Curiosity killed the cat. But a cat has nine lives, so one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, or even eight instances of overweening and perilous curiosity will not prove ultimately fatal. It is the ninth instance that a cat has to worry about. But it will not worry, because it is ineradicably stupid. And thus, when its curiosity is piqued, for the ninth time, by a stray strand of string or a minuscule insect creeping along the wainscot, the cat will not pause to consider that this time, ah!, this time, there will be no coming back from the death it dallies with. It is not that the cat is brave, reckless, valiant. It is stupid, and it cannot count.

You would do well, then, if you care for a cat, and wish to protect it from harm, to teach it elementary arithmetic. Place the cat on a stool, and arm yourself with a series of flashcards on which the digits from 1 to 9 are written in clear big bold black sanserif. You need not bother with zero. No cat’s brain could ever cope with that concept.

The instruction of cats can prove highly exasperating, so you are advised to take some sort of bottled calmative elixir before starting. Drum the digits, and their significance, into the cat’s bonce. Check its progress with regular tests. If it leaves the stool, for example to pursue a stray strand of wool or a minuscule insect on the wainscot or, worse, a birdie in the garden, haul it back, replace it on the stool, and give it a ticking off.

Be warned that there is every possibility you will die before the cat has grasped the essentials. But you will die happy in the knowledge that you preserved the cat from harm for as long as you could, and left your considerable fortune to it in your last will and testament, to ensure it wants for nothing in this mortal world.

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