October 31, 2013

PARANDEKAR: In Defense of (Black) Cats

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In honor of Halloween, let’s take a break from serious topics and talk about cats (I feel like Halloween has to be honored in some way, because we have big exams and won’t be celebrating it with the rest of Cornell). Black cats with their backs arched are as much a symbol of Halloween as witches and cauldrons and jack-o-lanterns. This is a little unfortunate for the cats, because it reinforces their negative reputation — shelters often find black cats the hardest to adopt out. If you go to your local shelter around this time of year you will probably find a plethora of adorable little black kittens.

So, why do the cats have a negative reputation? There are the superstitions that tie them to witchcraft and bad luck dating back to the Middle Ages. Interestingly, according to the internet, black cats specifically are supposedly signs of good luck in the United Kingdom, but all of the British people I know say that this isn’t true (I took an informal poll) — real life proof that you shouldn’t trust everything you read on the internet.

All of that being said, the only people I’ve met who actually believe in these superstitions are generally older and socially conservative (to stereotype dramatically, sorry). But the negative perception of cats still persists in this supposedly progressive, young generation that I am a part of. Cats are seen as aloof loners, and people who own cats are often perceived as being lonely themselves. And don’t even think about being a female with more than one cat — you’re automatically writing yourself into a future of being a crazy cat lady with a hairy, smelly house and an obsessive love for your animals. This baffles me a little because while loving cats is crazy, loving dogs just as much is not.

So this is in defense of cats, for all you Millennials out there who claim to shun stereotypes but still write off the little felines. Last year, I found myself pet-less, which seems sacrilegious for a vet student. I had wanted a dog for as long as I can remember, but my family traveled a lot and it had never worked out.  Then, I was finally in a place to make my own decisions and could have adopted the dog of my dreams. Instead? I got cats. And here’s why. My current lifestyle does not lend itself well to routine. I would say the same of everyone I know in my generation, regardless of what they’re doing with their lives. We work late, are out at odd hours and travel on weekends. The relationship I want with a dog is one where I can either take him places with me or be home enough to keep him company and find a way to let him lead an active lifestyle. Cats are simply easier. As long as I’m home at some point to feed them and clean up after them, they’re happy with as much or as little time as I’m able to give. When I’m home, they’re affectionate (note, not aloof) and playful and make me laugh, which are generally the best reasons for keeping pets. I can keep their routine pretty steady by being home at roughly the same time every day, but if I’m not they’re not going to eat my shoes or pee on the rug.

The next time you meet a cat, instead of assuming it doesn’t care about you, try to become friends with it. Feel your blood pressure go down. Don’t assume that its owner wants you to give him everything cat themed you ever find. Cats are the most popular pet in the country for many of the reasons that I’ve stated, and as each successive generation seems to lead a more chaotic lifestyle this trend is probably going to continue. There’s a reason that the internet is at least 50 percent cats, and it’s not because their people are crazy. It’s time for their reputation to catch up to reality.

So maybe for Halloween this year, if you’re in the right place in your life, you’ll go to the shelter and adopt a cat. If you’re in Ithaca, the Tompkins County SPCA is amazing. Get a little black one — you won’t regret it.