America’s Fascination with Cats

Last month, I was watching my hometown baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, play the San Francisco Giants, [a]nd when it came time to throw out the first pitch, it was thrown out by Grumpy Cat, an Internet celebrity cat known for her grumpy facial expressions. […]

This is not the first time a cat has thrown out the first pitch at a ballgame. Last year, Tara the Cat, who was made famous in a YouTube video that [showed her saving] a four-year-old boy from a dog attack in Bakersfield, Calif., threw out the first pitch at the minor league Bakersfield Blaze baseball game. Obviously, these cats don’t have the paw strength to reach home plate, so to have these cats honored in this esteemed American tradition says a lot about our respect for these pets.

Domesticated cats have a long and rich history, according to the Smithsonian. Cats were first domesticated 12,000 years ago in the Middle East as people abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and settled permanently to [farm] and [store] grain, which attracted rodents. The wildcats preyed on the rodents and stuck around these early towns. In Egypt, the African wildcat was domesticated to control the vermin that was harming the crops and causing diseases. These cats controlled the rat population, reducing deaths, and allowed a larger supply of food for the poor. Because they changed the quality of life for Egyptians, cats became sacred creatures representing life and associated with the goddesses Bast, Isis and Pasht. If an Egyptian killed a cat, they were immediately given the death penalty.

Egyptian traders brought cats to Europe, Greece and the Romans. All of these civilizations used the cats to control the pest population, and the King of Wales also made killing a cat punishable by death, [b]ut during the Middle Ages, cats were associated with superstitions and witchcraft, sin, and Satan. When the plague started in 1348, […] rulers ordered the killing of cats that were thought to carry the devil’s disease. Ironically, because of the mass killing of cats, the rodent population exploded and worsened the spread of disease. The mass killing of cats costs millions of lives in Europe.

Cats were [then] used on ships to control the rodent population, and when Christopher Columbus discovered America, cats on board […] his ship were left behind and flourished to become the American Shorthair cat. Fast forward to today, and in the 1990s, cats overtook the dog as the world’s most common pet, where there are now 500 million domestic cats worldwide!

[A]ccording to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), there are 86 million owned cats [in the United States today], compared to 78 million dogs. Thirty-nine percent of American households own a dog, [however], compared to 33 percent owning cats. […] A total of 70 million U.S. homes—or 63%—own at least one companion animal. There are 54,000 veterinarians [nationwide] taking care of these animals, which is a 55% increase […] in just the last 15 years!

[I]n 2012, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis started the Internet Cat Video Film Festival to showcase the best in cat videos. They receive 10,000 submissions annually of one-minute videos and pick the top 70, which are [then] shown at the film festival. When over 10,000 people showed up for this event, it became so popular that it has led to international tours of the program, and they had their 2015 edition launch a couple of months ago. We noticed on our Facebook page that every time we post a picture of a cat, it is liked or shared thousands of times, [s]o if so many of us take the time to smile, laugh and gush about cats, why are so many of them in trouble?

There are over 5,000 animal shelters nationwide, according to [the] Statistic Brain [Research Institute]. Five million animals enter these shelters, and 3.5 million are euthanized. Sixty percent of dogs are euthanized, and 70% of cats entering shelters are euthanized. Only 2% of the cats are actually returned to their owners. Two billion dollars of taxpayer money is used annually to round up, house, kill and dispose of homeless animals.

October 29th is National Cat Day, which has now been celebrated for 10 years. For those of us who love animals, we should not just be rejoicing only one day this month, because it is our duty every day to help these defenseless animals who have no voice for themselves. There are plenty of concerned organizations that need our support to help reduce the staggering amount of neglected pets. Donate to great nonprofits like the ASPCA, the Humane Society, the American Humane Association, or […] find a shelter near you through the Shelter Pet Project. […] If you cannot support these helpless animals with money, donate your time to help care for them at the shelters. All shelters welcome people who will feed, walk and groom these ignored cats.

Cats provide therapeutic benefits for many of life’s invisible scars. They help us socially and emotionally. The unconditional love cats give us transcends work issues, family conflicts and death. Cats don’t care about the color of your skin, whether you can read or not, or if you are missing a limb. […] Donate to cat shelters and organizations that care for these innocent animals. Volunteer at your local shelter to help cats cope with being alone. No one wants to be alone, and your simple act of kindness goes a long way for cats that can’t speak up for themselves.

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