They say journalists never let the truth get in the way of a good story, but the same might now be true of politicians. Was an illiegal immigrant allowed to stay in this country because he owned a cat, or wasn't he? The tale (or should that be tail?) gained momentum after David Cameron backed his home secretary, Theresa May, in his conference speech yesterday and confirmed that a Bolivian immigrant had indeed been saved from deportation because he owned a mog named Maya. The inconvenient fact that the Bolivian was in a stable gay relationship received somewhat less attention - and has prompted an interesting discussion about myth-building in politics in today's Guardian. Half of today's papers claim the mog was the reason, half of them say it wasn't. I suggest this political spat is renamed Shrodinger's Cat-Flap...


Given the egregious standards to which several of our national titles have descended in their coverage of this story, I am surprised that I have not yet read Maya, the cat's, perspective on this. Granted, cats cannot speak and lack the intellectual prowess to construct rational arguments even if they could express them. But, so what? Newspapers that can depict the Human Rights Act as a tool of the European Union and which imagine they know what Amanda Know said in response to a verdict that wasn't delivered ought, surely, to be able to get a few juicy feline quotes. Lack of effort all round I fear.   

It's Friday night and I'm in a park in Brighton.

This is where Maya the cat spent her last evening before she set off up the hill, past all the dogs and cars (a huge Dalmatian, a little Westie, a golden retriever; Brighton is nothing if not dog-friendly) towards her deportation.

The park is OK but ordinary. Graffiti, on the side of a bench, says ‘Lauren Perrier’.

I wish she had spent what were potentially her last hours in Britain somewhere lovelier. The food is awful (I claw at the remainder of a discarded half-eaten ice-cream, melting a bit, and without a flake!) but the ginger housecat on the wall nearby is sweet with huge, green eyes.

I leave the park at 8pm and retrace Maya's steps home. Even though it’s September, the streets are packed. There are a couple of male tabbies down the road, but they are strays or neutered.

I go through the catflap and walk past the litter tray on my right, with the human toilet on my left. I wander into the bright hallway, in which Maya often played after a hard day's work, clawing at carrier bags with a strange sense of expectation.

I head down the stairs to the kitchen, the dirty part of the property. It’s quieter now, and darker. I find the cat food cupboard, and go in. I almost open that upmarket Whiskas; the choice tells me Maya wanted a lovely life, something above the ordinary.

There is one pouch of food waiting for me in the corner as I turn right to the bowl.

I bet Maya's heart lifted as she reached this corner, looking forward to the feeling only a pouch of wet food on a Friday night near Christmas can give you.

As I near her bed, in the lounge, the house is quiet. Earlier in the day there had been a postman at the door, but he had gone now. I’m reassured to see two cat toys standing vigil in her hiding place, either side of a small, discreet pile of dead and injured mice in varying degrees of decay.

I see where she slyly clawed at the sofa, laying here. ‘Squeek,’ one of the mice says. ‘Squeek squeek squeek squeek squeek.’ So the antique, lovely sofa is to disappear to be replaced by an ugly one because of something even uglier.


Credit, of course, goes to the delightful Liz Jones for the original article. If you don't learn something from a Liz Jones article, you aren't reading it right.

(Of course, it would have to be neither to be Schrödinger's).

The whole flap, though, is decidedly quantum. Things either happen or they don't - a story in a 'paper don't make it so.

Of course there are ambiguities in this instance. Perhaps the cat WAS considered in the decision, but formed part of a range of considerations, of which it was a relatively minor one. The question being, then: would it have swayed the decision were the cat not to exist? An illuminating counterfactual, but we'll never know for sure.

A quantum news puzzle