The CATalyst: Changing the Cat’s Public Image

Steve Dale, CAT FANCY writer and syndicated newspaper pet columnist, provides a weekly cat news roundup.

No offense to some cartoon cats, but overweight and lazy is not how I personally want to see cats portrayed in 2011. I have a sense of humor — at least I think I do — but supporting baseless stereotypes only perpetuates an image that, in my opinion, is inconsistent with what living with cats is really about. Also this image might explain, at least in part, why cats are second-class citizens.

By numbers alone, the United States has more pet cats than dogs. Cats, however, are more often given up to shelters, less often adopted and, consequently, more often euthanized. Cats don’t receive anywhere near the same veterinary care – on average – compared to dogs.

This week (Nov. 29) on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, comic/actor Jay Mohr made matters worse.
“I don’t like cats because they don’t like me,” Mohr said. Looking at Leno, he added “They don’t like you,” meaning that cats don’t like anyone. “Cats don’t give you enough love back – you come from work, you have to lure your cat out from under the bed.”
Although it seemed ad lib – and some was ad-libbed — Mohr’s dog vs. cat riff was greatly prepared. My gripe is not only about Mohr, it’s about this generally less-than-dog perception of cats as aloof and lazy, which many people perpetuate. On occasion, this includes Leno himself, who is a cat owner.
Admittedly, there was some truth to Mohr’s comments, like the way they act in the carrier, sounding like you’re at a séance. He said, “You start petting the box and the cat sticks out its arm and starts scratching you, and you’re like ‘I’m with you, you idiot. Leave me alone.’”
For me, the good news is “Puss In Boots.” This dude (in addition to being portrayed/voiced by Antonio Banderas) is suave, debonair, cunning and out to do what’s right. He’s an athletic feline action hero — yet, he’s playful. This is what cats are really all about.
“Don’t cats always land on their feet?” he’s asked as he’s potentially about to face death. His response: “That’s only a rumor which was started by dogs.”
A real, living cat (sorry, Puss is only a cartoon cat) who represents a fitting image for cats is Cat Stanley of the CATalyst Council.
The mission of the CATalyst Council is to change everything I rattled off above: so fewer cats are given up to shelters, more cats are adopted and fewer are euthanized and to change the lackluster veterinary care so many cats receive compared to their canine cousins.
What cats need is to be represented more fairly in movies and on TV. Apparently, I’m not alone. Watch this video about one advertising agency that is now making “the switch,” understanding cats can sell any product, an unbelievable effective new business tool.
Of course, the video on this “Catvertising Agency” is tongue-in-cheek. Maybe it shouldn’t be. After all, any agency using cats to sell is providing content which is Persuasive, Unignorable, Relevant and Rememberable (or PURR).
Maybe “Puss In Boots,” Cat Stanley and others are marching to a new drum for cats – I’d like to think so.

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