I don’t doubt that Taylor Swift loves her cats. Her Instagram is covered with their pictures, and those are some spoiled-looking felines. However, Swift didn’t act in her cat’s best interest the other day when she carried one like an accessory during one of her near-daily photo ops. After Swift took her little stroll in front of the paparazzi, it didn’t take long for another celebrity to follow suit: fashion web site Tom and Lorenzo ran a photo Wednesday of pop star Ke$ha carrying an absolutely terrified cat through the airport. T&L came down on Ke$ha like a ton of bricks, as well they should, and I commend them for it.
However, I have a bit more to add. So, dear celebrities, let’s recap the reasons why it’s inhumane and dangerous to carry an unrestrained cat in front of a crowd of shouting, aggressive people, shall we?
- Chances are good that you are traumatizing your cat. I don’t care if your cat is the most laid-back being in the planet; cats still experience stress in situations where they are exposed to strange situations, especially ones where emotions are elevated. That stress doesn’t always come out right away, but instead reveals itself days later in the form of strange behavior or intestinal distress. Experienced behaviorists will tell you that animals don’t always take the lessons we think from what they experience; instead, they might fixate on a smell or sound they heard during the unpleasant event, meaning that their everyday lives can become considerably more stressful from what might be a one-time event in their lives if they continue to be exposed to a trigger.
- You are putting your cat’s life at risk in an inherently unsafe environment. Your cat could be startled, jump out of your arms and run straight into the street, for example. Also, if your cat gets away for even a short period of time, it can be exposed to poison or sick animals.
- Finally, and most important, you are encouraging other people to see their pets as accessories, which they are not. If you are famous, that factor is multiplied by a thousand: You sell an enviable lifestyle, and carrying an adorable, cuddly animal with you is definitely something that your more impressionable fans will want to do. Don’t believe me? Well then let me tell you about the aftermath of the last time starlets carried around “purse pets.” First there was a boom in people buying Chihuahuas and Pomeranians. Then there was a boom in these dogs being given up. And let me tell you a little about these dogs. They were often traumatized from neglect or poor treatment. Even our small rescue ended up with several dogs who had lived most of their lives in closets. In several of those cases, by the way, the dogs were found by landlords who contacted animal control; otherwise these poor animals might have spent their entire lives there. A lot of these animals were sick, sometimes from poor care, but often because backyard breeders had bred the smallest (weakest) animals to create a more portable “teacup” dog. (To this day I wince when people use the “T word” to describe their dogs.) We would receive heartbreaking emails from adopters whose toy dogs died because their organs gave out at midlife.
Fortunately, once the Paris Hiltons lost popularity, we encountered a lot fewer of these tragic cases. However, this whole cat-carrying thing has the hallmarks of a new, grotesque trend in animal mistreatment.
So, Taylor and Ke$ha and whoever is the next entertainer to use an animal as part of an ensemble, please, please, move on to something new. You are fashion and lifestyle role models, like it or not (that’s why all those designers send you all those clothes), and if you incorporate a living creature into your look, your fans will follow suit, even if many of them have no business owning a pet. And if there is a demand for these pets, backyard breeders and puppy mills will fill it, and that means that thousands of animals will suffer and die because you didn’t think you were capable of getting enough attention without them. That’s right, these animals will die, and your choices will have set this mass devastation in action.
So please, go back to the drawing board and find some other attention-getting tactics. And if you don’t think you can get the attention without a cute widdle kitty in your arms, then honey, you don’t deserve to be famous because you don’t have what it takes. Using a living prop is only postponing your inevitable obscurity.