Celebrating or Exploiting the Disabled Cat?

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?

Respecting the disabled cat

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.

Facebook Discussion


Celebrating or Exploiting the Disabled Cat? — 15 Comments

  1. I think this article makes some really good points. Things you’ve raised relating to the way videos are shot & openness of information about the cat and owners given are very important & speak volumes. These are things I’ve been wondering about when looking at the grumpy cat websites. There is only brief mention that the grumpy cat ‘probably’ has some genetic disorder, yet they avoid going into much detail, instead saying they didn’t want to stress her out with medical tests, as she seems happy & healthy. Obviously we’ve only got their word on how healthy or happy she really is.

    The amount of brilliantly shot photo stills of her out there, compared to few videos is telling. From the videos you can see she often seems a bit slow in her reactions when playing, she struggles with walking distances, or moving between height levels, & sometimes is obviously tired & uninterested despite their filming. I suspect had there been as many videos as photos of her, we would notice the true extent of her disabilities, which they are able to downplay at the moment.

    There is also some debate on the net as to how the grumpy cat got her name “Tard”. Some have observed that in early videos she was just known as “Tard” (not Tarder Sauce) which some have interpreted to be a crude reference to her disabilities. Obviously that is just speculation and is impossible to prove or disprove either way.

      • It’s so nice to read a comment from someone else obviously as concerned about Grumpy Cat as we are!
        People who think it’s funny are in denial about the way the poor creature creeps away to hide in the video on the ‘What is wrong with Grumpy cat’ article, she wants peace from cameras and attention.
        A happy healthy cat doesn’t hide away!

  2. Great article. The market and money, as we know, has very little or no principle most of the time. It’s usually a purely opportunistic system so there is no surprise when it comes to making money in any way involving animals – that it exploits. Of course all the cattle and fish and etc that we consume get a really bad end of it. The fact that we also exploit cats just goes to show that we will do it to almost anything or anyone. We do it indirectly to people too. Next time you buy a cheap peice of clothing you are exploiting people and maybe animals too. This cat video business is just the blunt edge of that sword. It says that we even exploit the ones we love and live with. Thats how ridiculous humans are – they often have no shame nor integrity, especially when it comes to animals. Sad but true and nothing new. We should try to teach children otherwise since our generations are not going to make it right.

    • Children can change it but it is unlikely they will because they are taught by the wrong people. The human is inherently an abusive, insensitive animal 😉 There are exceptions thank heavens. One of the great problems is that the exploitative human thinks he is wonderful and is completely immune to self-doubt. He has cast-iron confidence in his behavior. He has no idea he is exploiting his cat in his precious video.

  3. I enjoyed watching your video of Charlie again, Michael. He looks a lot like Monty, but his meow is very different from Monty’s. Monty has a high pitched, pretty little meow. Charlie’s makes him sound very demanding. To post a video of a human you’d want to get permission. That would just be the right thing to do. We can’t ask our cats if it’s ok to share pictures and videos of them. I think Charlie would be ok with it.

    • Yep, Charlie is demanding. He has some Siamese in him. He is a Siamese cat without the white bit in the middle 😉 And yes, we should ask for permission. As we can’t we have an extra duty to be very careful and proper when we use our cats in videos and pictures etc. to make money from them.

  4. I currently have two blind cats—–one of which was rescued from a hoarder and one who was rescued from abuse. I’ve had many blind cats——-someday I promise to write about the first one. her name was Marshmallow and she changed everyone in the family for the better. I’ve had diabetics, amputees, and just very old ones. Some of these lived with me all their lives——others came to me at the end for what another rescuer described as hospice care. I’ve loved them all and learned from them all.

  5. I agree with the posters above- context is everything. I have a houseful of partial cats ( I joke that if you put all my cats together I really only have 3 whole cats so that is not too many) but I think that seeing that animals that are missing parts or have needs, are not disposable or throw away- and that they can live happy, joyful, enthralling lives with the people that love them! People should never shy away from a tripod ( 3-legger) or pirate ( one-eyed) or even blind cats- they do just fine and humble me every day of my life.

  6. People fell in love with Sealy from the very beginning of his story. I hope to use him to raise awareness of car fan blade dangers.I also hope to encourage people to think before having an injured cat euthanised because many can recovery from a serious injury if given time. Sealys quite a character. His mental challenges outweigh the physical, but he’s improving. If any of the other cats come over to play he falls over on his side and doesn’t move. This is what he does at the vet.

    One thing I like about Gwen is she donates a % of her sales to cats in need.

  7. Hi Michael,

    That’s an important distinction. It matters how the video is framed.

    I agree that it should contain positive commentary. It should explain a cat’s abilities and talk about how the cat has become well adjusted and content in spite of deformities.

    It might even take the fear out of adopting a disabled cat and perhaps even inspire someone to adopt and take care of cat with special needs.

    I’m against exploitative videos that exist simply to earn money and fame (which tends to also translate into even more money).

    Solution – I’ve been concerned and offended by some of the exploitative animal videos and was wondering what to do about it. I think complaining to video hosting sites and bringing it to the attention of PETA would be a good start. It should be stopped.

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

  8. This is a good subject that might promote comments from either side. I personally think that seeing a three legged cat thriving in a respectful attentive home situation promotes the rescue of perfectly fine pets. Cat House on the Kings had a long run of Facebook posts of Marmalady, a ginger three legged kitten that was rescued from sure death and eventually adopted into a loving home. Elisa demonstrates this often as well. I think it is educational, informative and probably saves lives of disabled cats. I don’t see it as exploitation.

    Grumpy cat is another issue. I hope he is happy and not hurting.

    • Thanks dw. The thing is although I love Charlie and respect him totally I did make the video to add to my YouTube Channel. That was the motivator – not very pure.

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