‘Dead cat strategy’ needs to be discarded

The unfortunate and unpleasant phrase used in government and business ‘dead cat strategy’ needs to be discarded and never used again.

Currently, in the UK, there is an enquiry into how the UK government dealt with the Covid-19 crisis (very badly by all accounts). It will cost a staggering £200m! What a waste of money. More waste actually. Boris Johnson, the then Prime Minister was in charge at the time. It is said that although he has some great qualities (campaigning) , one of them is not managing a government and neither is he any good at managing a crisis such as a pandemic. It’s just not his style.

And in this enquiry one of his then advisers, Dominic Cummings, has given evidence. Cummings said Johnson had asked him to find a “dead cat” to get the pandemic off the front pages, because he was “sick” of it. So what is the “dead cat strategy”?

Dead cat strategy term. Image: MikB using Canva under license.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Dead cat strategy

The term “dead cat strategy” is derived from a colourful (sick more like) metaphor. It’s used in business and politics to divert attention away from unfortunate events that are unfolding and reported in the news media. The dead cat strategy has to be strong enough to divert this attention.

It originates in the idea that if you’re at a meeting and if someone chucks a dead cat onto the table, the participants’ attention is immediately shifted to the dead cat and away from the topic of conversation.

The strategy is useful when a government is going through a crisis and they want to get it off the news media headlines – to get news media to focus on something else; metaphorically speaking the dead cat.

It is manipulating public opinion and it’s a deliberate attempt to hide failure in government.

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Why the phrase is unwelcome to cat lovers

This particular use of the English language is unwelcome to cat lovers in my view. Perhaps many people just don’t see it as a problem and I’d understand that. But it is reflective of another unwelcome phrase which comes from the business world and which also includes the domestic cat: “dead cat bounce“.

The expression “dead cat bounce” is used in the financial markets and refers to a short lived recovery in the value of the shares in a company after a long decline. The image that is meant to be conjured up is that even a dead cat when dropped from a height will bounce a little bit. But the suggestion is that the bounceback in the share price is meaningless and has no value and that the share price will continue to decline.

It is normally the ‘bears’ who use this term to describe a downward progression of the equity in the company because the company is essentially failing.

There are two unwelcome phrases used in business and politics both of which conjure up highly unpleasant images involving the domestic cat.

I had thought that both expressions originated from many years ago but they don’t. Both were created in the past 20 years. All the more reason why they are incorrect to be used today.

My concern is that they devalue the domestic cat. And I don’t mean in terms of money but in terms of the importance that people attach to the domestic cat in their lives.

To improve cat welfare we need to attach a high importance to domestic cats. They need to be seen as precious, sentient beings engendering a lot of commitment to protect them and maintain their health and welfare. The “dead cat strategy” phrase achieves the opposite and it should be discarded.

Gender issues

And it is probable that both these phrases were conjured up by men in leading positions in politics and business. These are insensitive terms and I can’t see a businesswoman or female politician dreaming them up. You have to be somebody who is insensitive to the sentience of the domestic cat and animals in general to create this terminology and that attitude is more likely to come from men with large egos and a lot of testosterone.

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