Tag: social media

Keep The Cat, Ditch The Boyfriend

If subreddits, advice columns and social media are any indication, a disturbing number of people ask or demand their would-be significant others to ditch their cats before their relationships can progress.

But even by the standards of the demanding, heartless boyfriends and girlfriends who insist the cat has to go in a relationship, this one’s a doozy. A woman writes to the Washington Post’s Carolyn Hax for advice on what to do with her boyfriend, who has some very strange ideas about cats:

Hi Carolyn: I’ve had my cat since college (almost 10 years). I’ve been dating my boyfriend for two years, I love him more than I’ve ever loved anyone, and we’d like to move in together.

My boyfriend hates cats. Hates them. He isn’t allergic (though he used to say he was, until I insisted on a test). He does have a strong aversion to them, probably from his family, who have some kind of belief that they’re evil or unclean. I’ve sought to understand it but could never get a coherent explanation out of any of them.

He jumps when the cat is in the room. And my cat is extremely affectionate, so doesn’t understand why he can’t come sit with us and be friends.

My boyfriend is offended I won’t give up the cat so he can move in. I’ve suggested compromises such as keeping the cat to just one part of the apartment, but he insists he needs the cat out.

I feel the cat was here first so this is an unreasonable ask. My boyfriend feels if I really love him then nothing should take precedence over his moving in, and he now says my hesitance is causing him to question the foundation of the entire relationship.

I cannot imagine rehoming my cat. I also can’t imagine ending my relationship. Am I being unreasonable or is he?

Hax goes beyond the usual “demanding significant others are major red flags” advice and points out that the boyfriend isn’t just placing his own emotional wellbeing above the letter-writer’s, he’s also trying to prune her life of things he doesn’t like or want as a precondition for moving forward in a relationship.

The cat, she points out, “is a hairy decoy, distracting you from the serious mistake you’re poised to make: thinking about your relationship in terms of what you owe the other person. All you owe anyone is to be yourself. … It’s on him to ask his own questions about living with that real you. It’s on him to assume the work of living with his own answers.”

That’s good advice for anyone who finds themselves in that sort of situation, but I do think the red flag aspect reinforces Hax’s good counsel. If the guy lied about being allergic to get his girlfriend to ditch her cat, he’s more manipulative than she may be willing to admit and he’s calculating about it, trying to disguise something he wants as a medical necessity.

But he goes even further than that with the “if you really love me, you’ll do this” emotional ploy, and by claiming his girlfriend’s loyalty to her cat is causing him to “question the foundation of the entire relationship.”

The foundation’s rotten, pal. You’re the reason.

Of course, all the human drama obscures the third individual involved in this mess: the cat. The letter writer has had the little guy for 10 years, which means they’ve long since bonded, he loves her, and he literally can’t imagine living in another place with another person.

Surrendering him to a shelter would be incredibly cruel. It would be a life-shattering betrayal of trust and cause incredible anguish to the poor cat in addition to putting him in real danger of being euthanized. And all for a jerk who fakes an allergy to get his girlfriend to dump the kitty she’s loved for a decade? Hell no.

I hope she finds a guy who loves cats. He’ll most definitely make a better boyfriend than this weirdo.

Wealthiest Cats In The World: Taylor Swift’s Cat Makes Choupette Look Poor

There was quite a bit of interest in our earlier story about Choupette, pet and muse to late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.

While Choupette was left a large slice of Lagerfeld’s reported $200 million fortune — usually pegged at about $13 million inheritance — as well as the services of a private jet, a chef and minders to see to her needs, she’s not the wealthiest feline on the planet.

Nala Cat: Estimated net worth $100 million

Nala Cat has 4.4 million followers on Instagram, her own line of cat food, and a website that sells Nala-themed shirts, phone cases, coffee mugs, plush toys, pillow covers and even COVID masks. With her gigantic social media following, which has earned her an official Guinness World Record, Nala has enormous earnings potential, taking home five- and six-figure sums for sponsored posts hawking products like topical cream for pets and milk alternatives.

Olivia Benson: Estimated net worth $97 million

Unlike her celebrity ex-boyfriends, Taylor Swift’s cats don’t provide her with sad breakup material for new songs, but they do give her plenty of material for social media and additional opportunities to make money. (Because let’s face it, she needs it: The singer has amassed a paltry half-billion dollars so far.)

Swift named her most famous cat Olivia Benson, which we’re told is the name of a character on Law & Order. (Apologies but once you watch The Wire, there is no going back to network TV cop dramas where the detectives are always righteous and neatly wrap up their cases in 42 minutes.) Since she was purchased by swift in 2014, Olivia Benson has gone on to star in commercials for Coke and Keds, make guest appearances on Ellen, and cameo in Swift’s music videos.

