Cats in Culture
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Such a Purrty President: Why More Cats “Run for Office”

A lot of cats pretended to run for president in 2016; a psychologist says cats are the comic relief in the intense movie that real life has become.

Kellie B. Gormly  |  Jan 20th 2017


Editor’s note: It’s inauguration day in Washington, D.C., a fitting time to run this story from our November/December 2016 issue about why so many cats seem to be running for office, albeit in comic rather than serious ways. Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

Cats rule our households, but what about the White House?

Few people advocate seriously voting for a cat as a third-party candidate to make a statement in an election, but for most people, it’s just a fun joke they promote on social media. Still, these cat “pawliticians” can get thousands of likes, and they often have official-looking websites with video commercials, memes, position statements and the like. Even two months after the presidential election, you’ll find multiple pages if you search “cat for president” on Facebook, including Melville the Cat for President, Stubbs the Cat for President, and even Grumpy Cat for President.

Stubbs-for-President

Dr. Nancy Mramor, a media and health psychologist based in the Pittsburgh area, said cat politicians can help people lighten up during a controversial election season.

“Right now, the country is polarized, and people are getting a chance to step back from the stress of the push and pull on the news about the upcoming election,” said Mramor, author of the book Get Reel: Produce Your Own Life. “It’s like the ‘comic relief’ typically used during intense movies, but this time it is for the election.”

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“Am I SERIOUS? Uh, no.” Sarah Beth Photography

Vote for Limberbutt

During the 2016 presidential election, several cat presidential candidates popped up, the most popular being Limberbutt McCubbins. Yes, that is really the Kentucky tabby’s name — it wasn’t just a campaign thing to make it more amusing and get votes, as television host Rachel Maddow suggested. Yet at the time, to be fair, Maddow didn’t know the candidate was a cat, said Isaac Weiss, Limberbutt’s campaign manager.

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Campaign manager Isaac Weiss and cat parent Emilee McCubbins (left) weren’t expecting Limberbutt’s campaign to catch on.

“I definitely think that his name has really helped him garner attention,” said Isaac, 18, a recent high school graduate from Louisville, Kentucky.

Working a political campaign, even a satirical one or a cat, will make a nice addition to his resume as he begins adulthood, Isaac joked.

His friend Emilee McCubbins owns the cat, who made his campaign debut in spring 2015. The idea originated during a talk with some Republicans in high school biology class, and Isaac thought it would be funny to nominate Emilee’s cat for president. Isaac started a Facebook page for Limberbutt, a liberal “Demo-cat” who, as of a January check, had nearly 14,000 fans. The cat’s motto at his website? “Meow is the Time.”

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“I wasn’t really expecting this to catch on,” Isaac said. “I thought it was going to stay a joke among friends. … It was definitely a surprise for all of us.”

Emilee McCubbins, 18, another recent graduate in the Louisville area, admitted before the election that she didn’t plan to vote for her bossy cat but said, “I wouldn’t say it’s a joke. It’s sort of like a way to show people in our generation that getting involved in politics is an important thing to do.”

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Emilee and Isaac

While the humor of a cat running for president is funny any year, this polarizing election in particular gives the feline candidacy a serious dimension: People are angry with the human choices, and they need an outlet.

“I definitely understand that sentiment, and that’s why Limberbutt is running,” Isaac said.

Many cat politicians just have social media, but Limberbutt is official: His humans registered him on the Federal Elections Commission website.

What does the Constitution say about the matter? In Article II, Section I, it says, “No person except a natural-born citizen … shall be eligible to the office of President.”

“It doesn’t explicitly state that it has to be a human being,” Isaac joked. “But I think if the case ever came before the Supreme Court, I’d think they’d rule that it has to be a human being.”

Not that it would ever happen, but it’s a funny “what-if” to ponder.

Why kitty candidates?

Mramor said the kitty presidential candidates provide stress relief. Plus, she said, cats are so cute and lovable on the internet.

“When it all becomes too much and too serious, Demo-cat candidate Limberbutt McCubbins is a welcome relief,” she said.

She pointed out that spoofs — like Scary Movie, which pokes fun at horror flicks — are always popular.

“Cat candidates are, in a way, a spoof of the election and campaign process,” she said.

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By the way, my orange tabby cat, Tinsel, ran for president, too. Her campaign was a highly informal joke among my friends, with a Facebook following of two when the page went up. (It eventually reached 26.) The campaign is full of purr-fect puns.

Tinsel’s platform? To rid Washington of rats.

Her ideology? She is neither “Re-puss-lican” nor “Demo-cat” and is committed to bipurrtisanship, as shown by her selection of a friend’s dog as her running mate.

And when things smell fishy? Well, she’ll eat that up!

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Humor me by visiting Tinsel the Cat for President on Facebook and liking the page. Look up and like the Limberbutt 2016 page, too. And how about running your own cat for public office in the next election and throwing his collar in the ring? Just set up a Facebook page, and you should at least be able to rope in a few friends or family members.

I say, let the best kitty win. And save some cabinet positions for the also-rans.

About the author: Kellie B. Gormly is a Pittsburgh-based journalist otherwise known as “Mother Catresa” to homeless kittens and cats. She blogs about her adventures in fostering at Mother Catresa’s Chronicle.