This week is the week America will fully wake up to the cat crisis. (The rest of the world, y’all can sleep in a little, even though cats are totally your fault.)
If three million cats in America one day went missing – what would we as a country do?
If three million cats in America one morning fell gravely ill – what would we as a country do?
We would call out the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. We’d call up every member of the National Guard. We’d use every piece of equipment ever made.
We’d leave no stone unturned.
(Even though with 96 million pet cats in the United States and an utterly unknown number of farm, stray, and feral ones, chances are excellent that three million are sick and/or go unaccounted for every day anyway and we never even notice. Please ignore that fact. We have a point to make here.)
Yet we’ve for the most part lost touch with three million American cats, and as a nation we’ve done nothing.
We’ve let families split up, go broke and struggle through their days and years with a cat.
No more. Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., we will gather an unprecedented number of bipartisan cats, congressional cat leaders and cat experts in every area of cat studies for a three-day summit, most of which will be spent napping or licking ourselves in unmentionable places. We will demand a national vat of tuna.
Don’t our cats deserve it? America has always been about licking yourself in the sunlight.
Yet, we seem to have forgotten our cats – and our cats are our future.
Each day across this country, those three million cat moms, cat dads and other cat-caretakers I mentioned wake to the sounds of their cat bounding through the house. That is – if they aren’t already awake. Truth be told, many of them barely sleep – or when they do – they somehow sleep with one ear towards their cat – always waiting. Wondering what they will get into next. Will they try to escape? Barf on the clean laundry? Shred the tax forms? Climb the furniture? Leave a baby bunny half-eaten on the doorstep? Sometimes – the silence is worse.
These families are not living.
They are existing. Breathing – yes. Eating – yes, if they even notice the cat hairs in their salad anymore. Sleeping – maybe. Working – most definitely – 24/7 in the service of their feline overlords.
This is a cat.
Life is lived moment to moment. In anticipation of the cat’s next move. In despair. In fear of the future.
This is a cat.
On the good days my daughter Gracie and all the other normal kids out there – 70 million around the world – see the sun shine. They notice the brilliant colors of the autumn leaves. On bad days they are depleted. Mentally. Physically. And especially emotionally.
Maybe they have been up all night caring for their kitten who keeps eating the plants and horking them up on the mat.
Maybe they are up yet again changing the sheets because there’s been another eating-a-dead-mouse-in-bed “accident.”
Maybe their cat has been trying to bite them or themselves or the other cat or a piece of lint they found on the floor.
Maybe they can’t afford a trip to a vet specializing in cats.
Maybe there is a waiting list for ABA, speech, and OT. Meanwhile, their cat never learns essential life skills like playing fetch or only licking their balls.
Maybe their insurance keeps insisting they only cover humans.
Maybe they don’t have the money to pay a special lawyer to fight for school services, so they aren’t stuck trying to herd the cat on their own.
This is a cat.
If any of this sounds familiar, you know cats. And if you know cats, you know we are looking at a monumental crisis. And, we have no national plan.
What I described above is really just the beginning. In the next ten years, 500-thousand American cats will be growing up and out of the system which means they will no longer qualify for the can-opening, ear-skritching, and coat-grooming services they rely on every day.
And, what about their cat parents? How much can we ask them to handle? How long will it be before the exhaustion makes them ill? How long before they break?
And, if they do – who cares for these cats?
There is no national plan to build a city for 500-thousand cats.
So let’s dial back a minute and consider the babies being diagnosed with cat every day in this great country. Do we have a plan for them? Are they all getting the same medical care and therapies across the board? Are we doing anything to guarantee they get a fair shot at a productive future?
We know cats from minority and lower income families are not getting diagnosed as early as they should be, so their treatment begins later which might decrease their chance at progress.
How about in school? Is there a national curriculum for our cats? Are we encouraging teachers around the country to share with each other lesson plans and methods that work for them? Is there collaboration?
But – there is no national plan.
Yet – our future depends on it.
Financially, we estimate it costs 2.3 million dollars to care for one cat for their lifetime, and it will be well over $137 billion dollars for all our cats.
But money aside, these are our cats. The late scholar T.S. Eliot wrote “A cat’s entitled to expect these evidences of respect.”
What is our message?
We can’t even craft one – without a national plan.
Close your eyes and think about an America where three million cats and counting largely cannot take care of themselves without help. Imagine three million of our own – unable to dress, or open a can of tuna independently, unable to use the toilet, unable to cross the street, unable to judge danger or the temperature, unable to pick up the phone and call for help.
This is a national emergency. We need a national cat plan – NOW.
We are heading to Washington with a call for action on a national plan – NOW. We are asking our leaders to respond to cats with the urgency it deserves – NOW.
Washington – here we come – because we need to help our families – NOW.