A website that makes me feel ill.

Standard

Stuff on My Cat. It’s apparently a blog in which people put objects on top of their cats or clothes on their cats and take pictures of them.

It’s hard to describe what’s wrong here.

Maybe it’s that I’ve had people put me into various poses when I couldn’t do anything about it, and thought it was hilarious.

Maybe it’s that I know a guy whose staff treat him like a living doll, and give him things like mohawks and dress him in strange clothes for fun, when he doesn’t ask for any of this.

Maybe it’s that I see the look on those cats’ faces, and it reminds me of the way my cat looks when someone picks her up without asking permission. And the fact that people like that always seem oblivious to the fact that she’s a living creature, not a toy.

A doll and a stuffed catI bet it’s the same sensation in my stomach that some people got in their own stomachs, when they thought that I didn’t really write Getting the Truth Out, and thought that I was merely having my picture exploited.

Cats can’t tell you, in English, to stop it, and a lot of people take the inability to say “Stop it” as an invitation to do whatever you want. A cat’s clear “No!” signals can be ignored more easily than a human saying “no,” or even “Stop that or I’ll report you for assault.” A lot of people think that once speech isn’t there, you’re an object, not a person.

That must be why that site makes me queasy. There’s something really not right, not about the website itself, but about the mentality that makes treating living creatures like dolls and stuffed animals, okay. That mentality seems to be pervasive, especially towards people of whatever species who can’t talk back in unambiguous English, or who have so little power that what they say in English can be “safely” ignored (“English” here is because I’m in America, it’d be other languages elsewhere obviously).

(Side note:  The solution to this is much more about shifting power imbalances, than teaching all animals and non-speaking people their “native language”.  There will always be animals and non-speaking people who can’t speak their “native languages”.  Making it totally socially unacceptable to treat people like dolls is feasible, training everyone to say things in the majority language is not.)

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

27 responses »

  1. I totally agree! if you saw that “cat in a bottle” on myspace videos, you’d be appalled too. Cats are “beings”, they are not human, and each have their own personalities. Mine is a total brat, but I accept her “catness”, even when she breaks stuff and chews on my plants. What can I say? She can be an asshole, but she’s MY asshole cat, and I love her in spite of everything “Catty” she does.

  2. Yeah. The trouble I always have, is in getting visitors to my house to respect my cat. They’ll go “Oh, she loves it” while she’s getting ready to bite them, and then “Oh, she’s just playing” when she’s seriously annoyed and scratching (after being grabbed and stuff).

  3. They have garbage stacked on sleeping cats. That’s not funny. It’s not cute. I don’t know how cats feel about clothing… I imagine they don’t like it, but garbage? Empty boxes and toliet paper rolls? That’s gross. Even cell phones, they aren’t garbage but it’s disrespectful.

  4. We treat the rest of the world just like these people treat their cats. Dumps. Waste. Pollution. Littering seems pretty intuitive for most, “who cares if it’s on another living being?”. Sigh. And to think they call Auties and aspies “mind blind”….

  5. Sometimes I play tricks on my cat; sometimes my cat plays tricks on me. We are familiar with each other’s sense of humor, and with just what the other fellow will put up with, before getting physical. We get along with each other OK.

  6. Oh that site made me feel extremely uneasy as well. Getting the truth out, on the other hand was very enlightening and helpful for me to read…thank you for bringing this to me.

  7. I see less of a problem with stuffonmycat.com than I do with treating people who cannot escape as dolls, largely because the cats seem to be able to leave if they don’t consent. OTOH, this view may be colored by the fact that Kash would shred any human that tried to do such a thing to her. I imagine that there are some cats with the feline equivelent of stockholm syndrome out there.

  8. drachen: I think my cat would shred people if they tried that too (that’s in part, I suspect, because I treat her with enough respect that her resistance means something). I’ve met a lot of cats, though, where I’m not sure if it’s exactly like Stockholm syndrome, more maybe like learned helplessness. They clearly dislike something, but they’ve learned over time to just go limp and put up with whatever’s done to them because they know they can’t escape it. So you’ll get a cat who’s looking annoyed but limp, and then the humans can do whatever they want to the cat, often believing the cat likes it, when the cat is clearly irritated but unable to fight.

