadays, The crowd behaved like animals�. Well it just isn`t true. Animals do not behave like that. Animals are not hooligans, animals do not go out in gangs inflicting pain, damage and destruction and death on their own kind. Animals are concerned with the stability of their own species and the need for them to prosper and multiply. They do not destroy their own kind in large numbers as we do. In fact, I am amazed that animals have condescended to have anything to do with us at all. They should stay well away from us and most of them do but such is the nature of some of them that they have volunteered to share their lives with ours and we have accepted, for as we know animals are of enormous use to us. When we talk of people behaving like animals, I suggest that it is because animals must be kept in their places, that we are far, far better than they are, we simply must not let them appear to be superior. And yet of course in many cases they are. We could not use our noses with the sensitive skill of a dog, we couldn`t possibly run with the speed and beauty of the horse, and no way could we fly like those wonderful birds. We grudgingly admire their splendid attributes, we wear their feathers and their skins because they are so beautiful. And we know in our heart of hearts that we are inferior. Oh yes we are in many respects inferior. So we are very lucky indeed that so many animals have come to help us, for on our own we are pretty helpless.
You know, scientists are quite incredible people. They`re always telling us what we already know. They might express it differently, and come to their conclusions by experiments that we come to by instinct, but nevertheless it`s true. I was reading not so long ago about these scientists who`d been doing experiments with dogs and cats and people. And they found out- you`ll never believe this � they found out that animals are comforting to us, and that we can be reassuring to animals. Now what about that? Did you know that? Of course you did! What perhaps you didn`t know is that the scientists came to their conclusion by measuring the blood pressures of the people and the animals. If you stroke a dog or a cat, and talk to it, the blood pressure of the animal and the person will go down. Here`s something else. Did you know that people who have been ill, in hospital or having an operation, did you know that if they have a pet to care for, they`ll get better more quickly? I can believe it. There are even hospitals that are experimenting with having animals for long-stay patients to look after.
I have known all my life, that I do not like to live in a house that does not shelter a cat. Oh, I have had some truly terrific dogs, but a cat has a different quality about it. Cats have got all the time in the world, and most of the time they`re curled up asleep, and at peace. I know that after a heated telephone conversation or a difficult interview, I have to find the cat. He`ll be sleeping in one of half a dozen different places, and I stroke him for a while. He`ll open half of one eye and say �You do get yourself worked up, don`t you? Calm down, calm down, calm down.� Cats, the great comforters.
Animals have always been in our lives. Dogs have been around us for thousands of years, and they`ve served as hunters and of course guards. Dogs, it seems, have always been easy to train. Obedience, and a desire to please, has really let the dog in for a subservient role with us. In the ancient Roman town of Pompeii, there is a house that bears the warning cave canem � �beware of the dog�. Apart from catching things, and guarding things, dogs are of course very good at guiding people. The Romans used to have guide dogs for the blind � well, not exactly blind, but blind drunk. For when a Roman went on a pub crawl, he would take his dog with him to lead him home. He had nothing to worry about, staggering home behind his dog, singing away, happy as Claudius.
Can you imagine guide cats for the blind? Never! For the philosophy of the cat is surely �Look, mate. If you can`t look after yourself, you`ve had it.� The only guiding I`ve known a cat to do is the upright tail in front of you leading to the feeding bowl. Cats seem to have come amongst us much later than dogs, but when they did, they made a great impact.
The ancient Egyptians used to worship their cats, and lots of them believed that they were descended from cats. Egyptian women used to try to walk like cats, slinking round the pyramids, minding their own business, but knowing everybody else`s. You see, cats are like that. They`re psychic. They have powers � don`t know exactly what they are, but they`ve got them. And the Egyptians knew this � they made cats sacred. They worshipped them, and quite right too. If your cat died, the whole family would mourn for it. You would shave off your eyebrows. Eyebrows were things of great beauty, so you shaved them off. You closed the cat`s eyes, put a delicate blue collar around its neck, and then you had it embalmed. And if you killed a cat in Ancient Egypt, you were put to death.
I have known a great many animals in my life, and not all of them were very nice. They had to get used to you, and you had to get used to them. Now gorillas take a bit of getting used to, and I knew a young female gorilla at Bristol Zoo, and when I first went in with her, she hit me, quite a bump � it`s one of the things gorillas do. So I had in my hand a small sort of scrubbing brush with a handle, and I went over to her, and I bopped her one, not very hard but I just bopped her one, and she sulked. Bit by bit, we got used to each other.
Relationships with parents
1 I don`t remember very much about my childhood, actually. My wife`s always asking me �When you were a boy, did you use to …� and I reply �I don`t know, I can`t remember.� We didn`t … we didn`t use to talk very much, we weren`t very close, or if we were, we didn`t show it. I remember I used to have my hair cut every Friday. My father and I would go together. I had the shortest hair in the school. When they`d finished cutting it, they`d burn the ends with a sort of candle. Oh I`ll never forget that smell.
2 I got on very well with my mother. I used to tell her everything � or nearly everything � and she`d talk to me very openly too. Sometimes she`d say to me �Don`t go to school today. Stay with me.� And we`d go out shopping or something like that. It`s a wonder I had any education at all, the number of days I missed from school.
3 I`m not a very tidy person, but my mother`s very house-proud, so she`s always telling me to pick things up and put them away, and do this and do that. She goes on for hours about �Cleanliness is next to godliness�. My father isn`t like that at all. He lets me do what I want. I think he`s learned not to pay attention.
4 I have very fond memories of my childhood. To me it represented security. We used to do a lot together as a family. I remember walks, and picnics, and going for rides on a Sunday afternoon. Every Friday, when my father came home from work, he had a treat for each of us. My mother used to say he was spoiling us, but why not? It didn`t do us any harm.