My sister just insulted my cat. All I did was ask her a very simple and straightforward question about Mimosa: “Isn’t Mims the littlest cat in the world?” This, of course, is fact: Mims is tiny and clearly the littlest cat in the world. She’s even littler than that bizarre space cat with the perma-tongue. To this, though, my sister said curtly, “No, not at all.” She acted like it wasn’t even a rhetorical question! And I felt insulted.
It got me wondering, why do we react so irrationally if someone says something negative about our cats?
Obviously I’m not delusional enough to think that Mimosa is actually the littlest cat in the world. She’s just a likely runt of the litter and very small, especially when adopted at around six months old. Sometimes, when she sits in a certain way, I even make fun of her for having a larger-than-usual-looking derriere. On days when she looks extra small I compliment her; one of her many nicknames is Littles. So, just the usual totally sane cat-crazy behavior.
But the idea of someone not agreeing with me about how awesome Mimosa is irked me. So I called up Tracie Hotchner, the author of the Cat Bible and the brains behind the Cat Crazy radio show, and asked for her expert take on the matter. Straight off the bat Tracie said, “Well, how would you feel if someone said that about your child?”
I told her that I do not have children. She nuanced her response a little: “Why would anyone feel free to say that about your cat any more than they would about your husband, wife, child, grandmother, or even your furniture? I don’t think that people should feel free to comment on the looks of someone’s cat. You should be insulted, and people should know that there are common civilities that should be recognized, especially where pets are concerned, as people often consider them to be family members.”
At this point Tracie had begun to pre-empt my next question. I consider Mimosa to be a part of my family, though I’d never call her a fur-baby or whatever the popular overly cutesy term might be. She has four legs and meows.
I mentioned the familial factor to Tracie. She replied, “I think in this case the person feeling free to make the comments should realize that someone’s relationship to their pet is so important. If you don’t feel free to say to someone’s funny-looking kid, ‘I don’t like your child’s haircut or body shape,’ then you should definitely not feel free to make those comments to someone’s cat.”
I asked Tracie what an appropriate response to someone insulting your cat would be. She said, “If this person making the comment had human children, I would say, ‘Golly, I’d never say anything like that about someone’s human children.'”
To this I asked her, “But what if someone says, ‘Well, it’s just a cat?'” Tracie replied, “But of course they do say that, don’t they?” She took a moment and then concluded, “To that you simply say, ‘You know what? Your kid is just a kid.’ I think it’s important with people who don’t understand the closeness of the relationship between someone and their pet to bring up the comparison of the closeness to their child. Unfortunately they are lacking in that privilege of having a pet in their family.”
Having spoken to Tracie I felt a little calmer about my sister’s slandering of Mimosa. I know that Mimosa is a cat and that if someone says something about her she’s not going to take it personally or slip into a deep sulk or depression over it. Yet I still react badly, petulant even. A friend who sometimes feeds Mimosa insists on calling her Boris. Boris! Of all the names! It annoys me, even though I know it’s only meant in jest.
I also got genuinely angry when, after writing about making a DIY IKEA cat tower for Catster, someone in the comments section suggested that I was not looking out for Mimosa’s best interests as I thought the new tower looked better in the apartment than the raggedy Petco monstrosity. But, calling on my apparent common civilities, I refrained from responding, even though I wanted to point out that it sounded like the comment poster’s cats were morbidly obese.
So, how infuriated do you get when someone insults your cat? And have you ever responded with similarly derisive words? Defend your beast and spout off in the comments!
About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.