  9. Yeah, my friend showed me that site the other day when I was visiting him. I got the same weird feeling, but I couldn’t say just why.

    Funny, because my cat Timmy loves burrowing under my blankets or if I toss a blanket over him on my bed. Dana, he likes to lie in wait under a blanket and pounce at anything that moves on the bed.

  10. Yeah yeah mebee.

    I certainly never sought to exploit our cats but took many pictures of them, the wierd thing I recall is when a newspaper photographer came to take a picture of my mum, and Pluto was sitting in the middle of the bed. Now the photographer actually asked if the cat would be bothered by the flash. No I said, he is used to having his picture taken. If you look at the picture http://www.larry-arnold.info/Mary/plutocat.jpg
    he is quite unfazed and looking directly at the camera. What is more when the picture was published (and you can see how he dominates the picture) there were more comments about him than my mum.

    He is expressing his dominance, “This is my bed, and I am comfortable here I am moving for no-one and nothing”

  11. On a similar note, I have a major rule for my niece, Ana: We do not harass animals. We allow them to approach us, we don’t chase them. If they want to be left alone, we leave them alone.

    This is partially because it’s not safe to harass an animal, and partially because it’s not nice.

    Several months ago, we were visiting somebody’s house who had a cat. And the person got upset at me for telling Ana not to chase the cat around when the cat clearly didn’t like it! (Her son was also chasing the cat, which might explain it, but I said nothing to him.) “Oh, it’s all right, he’s declawed”. Like the fact that the cat can’t fight back makes it *better* – better if he *could* scratch her, maybe she’d learn not to do it! (Not that I want that to happen, I’d rather she learn by me constantly saying “No, we don’t do that”, but it might be effective.) And this woman just didn’t seem to understand that this rule is in place because that behaviour is not acceptable towards anybody, cat or human. (Plus, even if that cat is declawed, not all cats are – and that cat could certainly bite if he felt threatened enough, not like anybody bothered to think ahead to that pleasant conclusion….)

  12. Cats have different parameters than dogs do. From what I can discern, dogs enjoy doing things for people, it is good for them to learn to do things for people, even if they are a bit uncomfortable for the dog. Things like fetch, or herding sheep, or hunting, or dressing up in silly costumes fulfill something socially in dogs. I don’t know if that makes it morally ok or not.

    Even if they are used as ‘toys’, they appear to enjoy it, as long as they are not physically hurt or yelled at, and get praised and petted for it.

    Some of the cats have happy expressions, but around 2/3 have irritated or hostile expressions, so in my estimation, it depends on the cat whether they are happy in that situation.

  13. Interesting observations…as I have cats and I notice that if I pick one up without “permission”…the cat’s ears go back and the eyes glare with an annoyed/unhappy look. Too long and it becomes the all familiar worraaaar. (little kittens sometimes hiss) When my kitty is accepting, I’ll reach down and then wait for my kitty to reach up and then jump up into my arms. (usually upright but sometimes cradled is ok). I have to see so often if the cat is annoyed. The cat doesn’t like to stay held for too long unless it’s very freely on my lap. Cats seem to be more expressive than humans FTMP.

  14. I have spent a lot of time around a lot of cats and I believe I can understand some of their communications. It seems to me that a lot of the cats pictured in Stuff on My Cat are unhappy about having stuff on them, but other cats don’t mind.

    I think this one is participating:

    I think this one is annoyed:

    I think this one is a little bit annoyed but not much:

    I don’t spend time at the site generally because the majority of the cats pictured seem annoyed and that makes me sad.

  15. “The solution to this is much more about shifting power imbalances, than teaching all animals and non-speaking people their “native language”. There will always be animals and non-speaking people who can’t speak their “native languages”. Making it totally socially unacceptable to treat people like dolls is feasible, training everyone to say things in the majority language is not.”

    Often times it seems that people think a perason “can’t communicate” when they clearly are, they’re just not being listened to. In those cat pictures, if you understand cat communication you can tell whether the cat likes it or not. I remember my younger brother was upset that my pet rats kept running from him to me when he held them, and I realized the problem was that he didn’t understand their rat communication. He’d hold them in ways that made them feel like they were going to fall, for example, without realizing they felt that way. So I told him “if they squeak, they’re hurt, if they twirl their tail, they feel like they’re going to fall” etc and his interactions with the rats improved (although one of them still didn’t like him, because he’s young and moves fast and she startles easily).

