World Around Cats

World Around Cats
Do Not Disturb: Dogs are gregarious and eager to please, but cats, on the other hand, are distant and methodical. As Mary Bly said, "Dogs come when they're called. Cats take a message and get back to you." Because cats are so patient, they often seem disinterested in the world around them. Or seem in no hurry to involve themselves in events that don't concern them.

But this reputation is not completely deserved. Cat have, at times, thrown themselves into the world around them. Its just that we haven't always noticed. When we do, we are struck by their bravery, devotion, and tenderness. Cats have performed all types of roles, some directly affecting the human population, and some do not.

Undercover Kitty: One cat, Fred, came to be known as Fred the Undercover Kitty because of the work he did as an undercover agent for the New City Police Department. A man named Stephen Vassell was posing as a veterinarian in New York City, but the authorities were having difficulty catching him in the act. So Fred stepped in to uncover the illegal operation. In February of 2006, Fred played a sick patient in a sting operation with his human partner Stephanie Green-Jones. Together they were able to expose Vassell and his illegal operation. He has since been charged with unauthorized veterinary practice, criminal mischief, injuring animals and petty larceny. Fred retired soon after the arrest and was trained as a therapy animal.

Cat Hero: In Long Island, an award is given annually called the Scarlett Award for Animal Heroism. The award recognizes heroic animals that have sacrificed their own safety to help others, whether human or not. The award was named in honor of Scarlett, a stray cat who risked her own life to save her five kittens.

The cat family had been living in a house in New York when a fire broke out. While the Fire Department was extinguishing the fire, some noticed Scarlett entering the house and carrying out each of her five kittens. This was in spite of the fact that she had already suffered from the fire - her eyelids were blistered shut, her ears were burned, and her paws and coat singed. After Scarlett had gotten each kitten out of the building, she touched them all with her nose, making sure they were alive and safe. Scarlett was treated at a nearby Animal Shelter and is currently living in Long Island.

Beware of Cat: Not all cats, though, have been on the right side of the law. Lewis, a domestic shorthair from Fairfield, Connecticut, was placed under house arrest after being charged with attacking several members of the Fairfield community. Her owner was charged with reckless endangerment and sentenced to only 2 years probation, but only on the condition that Lewis be euthanized. The owner would not agree with the terms and fought the conviction, claiming residents in the community had tormented Lewis, once even attacking the cat with eggs. Eventually, the owner received 2 years probation and Lewis had to remain inside at all times, except when going to the vet. The case garnered quite a bit of public attention. Supposedly, some 500 "Save Lewis" tee-shirts have been sold to support the cat.

"The cat seldom interferes with other people's rights. His intelligence keeps him from doing many of the foolish things that complicate life." - Carl Van Vechten

World Rulers: Perhaps the most influential species in politics has been the house cat. Okay, well maybe not the most influential, but cats have found themselves in some peculiar situations and have, very quietly, made their presence in world affairs felt. They tend to show up when we lest expect them, and influence politics the way they influence our lives - quietly, carefully, and demurely. Some cat have taken a more vocal role in world affairs, however, and when they meowed, people listened.

The Elder Cats: Political cats widely influenced the world of ancient Egypt. They were closely associated with the goddess Bast - she had the head of a cat - and were considered to be sacred animals. It was a crime to kill one. Even if done by accident, the punishment was death. They were also revered in many other cultures. In Japan for instance, Emperor Ichijo once imprisoned a man whose dog had chased the Emperor's cat, Myobu No Omoto.

Royal Line: In England, cats have lived at the Prime Minister's house for centuries, perhaps as far back as Henry VIII. The most famous of these cats was Humphrey, who took office late during Margaret Thatcher's reign. He was named "Mouser to the Cabinet Office." His care, only 100 pounds, was paid for by funds from the department's budget and far cheaper than the previous exterminator's payment of 4,000 pounds. Humphrey's reign was, at times, rocky. During John Major's tenure, Humphrey was accused him of killing baby robins, but Major declared, "It is quite certain that Humphrey is not a serial killer."

Advisor Cat: Another Prime Minister loved cats as well. Winston Churchill owned several cats and allowed them to play significant roles in his government. One, named Jock, was his special assistant and mentioned in his will. Another cat helped Churchill with an important speech. Churchill had been preparing a speech on the threat of communism and was unsure whether to deliver it or not. As he was writing it, a stray cat wandered into his house. Churchill took the cat's presence as a sign of good luck, and went ahead with the speech. The speech was a hit and Churchill adopted the cat, naming it Margate (the name of the town where the speech was delivered.) Margate moved into Churchill's home and eventually Churchill's bed.

