Ed#424 Hello and goodbye Kitty!

25 January 2013 Alan Attwood

Ed#424 Hello and goodbye Kitty!

Editorial #424: The Cute Kitty Edition

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd is seldom regarded as a man of remarkable human warmth. But there was a time, late last year, when the nation felt his pain. Rudd had kept his surprisingly large Twitter following abreast of the health problems of the family cat, Jasper. The one-time First Feline “has pretty bad kidneys”, @KRuddMP wrote. “So the deal is to rehydrate and try to stabilise. Hasn’t been eating properly for a week.” A picture was posted, showing the Member for Griffith (in shorts) at the cat clinic. An update followed: “Not his usual chipper self. Many tests. Hope he’s fine.” Then came the sad news: “Just a note to all our animal-loving friends out there – our much-loved family member, Jasper the cat, passed away yesterday at home. Thanks from me, Therese and our kids for all your well wishes in recent months while our little guy was battling on.” Only the hardest hearted could have remained unmoved by this.

Cats can do this to people. Animals noted for their lack of animation have a remarkable knack for generating attention. This lack of pointless activity, incidentally, is not necessarily a negative trait. I once saw a cartoon – most likely featuring Garfield, one of many celebrity cats – in which a cat was berated by a human for its indolence: “Eat, sleep; eat, sleep. All you do is eat and sleep. How would things be if that’s what all people did?” The reply came: “Everyone would be satisfied and well rested.” You can’t argue with that.

Cats once had nine lives: modern technology has added another one. Indeed, it has been argued that the internet was invented for two things: accessing pornography and viewing cute cat videos and pictures. The latter makes sense. Cats are famously idle, so it is apt that they should be the subject of searches that are just another way of wasting time. You can’t beat the lolcats phenomenon, so in this edition we embrace it.
Inside, you’ll find several stories exploring the various ways cats can get under our skin, in both the real and virtual worlds. We should also acknowledge some serious environmental problems concerning cats – not least the feral cat population and an alarming spike in the number of unwanted cats.

At this point a pre-emptive strike may be necessary. Before we are bombarded with messages alleging a shameless pro-cat bias, I want to state, clearly, that The Big Issue is not anti-dog. Far from it. Indeed, I would refute the notion that there is a great divide between cat and dog people, and that you have to declare yourself as being one or the other. It is possible to be a fan of both cats and dogs. (Like me.) Our associate editor, Melissa Cranenburgh, meanwhile, has outed herself as a lifelong cat person. She explains: “I never did go through that (frankly, annoying) horsey phase as a girl. In fact, I have a bit of an aversion to horse-themed things. I find them too…horsey. No, it was cats that won my horse-wary heart.” In fairness, I should say I have seen the owner of Choco being nice to dogs. Though she has gone all literary on us and quoted from TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats: “So first, your memory I’ll jog/ And say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.”

To that I respond (going all French on her) vive la différence. Anyone with both a cat and a dog will know it’s the contrasts that are most intriguing. And while I can’t guarantee equal time and promise a special dogs issue down the track, I will point out that time spent reading this edition is not time wasted looking at cute kitties on the web.
Oh – and Jasper? RIP.

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