Sunday, August 09, 2009

Perceptions (Again)

A real toyAnimals are who they are. This site is about raising awareness of who they are. People's perceptions about animals are often far removed from reality, and this applies even to those who are supposed to be objective observers. You can see this theme running throughout all my articles here.

Today, I write about people's perception of other people in relation to animals, housecats specifically, because this particular situation has a direct bearing on the cats' mental well-being.

Purina's division called Tidy Cats, the company that makes cat litter, conducted a survey that led to the conclusion that the majority of people who do not own cats consider those who do own more than one cat to be somewhat mentally out of balance.

Specifically, the terms used to describe those who have more than one cat were:
  • Homebody (75%)
  • Lonely (69%)
  • Crazy cat lady (58%)
Furthermore, the non-cat-owners judge the multiple-cat-owners' houses to be:
  • Smelly (75%)
  • Covered in cat hair (85%)
  • Cluttered (66%)
In the interest of full disclosure, I will say here that I share my home with 3 cats. I would also like to point out that the most common comment from strangers visiting my home, after a cat peers around the corner at the visitor is, "I didn't know you had cats!" So much for the 'smelly' myth. Part of taking proper care of cats is keeping the litter boxes clean. It's that simple.

But why should owning more than one cat be perceived as some sort of personality or mental disorder?

I would tell you that having a reasonable number of cats ("reasonable number" being defined as the number you can take proper care of; and that number will vary depending on the owner's home and abilities) is beneficial for the cats themselves.

Cats are not all loners, as popularly perceived. Last year, we adopted two kittens who had been living together. They are not litter-mates but they are very close in age. They obviously love each other very much, and enjoy each other's company immensely. They normally sleep together and play together.

(Our third cat is much older and is more likely to keep to himself, but he does play with them occasionally and enjoys watching them play at other times.)

The pure joy the cats (especially the younger two) get from each other's company, and the fun they have together, is something I would not want them to be deprived of. While any one of them could get by on his or her own, their lives are obviously enriched by having peers to be with.

So why should owning two or so cats be perceived by so many people as a problem? The people who own the cats don't perceive it that way. It's the people who don't have the experience that perpetuate the myth that it's a problem.

And so we have yet another myth involving animals that needs to be busted.

The Tidy Cats folks have a campaign going to do just that. They call it the Campaign to End Cattiness. I hope it's successful.

The less that people's perceptions of animals are clouded by myths, the better off everyone will be.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your comments. As a multi-cat owner with a clean house and former columnist for Cat Fancy, I appreciate anyone getting the word out that we are not crazy. I feel that "crazy cat lady" is about the same as some other epithets used to describe people who are different. I once rented a townhouse with seven cats. When I moved the owner said he wished the folks next door with 3 kids kept their house as clean. Karen