There are people who reshape the world by force or argument, but the cat just lies there, dozing; and the world quietly reshapes itself to suit his comfort and convenience. - Allen and Ivy Dodd

First Cats: The prejudice against cats in our political process has long been overlooked. A great deal of attention is given to the "first dogs" who served in the White House, but very little press is said of our "first cats." Cat lovers believe the answer to this mystery is simple: Dogs are publicity hounds, but cats prefer to work behind the scenes.

Cats influence our Presidents in ways that the Presidents don't even notice (but the cats do). They have a long history in our nation's capital, and have always done their jobs quietly and efficiently, never asking for more than their due. They began their careers as rat-catchers, which, in Washington, D.C., can be a full time job.

Honest Abe: Honest Abe Lincoln was the first President to bring a cat into the White House, since previous Presidents were partial to dogs and horses. But when Lincoln's son, Tad, asked to bring his cat on the trip from Illinois to the nation's capital, Lincoln obliged. Tabby, as the cat was called, was a trailblazer in cat politics, and opened the way for cats in subsequent generations.

Rise to Power: It was over 50 years before the next cat was able to take hold of the White House. Calvin Coolidge and his family nearly had an entire zoo in the White House while he served as President, including a few cats. One cat in particular, Tiger, held a special place in the White House. Literally. The President was often seen walking around the White House with Tiger draped on his neck. When Tiger went missing, Coolidge appealed to the people by calling for their help on a radio address.

Since then cats have come and gone from the White House. President Rutherford B. Hayes was actually given the first Siamese cat in the U.S. from the American Consul in Bangkok as a gift. Jimmy Carter's free-spirited daughter also had a Siamese cat, which she called Misty Malarky Ying Yang. Teddy Roosevelt and Gerald Ford had cats while serving. JFK did as well, known as Tom Kitten, but the cat was removed from office when it was discovered that President Kennedy could not work with him (JFK was also allergic to cats). One reporter admired the cat because after leaving the White House it never wrote its memoirs or cashed in on its popularity.

Socks: The Clinton family brought a cat to Washington from Arkansas - Socks. As a child, Chelsea Clinton was taking piano lessons when she saw a little kitten playing outside. She went out and began admiring the cat when it suddenly jumped up into her arms. Chelsea couldn't let the cat go, and brought it back to the governor's mansion. The Clinton's adopted the cat, and when Bill was elected President the Clinton family brought it to Washington. At the White House, Socks became a national sensation, receiving thousands of letters. Unfortunately, Socks didn't get on to well with the one member of the White House staff -Buddy, the Golden Retriever. Socks couldn't stand the dog and apparently took swipes at it every chance she got. Hilary Clinton said, Socks "despised Buddy from first sight, instantly and forever." Socks stayed with the Clinton's until Bill's presidency ended. She was adopted by a family friend and is now living in Southern Maryland. She refuses to even mention her troubles with Buddy.

The President and First Cat: The current president Bush is also a cat owner. He has owned three cats since the beginning of his public life as Governor of Texas. One has died but the two others are doing well. Earnest, a six-toed cat named after Earnest Hemingway (who also had a six-toed cat), was given to a family friend before Bush came to the White House. Their present cat is India, who has been with the family for ten years and still lives with the Bush family. The cat was named for the baseball player Rubén Sierra, or "El Indio." India is shy and reclusive, preferring to work out of the spotlight.

Eye on the Presidency: Perhaps the most famous cat in presidential politics is Morris the Cat. Morris was well aware of the prejudice against cats in the political process and tried to change it. Using his natural charm and rugged good looks, Morris ran for President of the United States in 1988 and 1992. His was an effective campaigner; actually becoming better known than the other candidates; at least among a certain demographic. Unfortunately, this demographic was too young to vote. Morris's candidacy stalled when it was discovered that there is a little known clause in the Constitution forbidding cats to run for public office.

But his point was made. He gave cats an important voice in the political process. Cats since then have taken a more active role in our government and continue to make strides. Their contributions have been recognized and they are no longer considered "second fiddle" to dogs.