Buddy the Cat: Estimated net worth $3.67 (dollars, not millions)

While Choupette rides the skies in a private jet, Nala cat has more fans than most celebrities and Olivia Benson is feted by talk show hosts, Buddy the Cat is no slouch either: The silver tabby is chauffeured around in style in a Honda Civic, boasts an extensive food and treat cabinet that can keep him in turkey for like three weeks, and is the proud owner of a really cool cardboard box. (Not as awesome as Olivia Benson’s boxes, obviously, but still pretty cool.)

However, Buddy also has something none of the other cats on this list have: His own site with near-daily updates chronicling his adventures, attesting to his ever-growing meowscles and expanding on his legend with every post.

Most importantly, he has the love of his Big Buddy. (Awwww.) Asked what he’d do with a fortune if he suddenly became a hugely popular catfluencer, Bud said he’d buy a Roomba to ride.

wealthybuddy
“Monetize the site, human! We could be multi-thousandaires! I could have a Roomba!”

Blackie the Cat: Estimated net worth $12.5 million

Blackie belonged to Ben Rea, a millionaire antiques dealer from the UK. According to press reports, Rea was estranged from his family when he died at age 82 in 1988, so he left millions to Blackie.

Rea had some self-awareness at least — reports say he left millions, representing the bulk of his fortune, to three animal charities of his choosing. He also left a house to a close friend and willed money to his housekeeper, gardener and plumber. (Dude really didn’t like his relatives, apparently.)

Unlike the others on this list, Blackie was certified as the wealthiest cat by the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s not clear when Blackie died or what became of the remainder of his fortune. Unless he had an outrageous catnip habit and blew millions on attractive Calico escorts, it’s safe to say he didn’t burn through all $12.5 million in his remaining time on Earth.

wealthycat
“I’m cold! Throw another thousand on the fire and bring me a heavier blanket, servant!”

Tomasso the Cat: $13 million

In a true rags to riches story, Tomasso was a stray living on the streets of Rome when he was adopted by a lonely widow in her 90s. The woman, Maria Assunto, had no children of her own and treated Tomasso like a son.

When she died in 2011 at the age of 94, Assunto left Tomasso and all her money to a nurse named Stefania.

Stefania had befriended Assunto and Tomasso a few years earlier after meeting them in a public park. The nurse would bring her own cat over to Assunto’s home to play with Tomasso, and cared for Assunto as her health declined. As Assunto began to fade, she asked Stefania to care for Tomasso once she was gone.

Stefania had no idea Assunto was worth millions and was shocked when the late widow’s lawyers approached her.

“I promised her that I would look after the cat when she was no longer around. She wanted to be sure that Tommaso would be loved and cuddled. But I never imagined that she had this sort of wealth,” she said at the time. “She was very discreet and quiet. I knew very little of her private life. She only told me that she had suffered from loneliness a lot.”

Perhaps it was because Stefania had cared for Assunta and Tomasso out of the kindness of her heart that the latter chose her as her sole beneficiary.

“She had become very fond towards the nurse who assisted her,” Anna Orecchioni, Assunta’s attorney, told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero. “We’re convinced that Stefania is the right person to carry out the old lady’s wishes. She loves animals just like the woman she devoted herself to right up until the end.”

Top image of Nala credit Renaissance Pet, second and third Nala images credit @nala_cat, image of wealthy Buddy credit Buddy, photo of orange tabby credit u/Franklyimfrank via Reddit

People On Social Media Think A Cat Is Helping Ukrainian Soldiers Dodge Russian Sniper Fire

According to the legend of the “Panther of Kharkiv,” a vengeful house cat has been using his superior feline vision to spot the telltale red laser dots from sniper scopes and warn Ukrainian soldiers they’re targets before snipers can get off a shot.

I imagine it goes something like this:

“Dude, there’s a red dot on your face.”

“You said that 42 times in the last hour.”

“Well, it’s true. Give me my treat as a reward, otherwise I might forget to inform you next time.”

“If I find out you’re lying…”

“Treat, now! Thanks…Mmmm, that’s good. Oh look, there’s another red dot on your head! Quick, take cover and give me another snack!”

Either that or kitty is just launching himself at Ukrainian foreheads, chasing the ever elusive red dot.

Of course you don’t need us to tell you this viral social media story is nonsense, do you?

ukrainian-army-cat
Mmmmm, Elmer’s!

Hundreds of thousands of people have proven themselves more credulous, and continue to share the Panther of Kharkiv posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, TikTok and other platforms despite warnings that the story isn’t true. The accompanying photo, while real, is from 2018.

“Complete garbage,” is how Liam Collins, a West Point faculty member and former defense advisor to Ukraine, put it.

Others see these stories as evidence of new frontiers for psychological operations, propaganda and counter-propaganda.