  16. Cats – I don’t like cats, except when I get to know one, chances are better than 50% that I’ll like that particular cat. I’m allergic and I don’t know how they’re going to behave around me, so I avoid them when I can.

    If I’m visiting a friend who has a cat or two, I do not mess with the cat unless the cat has decided it wants to interact with me. One of my favorite cats (died of cancer more than a year ago, unfortunately) was part siamese and would mrowr loudly at anyone who came in. I’d talk back to her, and since she seemed to enjoy having conversations with me, this was what I’d do when I visited the person she lived with.

    I know exactly one cat who might put up with having something put on him, but if he wasn’t cool with it, he’d get up and walk away fairly promptly. He doesn’t mind having a toddler get a little rough with him for a little while; when it gets to be too much for him, he just walks off, and we don’t chase the kitty once he’s left the room. (If he wants to be played with some more after a short break, he’ll hang around and put himself back into toddler range.)

    I’m not going to visit the site. I don’t like seeing pictures of cats in distress, and from the sounds of it, many of them are.

    Besides the allery issue, I don’t want a cat because I wouldn’t be able to restrict it the way I can a dog, and I have spaces I don’t want an animal messing with. It wouldn’t be fair to either myself or the cat. A cat is wonderful as it is, and for me to co-exist with one happily, it would need to be less cat-like, and that’s wrong.

  17. I keep parrots, but I’ve never set out to teach one to talk. It just doesn’t impress me when they do that, and I don’t suppose I’d have the patience for it, anyway. Nevertheless, they end up picking up words anyway, as well as various sounds in their envionment, such as the telelphone, or the “beep” of the microwave. They do this naturally, and I suppose they get some enjoyment out of it. So, intentionally teaching a parrot to talk is not abusive. Why is it, then, that I still feel the same way about those people who insist a parrot should talk as I do about those people who pile stuff on top of their cats? I guess it’s because the only moral compass is not whether or not the animal is voluntarily participating, or whether or not the animal is annoyed. There’s something repulsive to me about treating a living animal as though its only purpose is to entertain humans.

  18. I hadn’t seen the site in that way. This is probably a personal failing though – I’ve done things to friends like that in their sleep. Putting stuff on them, post-its, drawn on them… But then again, friends are in more of a position to wreak venegenace than a cowed cat.

  19. Putting stuff on your friends while they sleep is entirely different. You haven’t objectified them – quite the opposite: you EXPECT them to feel something when they wake up and discover it.

  20. In all fairness, maybe some of those people submitting photos are friends with their cats, and don’t objectify them. For them, it’s like putting things on a human friend and taking pictures: it’s a joke you can both laugh at, and at any given time, either participant can be the butt of a joke, and more importantly, there is no imbalance of power – both friends are equals. This is perhaps where I disagree with the blogger when she says, “There’s something really not right, not about the website itself.” I think the website itself promotes the idea of cat-as-an-object even when the participants may not think that way.

  21. Pingback: Amanita.net » Blog Archive » Back to Stuff on My Cat

  22. Well, it looks like my site beat me to leaving a comment here! Sorry about that. I want to say that just because we might disagree about StuffOnMyCat.com, does not mean I don’t like you – Amanda, or anybody who has commented here. I don’t think any of you are dumb or anything like that…I just have a different view about the purposes of that website. For what it’s worth, my mom agrees with most of you, she thinks most of the cats look annoyed. But please don’t hate me just because I have a different view about the site…I don’t hate you. I just wanted you to know that.

  23. I spend some of my “bored” time at work looking at SOMC. I know that we all love our cats very much. My cat annoys me and I annoy him back. But I love him. And I think for the most part the cats on that site really don’t care. Think about it, cats have pretty boring lives sometimes. a lot of them love attention. And I’m sure they feel like having stuff put on them is attention. Cat’s don’t put up with stuff they don’t like. Often times the people who took the pictures post comments on the site. Frequently it’s stuff like “my cat sat there for 10 minutes while I took those pictures!” and “my cat got there on his own.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s