John Gray writes in the New Statesman in praise of cats. He observes that what cat lovers cherish is not how cats resemble us, but how they differ: 'One of the most attractive features of cats is that contentment is their default state. Unlike human beings – particularly of the modern variety – they do not spend their days in laborious pursuit of a fantasy of happiness. They are comfortable with themselves and their lives, and remain in that condition for as long as they are not threatened. When they are not eating or sleeping, they pass the time exploring and playing, never asking for reasons to live. Life itself is enough for them'.
He goes on to examine why cats enjoy contenment as their birthright: 'Cats show no sign of regretting the past or fretting about the future. They live, absorbed in the present moment. It will be said that this is because they cannot envision the past or future. Perhaps so, though their habit of demanding their breakfast at the accustomed hour shows they do have a sense of the passage of time. But cats, unlike people, are not haunted by an anxious sense that time is slipping away. Not thinking of their lives as stories in which they are moving towards some better state, they meet each day as it comes. They do not waste their lives dreading the time when their lives must end. Not fearing death, they enjoy a kind of immortality. All animals have these qualities but they seem particularly pronounced in cats'.
Meanwhile, in New Scientist, Colin Barras explores new thinking about the lives of monkeys. He cites research from Canada which suggests that sociable primates don’t necessarily fare better than non-sociable ones when it comes to raising offspring.
'Group-living mammals', he writes, 'have plenty to gain from being sociable...They can have better access to food and more protection from predators, as they often take up a position near the centre of the group. These advantages should help the most sociable females raise more infants to adulthood. But some researchers have suspected that being sociable carries a cost when the group’s alpha male loses his position to a rival. The usurper can kill offspring he hasn’t fathered so that adult females will become receptive to his sexual advances'.