There is a fine dividing line between celebrating a disabled cat and exploiting a disabled cat. Like anyone who cares, I like the former and dislike the latter. I would like to try and distinguish one from the other in this post.
However, before I start I accept that people will disagree with me. I accept other people’s ideas and thoughts. That is fine. I just have the opportunity to express mine. You can do the same in a comment.
This is a subject that is rarely if ever aired on the internet. It is about time that it was because there is no doubt in my mind that there is exploitation of disabled cats; indeed of cats in general. I have done it myself in a mild way. I should know.
What do I mean by celebrating and exploiting?
Celebrating the Disabled Cat
What is the primary motivation of the person presenting the disabled cat to the world in a video, a picture or a book?
If the person wants to show how disabled cats manage so well when disabled and use that to inspire people, then any works featuring the cat are likely to be a celebration of the disabled cat. What is underpinning these projects is respect for the cat. I keep on saying that. The primary objective is not money.
However, if the primary objective is to use a disabled cat to make money on YouTube or through advertising on a webpage, then it is exploitation. Disabled cats are very easy to exploit. They are interesting and they tug at the heartstrings of viewers. This is a good combination from which to make money through Google’s Adsense advertising. Please remember that YouTube allows advertising on videos. People can choose to place adverts on their videos if they are partners. The restriction that only YouTube partners can advertise may have changed loosened by the way.
How do you tell if a person’s primary objective is to make money from a disabled cat?
Well….simple, crude videos of disabled cats doing slightly strange things or looking strange with neither a positive commentary nor an attempt to convert that imagery to something good is a sign that the cat’s owner and video maker is exploiting his or her cat.
Alternatively, if the video maker or author promotes and explains the abilities of a disabled cat and shows how a disabled cat can live a good life; this for me is celebrating the beauty of creating a full life from a bad start in life. There is always an inspirational element.
Examples of Exploitation of Disabled Cats or Abnormal Cats
I have bundled abnormal cats into this section. A good example of exploitation of the cat is the so called “ugly cat“. Cats that are badly bred by cat breeders can have extreme or deformed anatomical features that make them appear ugly to humans. People exploit this to get visitors to their site or to view their video because images of these cats are interesting to many people. People are fascinated by the weird, unusual and extreme.
I have said that the well known Grumpy Cat is an example of the exploitation of a disabled cat. I am told she has been checked out for health issues and is OK. I could not find that information on the internet but no doubt it is there somewhere. The information should be prominent.
Also, I argue whether anyone, vets included, know if this cat is free of discomfort. You cannot realistically, with 100% certainty, diagnose a disabled cat as being free of discomfort or even of persistent low grade pain. As a disabled cat might have pain as a side effect of their disablement, you can’t present that cat in videos without being accused of exploitation.
Also, there is nothing in the Grumpy Cat videos that inspire me. The videos have been made (a) to amuse and (b) to make some money. This is exploitation.
Here is a video I made of Charlie that I now consider a mild form of exploitation. It is quite positive and empowering but in all consciousness it is slightly exploitative. I made it a few years ago and have changed my views on this since. I know it is exploitation because I was keen to try and produce another video for my YouTube channel. What should I do? The biggest problem for video makers, cat picture websites and indeed any website is material – what to put on the internet? This can easily lead to abuse and exploitation of disabled or funny looking cats.
Cat abuse in online material emanates from a desire to compete successfully with other website owners or video makers. The market is competitive. This encourages exploitation.
An Example of Celebrating the Disabled Cat
Elisa recently built a page about Homer’s health. Homer is a blind rescue cat. He behaves in an inspirational way. I have not read Gwen Cooper’s books about Homer. However, I sense they are optimistic and inspirational books.
A classic case of celebrating the disabled cat is Elisa’s diary in posts about her rescue cat Sealy. He lost an ear when getting warmed up in the engine compartment of a car. This is a relatively minor disability for a cat but the whole story is about how he recovered through long term, patient care. This promotes good cat caretaking and celebrates the beauty of the disabled cat.
We should not be amused by the disabled cat. We should be inspired. We should feel for the disabled cat and wish them well. All cats are equal. We should respect them equally.