Big Pussy Takes the Big Apple: the Surprising Success of Meow the Cat

Oliver Lee Bateman chews on how America is eating up its literal fat cat.

 

 

The Santa Fe Animal Shelter came into possession of a severely abused, severely obese cat named Meow.  The staff there commenced the process of slimming him down–although it’s unclear how long this will take, given that the cat is only 2 years old and already weighs 40 pounds–in order to prepare him for adoption.  But what would be the best way to find a new owner for poor Meow?

The American way, naturally!  A fat cat like this deserves all the trappings of celebrity.

In due course, Meow was trotted out onto the set of The Today Show.

He also met fumbling, bumbling English leading man Hugh Grant, an event that Best Week Ever properly decided was worthy of Internet immortalization.  And tonight Meow will appear on Anderson Cooper 360, where his extreme weight gain will be discussed alongside other issues of global significance, such as the Secret Service hooker scandal and the question of whether Barack Obama was justified in eating dog while abroad.

I feel bad for this feline. My fiancée and I own a white house cat that, while not named Meow, will nevertheless meow on command.  That cat is otherwise unremarkable; she weighs 7 pounds and has no obvious health problems.  Meow, however, struggles to stand up.  He’s a big, immobile pillow.  On the Today Show video, he licks his lips constantly (suggestive of the fact that he’s still hungry) and takes short, jagged breaths while he is stroked with a brush. His previous owner was an elderly woman who was unable to properly care for him.

Once Meow made the news, the Facebook page I linked to in the first paragraph received an outpouring of love from people who thought that he was the most beautiful cat who ever lived.  A handful of commenters expressed disgust with Meow’s state, noting how unfortunate it was that he looked so unhealthy, but most seemed to think that his obesity made him cuter than ever.  Even the good folks at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, who undoubtedly have Meow’s best interests at heart, have capitalized on his immense size to draw attention to their rescue program.

Now here’s the thing:  Why should we care more about Meow than any other animal that winds up in a shelter?  Why is he, like the contestants on the Biggest Loser and the various other extremely obese people who have appeared on reality shows, so deserving of our attention?  Have we really progressed from an era when a creature like this would be displayed in a freak show?  Perhaps the only difference is that we now want to “help” these freakish individuals, to “save” them, to give them the mental and physical therapy our therapy-loving, therapy-saturated society believes they deserve.

But when it comes down to it, don’t we just want to gape in awe at how fat this freaking cat is?

 

Photo–AP Images

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About Oliver Lee Bateman

Good Men Project contributing editor Oliver Lee Bateman is a columnist for Al-Jazeera America and Made Man Magazine. His writing has been featured in Salon, The Atlantic, Johnny America, Stymie: A Journal of Sport and Literature, the U.S. Intellectual History Blog, STIR Journal, Mic.com, and NAP Magazine. He is also one of the founders of the Moustache Club of America and Penny & Farthing, two blogzines specializing in flash fiction and creative nonfiction that he co-curates with web developer Erik Hinton, medical consultant Nathan Zimmerman, and freelance writers Christie Chapman and J. R. Powell. Oliver is a lawyer as well as an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Follow him on Twitter @MoustacheClubUS or on Google+.

Comments

  1. I kind of get what you’re saying here…and yeah your last paragraph is at least partly right, I think. But, I also think it’s key to remember that animals are trotted out on morning shows and late night shows and all over the internet all the time. There’s also quite a difference between seeing an animal as something to pity and help, and seeing another human being as something to pity and help.

    • I think, at some level, empathy is empathy, whether it’s your sibling, a cat, or a spider. When I see stuff like this, I feel like it makes us cynical — there’s nothing we can do to help Meow, so we point and laugh instead. There’s no connection because it’s hard to feel strong emotions towards your television, and in the end you find yourself being disconnected. Stories like this bother me because there is already a cultural attitude that human kindness is a finite resource that needs to be rationed out to the deserving few. Then you see this and it seems to encourage that sort of behavior. “Why should I care?” is a reasonable response because certainly a morbidly obese cat is not worth national news attention, but then what if you knew that cat? Or that guy on The Biggest Loser? What if you knew someone that knows that person? I’m rambling, but I hope my point is there. Stories like this tend to trivialize real personal troubles.

  2. VolitionSpark says:

    I am just so glad that he is getting some love and attention. If I had the means, I would adopt him. But we already have a cat and a dog and we just cannot take on anything else. I would love to have another child, too, but that also is not possible.

  3. Stupid people will be stupid! This cat is far from being abused! he’s fat because he has a urinary tract problem and he has to eat special food you dimwitted people!! He got as much love as he could take with the family that was taking care of him and nobody took him away from them, they just had some problems that made it impossible for them to continue having him in their care so LEARN THE FACTS before commenting as if you had the whole truth!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This comment was by Stephen on the post “Meow the Cat is now a big star (pun intended). Should we care?“ [...]

  2. [...] a jerk for doing it. But I can’t help it. So I remind myself when I meet a cat-lover (Oliver Bateman I’m talking about you) that cats are awesome, and not everyone is as weird as [...]

  3. [...] certain you’ve witnessed my misfortune.  It plays on an endless loop, filling the empty minutes of your local newscasts and breakfast variety shows.   Hugh Grant petted [...]

  4. [...]  The website Catster took the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, the Today Show, Anderson Cooper 360, and yours truly to task for getting the facts wrong.  Meow, it seems, wasn’t two, hadn’t been abused, [...]

  5. [...] certain you’ve witnessed my misfortune.  It plays on an endless loop, filling the empty minutes of your local newscasts and breakfast variety shows.   Hugh Grant petted [...]

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