Psy-ops have long been a part of war, from Alexander the Great’s armies leaving giant-size helmets and breastplates in the ruins of conquered cities to seed tales of impossible huge — and unbeatable — Greek invaders, to a CIA-devised plan to drop condoms on Soviet territory.

“Condoms?!?” you ask. “How exactly do condoms help a war effort?”

Because they were intentionally manufactured in ludicrously huge sizes marked “Medium” and “Small” with “MADE IN USA” prominently stamped on the packaging, which would be left for the enemy to discover and, the thinking went, to kill their morale. (There are also reports that US psyops left footlong condoms on the Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam, leading terrified Vietcong to hide their women.)

And, famously, US Army psyops drove around in up-armored Humvees during 2004’s bloody battle of Fallujah, blasting the South Park creators’ “America, F— Yeah!” from military sound systems as Marines engaged insurgent forces.

The point is to raise friendly morale, destroy enemy morale, or both, and it makes perfect sense that psyops would move into the digital domain in a war in which cyber warfare has become a major part of the hostilities.

The Panther of Kharkiv, like tall tales of wars past, collapses under scrutiny.

As Snopes correctly notes, snipers don’t actually use little red laser dots. Not only would they be counter-productive at the distances snipers work, when things like atmospheric conditions and wind speed come into play, but using lasers would alert the enemy that they’re being targeted and give away the location of the sniper(s).

The entire point of a sniper is to take out targets over long distances without giving themselves away. They’re not equipped for routine firefights, and the last thing they want is to be stuck somewhere relying on a sidearm while riflemen flank them. That’s asking to get killed.

The second absurdity is the idea that cats can be reliably trained to do anything of military value. The CIA already tried that in the 1960s with Project Acoustic Kitty, when they outfitted cats with listening devices and released them in the vicinity of Soviet targets in an attempt to eavesdrop on their conversations.

Twenty million dollars, a few years and several failed attempts later, the CIA concluded training cats as spies was “not practical.” The problem, of course, is that you can train cats all you want, and maybe the cats even have the best intentions, but then…Oh hai is that a bird? Is that a bird? Yes, it is! I’m chasing the bird! Wait, birdie! Oooh, what’s this on the ground? A bag with a half-eaten burger? How delicious! …

Cats are easily distracted, easily bored, driven to do their own thing, and not really open to suggestions when it comes to telling them where they should walk or lounge.

The Panther of Kharkiv joins The Ghost of Kyiv as a creation of social media, wish-fulfillment figures of legend for the age of information. The latter has been earning praise as a supposed ace fighter pilot who has been terrorizing Russian Su-35 pilots from the cockpit of a Soviet-era MiG-29.

A surprisingly realistic video of the legendary pilot has been making the rounds on social media, but the footage is actually from Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) World, a game made by developers so obsessive that they even model things like the effect of recoil from mounted guns on aircraft operation.

In the viral video, a Su-35 screams overhead as two Ukranians chatter in the background. A shaky camera tracks the jet until a missile fired from out of the frame blasts it to pieces. The MiG-29 follows a millisecond later, dipping its wings in a celebratory gesture as one of the observers says “Oh shit!”

When a simulator looks like this, it’s easier to understand how people could mistake out-of-context, long-range footage for the real thing:

Now if you put a cat in that footage, wearing goggles and flying wing, people would know it’s fake. On second thought, maybe they wouldn’t.

Are Schools Forced To Accommodate Kids Who ‘Identify As Cats’?

Two curious stories relating to cats have been circulating online this week: In the first story, a substitute teacher claims she was fired because she refused to meow back to a student who “identifies as a cat,” while parents in a Michigan school district were infuriated by a rumor that the district was providing litter boxes to cat-identified students in school bathrooms.

First, the obvious, or perhaps not-so-obvious considering the media attention and outrage surrounding both stories: Neither one is true.

Why did people believe them? Because we’ve gone insane as a society, of course, and basic reality now means different things to different people depending on their political ideologies. If you’re on the left, you might think parents who aren’t sophisticated news consumers are so paranoid about school curricula, they’d believe just about anything. If you’re on the right, you’re might argue that some schools have gone so overboard with political correctness, it’s not a stretch to imagine privileges conferred on the allegedly cat-identified.

For those of us who subscribe to neither ideology, the whole thing is another sad example of the polarization that is destroying the US, the same divisive talk amplified by platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

But that’s beyond the scope of this blog, which is to celebrate cats, have a laugh and occasionally put the spotlight on animal welfare. I don’t want to lose readers by wading into a political landmine field, but most importantly I don’t want anyone to feel unwelcome on this site.

The Michigan incident started when a mom of kids at the Midland School District, about 130 miles northwest of Detroit, spoke at a school board meeting about a rumor — which she took as fact — alleging the school was accommodating “furries” by providing litter boxes in unisex bathrooms.

