A shout-out to cats

[Busy around here lately! Here's my story on neolithic Europeans, and new research suggesting that the farmers and hunters didn't mix so well. We can circle back to that topic down the road -- lots to discuss. And here's an obit on Scott Carpenter, the second American to orbit the Earth. But today we devote the A-blog to a very special guest kit (guest blog item for those not fluent in A-blogspeak) by my colleague Charity Brown. She likes cats and believes they deserve a little more respect. Please discuss.]

[In shutdown news: I was supposed to go with the whole family on our annual camping trip to the beach, but even if we weren't in the midst of a monsoon the weekend would be a washout because the campground is a federal park and we're shut out by the shutdown.]

By Charity Brown

Don’t cats deserve love too?

Marley and Me. Beethoven. Lassie. K-9 Cop. Air Bud. Turner and Hooch. Old Yeller. These canines were absolutely beloved by children and adults alike. We even cried when Old Yeller departed this world bound for that big dog house in the sky. After all, “All Dogs Go to Heaven.” But never is there a mention of a celestial litter box. Where’s the love for cats? Is it that they’re just too cool and aloof?

[Dispel the myth. Use #postcats to submit your own cat photos.]

A cat stands by peppers hung on a house in a Serbian village. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A cat stands by peppers hung on a house in a Serbian village. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Or maybe it’s that we just don’t really understand kitties. An article in the Washington Post has some interesting things to say about how cats really are more expressive than you might think if you just know how to read their cues. Tail up? They’re happy. Rubbing against a table near you. They like you. So let’s remember that an animal should be judged by the content of its character and not the color of its fur.

Beyond animated characters like Garfield and Puss in Boots, Hollywood has given cats a bad rap. While superheroes have sidekicks and heroes have dogs, villains tend to have cats as besties. James Bond’s Ernst Blofeld and the riff on his character, Dr. Evil of the Austin Powers movie series, both had an affinity for lovingly wielding cats. Dr. Claw, Inspector Gadget’s faceless nemesis, used his robotic hand to gently caress his feline companion while plotting sinister acts and world domination. And, of course, Gadget’s niece Penny and her barking counterpart – there go those beloved dogs again – inevitably foiled those plans. Gargamel regularly terrorized a whole village of little blue creatures known as the Smurfs while accompanied by, what else, a cat. Not to mention witches and cats go hand in paw.

A stray cat sits perched on a bicycle in a Delhi alley. Reuters/Mansi Thapliyal
A stray cat sits perched on a bicycle in a Delhi alley. Reuters/Mansi Thapliyal

And, though he’s not a villain in the classical sense, watching Cee Lo Green stroke Purrfect the Cat while judging Season 2’s singing contestants on “The Voice” was just plain disturbing. When cats aren’t busy aiding and abetting, they’re obviously serving as mascots. Other celebrity cats include Maru, Grumpy Cat, Lil’ Bub, Snoopy Cat and Keyboard Cat. Their YouTube videos and photos are shared worldwide. A little talent and a cuddly face registers and garners followers, but does it equate to love?

Any pet owner, pet advocate or animal lover will profess their undying devotion. On Tuesday, Betty White paid homage by having her Madame Tussauds wax figure unveiled by the Washington Humane Society’s CEO, Lisa LaFontaine. The wax replica visited the Washington Animal Rescue League Thursday. White has a passion for all animals but if she favored cats, would she be referred to as a “crazy cat lady?”

Side note: That term has been thrown around far too loosely. Can a lady just be crazy about cats without being a crazy cat lady? It is a shame that a love so pure, so genuine, so unconditional can be misconstrued and misrepresented in such a disconcerting fashion.

Dotty, a Maine Coon Cat, stretches out on a bench during an unusually hot summer day in northern Minnesota. (Photo by Nathaniel Grann /Instagram @ngrann)
Dotty, a Maine Coon Cat, stretches out on a bench during an unusually hot summer day in northern Minnesota. (Photo by Nathaniel Grann /Instagram @ngrann)

Sadly, because cats aren’t nearly as clingy as man’s purported best friend, non-cat lovers don’t immediately recognize that cats reciprocate whatever love they receive. A great example of this reciprocity can be seen in “Batman Returns,” in which cats licked, bit and clawed Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle back to life – and not just one life, but nine. Resurrection by mutilation – now, that’s real love.

(And we’ll just pretend Halle Berry’s Catwoman didn’t happen. I’m sure cats all over the world are doing the same along with Eartha Kitt may she rest in peace).

Please help us shed a positive light on the wonderful animals that cats truly are. Submit photos of your feline via #postcats on Instagram and Twitter.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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Joel Achenbach | October 9, 2013