Lisa Hansen asked other parents to join her to “do some investigating” into the policy

“I’m all for creativity and imagination, but when someone lives in a fantasy world and expects other people to go along with it, I have a problem with that,” Hansen told the Midland school board. “This whole furry thing has just got me. I’m staying calm, but I’m not happy about it, and it’s happened on your watch, and I don’t understand it.”

Here’s the video: (It should start at the relevant section, but if it doesn’t, Hansen speaks at the 32:44 mark)

Hansen’s claims were picked up and reshared by a state GOP chairwoman, Meshawn Maddock, who warned “Parent heroes will TAKE BACK our schools” in a Facebook post.

The school’s superintendent, Michael Sharrow, was forced to do damage control with a public statement, telling parents it’s a “source of disappointment that I felt the necessity to communicate this message to you.”

“There is no truth whatsoever to this false statement/accusation,” Sharrow wrote. “There have never been litter boxes within MPS schools.”

The story about the fired substitute also had its roots in an online video, with a woman who says she’s a teacher relating the story via TikTok. The woman, who uses the handle @crazynamebridgetmichael, said she was taking attendance when a student responded to his name with feline vocalizations.

“I get to the third row and I hear this ‘meow!’ ‘Uhhh, excuse me? Excuse me?'” she said in the TikTok video. “I start looking on the ground, through the fourth row—everything’s good. Go to the fifth row—everybody’s there. Then I hear ‘meow!’ I’m like, ‘Okay, what’s up with that? Who’s doing it?’ And this little girl in the very front row says, ‘You have to meow back at him; he identifies as a cat.’ Are you kidding me?”

The student stormed out of the classroom when she laughed at him, she said, and the school’s administration fired her: “They said ‘We no longer need your services if you can’t identify with all the children in the classroom.'”

The story was picked up by several widely-read sites, included in Tucker Carlson’s daily newsletter, and reshared on prominent Twitter accounts in addition to going viral on Facebook.

PJ Media: The Substitute and the Cat
The story was widely shared on social media and reported by a few dozen online media outlets.

The Cat and the Substitute

The only problem is it isn’t true. In a follow-up video the teacher admitted she made up the story to “create awareness of what kids are going through at school.” She didn’t elaborate, so it’s not clear if she was criticizing school policies for allowing students to identify as different genders or arguing that kids’ needs aren’t accommodated. Occam’s Razor would indicate she was just chasing clicks.

The one thing that’s certain, however, is that cats don’t deserve to be in the middle of this mess.

Top image: A 20-year-old Norwegian woman who identifies as a cat. The woman says she was “born the wrong species.” “My psychologist told me I can grow out of it, but I doubt it,” she told an interviewer. “I think I will be cat all my life.”

TikTokers Are Intentionally Traumatizing Their Cats With Christmas Trees

Proving once again that social media has little or no redeeming value, TikTokers have latched onto a trend that has them using Christmas trees to terrify their cats.

The trend was started by a user who shared a “hack” she’d invented: Chase your chat around your home while wielding your new Christmas tree like a weapon, she said, and the cat won’t mess with the tree or its ornaments the rest of the holiday season.

“If you chase your cat around with the Christmas tree, it’ll be too scared to f**k with it,” said the “hack” originator, @alexisjj_.

User “@becs.richards” racked up more than 25 million views with a video that shows her holding her Christmas tree and thrusting it like a lance toward her confused and scared cat. She wore a big smile as she did so, and set the video to upbeat Christmas music.

Terrorizing your cat is a bad idea, author Anita Kelsey told Newsweek.

“A cat will not have any idea why you are causing them stress or fear and, more than likely, frightening a cat with a Christmas tree can lead to the cat being fearful of the room the tree is in, fearful of the tree, urinating around the home or on the tree and urinating on anything around the tree—like presents,” said Kelsey, author of Let’s Talk About Cats. “It also can cause a breakdown of trust between the cat and the person trying to frighten them.”

Daniel Cummings of the UK’s Cat Protection nonprofit said the method may seem successful, but it “doesn’t take into account how cats learn” and could cause long term problems.

“No cat owner would want to intentionally stress out their cat,” he said, “and part of cat ownership is accepting their natural behaviors.”

Unfortunately this newest trend isn’t surprising, especially coming from a user base of people who happily hand over their user data to the Chinese government, which controls TikTok and makes use of its data just as it does with any other ostensibly “private” company operating in China. There have been more than enough investigative stories illustrating how the Chinese government weaponizes data for any reasonable person to avoid platforms like TikTok.

I’m fortunate that Buddy is a good boy and mostly doesn’t mess with Christmas trees. He’s swiped a handful of ornaments off branches in the past, but so what? He’s a living being with feelings, and ornaments are just things.

Besides, as Cummings notes, curiosity and playfulness are part of the deal when we adopt cats. If people aren’t up for that, they shouldn’t adopt.

Top photo credit Jessica Lynn Lewis/Pexels.

Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.