The Language of Prejudice Against Cats

The language of prejudice
The language of prejudice
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The English Language can sometimes be used in a subtle way which is derogatory to cats. This sort of language is used by people who dislike cats. They may use it without really being aware of what they’re saying. The meaning and motivation is hidden. One example is a recent headline used in a CBS news story which states, “Why Does a Pennsylvania City Smell like Cat Urine”.

In my opinion, this is the language of prejudice against cats or a bias against cats. It is quite subtle but it is critical of the domestic cat. More importantly, actually, the headline is critical of cats that are allowed outside and particularly stray or feral cats. In short, it is a subtle and indirect criticism of feral cats and there are already enough of those sorts of people who are quite frankly ignorant of the entire feral cat situation.

I don’t like the language of prejudice. There is no need for it. The headline could have been, “Why Does This Pennsylvania City Smell of Urine?”, or “Why does This Pennsylvania City Smell Bad?” or “Why Does This Pennsylvania City Smell of Dog Feces?” (prejudice against dogs).

The first two would have been a neutral headline. There is no need to mention the cat although the reason why the cat was mentioned is because cat urine smells very strongly and is persistent but despite that there was no need to mention it because I can be certain that the bad smell that pervades a certain part of this Pennsylvania city, New Castle, is neither as strong nor a persistent as the smell of cat urine.

It just made a more punchy headline to the detriment of the domestic and stray cat. I’m not a politically correct person. I don’t like to criticise people for using prejudiced language but I see too much of it, on the internet, in relation to the cat. It is a leaking-out from a person of a dislike for the cat through the use of the English language.

Examples of the use of the language of prejudice in areas which are not concerned with domestic or stray cat are, for example, “you’re pretty strong for a girl” and “male nurse” and “black lawyer”. The first one indicates that girls are weak which is a derogatory comment made in a very subtle way. The other indicates that nurses are rarely male and lawyers are rarely black. Once again, by implication, they are derogatory remarks. They conjure up images which are not constructive to a more cohesive society. They are prejudiced. They are barriers to men being nurses and black people being lawyers.

The language of prejudice is used all the time and everywhere. As I said, it leaks out of a prejudiced person without them almost realising it. And probably the most difficult thing to admit is that we are all either prejudiced or at least potentially prejudiced because it is very difficult indeed to maintain a totally unbiased neutral position in day-to-day living; this is the human condition. We need to be aware of this.

As my role is to defend the domestic and stray cat I have to criticise people especially journalists who use prejudiced English language. If a person doesn’t like cats they should say it and explain why. We can then put them straight 😉 .

7 thoughts on “The Language of Prejudice Against Cats”

  1. I think a lot of people just say things without thinking, not only about cats, although cat haters do like to demean them every chance they get.
    Some sayings don’t even make sense like ‘He was as drunk as a newt’ But newts don’t drink alcohol! ‘Pig ignorant’ But pigs are far from ignorant, they are very clever.
    Human beings think themselves so far above animals they use these words without even a thought as to how demeaning they are to other species.

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  2. Cleveland Amory was equally eloquent in deploring this tendency. He said we enjoy using names of innocent animals to disparage people we dislike: ‘snake in the grass,’ ‘skunk,’ ‘wolf,’ ’dog in the manger,’ ‘pig,’ ‘cow,’ ‘cat and catty,’ ‘hairy ape’ (Eugene O’Neill), ‘reptile,’ ‘viper,’ ‘jackass,’ ‘old goat,’ ‘silly goose,’ ‘queen bee,’ ‘shark,’ ‘worm,’ ‘rat’ (for all the harm it causes, a rat is innocence incarnate), ‘weasel’ ‘shrew,’ ‘sheep,’
    ‘leech,’ ‘toad,’ etc.

    ‘Egg’ is another word that, when it refers to the gamete of a human female, throws open the door to everyday expressions degrading to women: ‘chick,’ ‘hen,’ ‘old crow,’ ‘nesting instinct,’ ‘hen party,’ ‘pecking order,’ ‘hen-pecked,’ ‘cackling,’ ‘she nearly laid an egg,’ ‘her feathers are ruffled,’ and other avian putdowns.

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    • Excellent points. They are derogatory to both the person and the animal it seems to me. It is bad language but it is so ingrained into the English language that it is acceptable when it shouldn’t be.

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  3. Excellent discussion. Honestly speaking we all humans are prejudiced in some way or the other but some people are more open in expressing their opinions while others are good diplomats. The “Internet” has made speech easier including prejudiced remarks as people don’t personally interact with each other.I have read and heard numerous prejudiced remarks against cats and dogs.

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    • Excellent comment Rudolph. We are all prejudiced as you say and the internet encourages people to show it. Often the writer is unaware they are demonstrating their prejudices through their writing. I think as long as the writer states that it is their opinion the person is at least being honest and open. When something is presented as fact almost and it is prejudiced it can be damaging.

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  4. Cool topic.
    I can’t count the times that I’ve heard someone take a drink of something and describe it as cat piss. I also see an advert for Febreeze on the TV that claims homeowners have gone “nose blind” to the animal scents in their houses but their guests are disgusted.

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    • I can’t count the times that I’ve heard someone take a drink of something and describe it as cat piss.

      That is an excellent example, Dee.

      The language of prejudice has a negative impact. Although we can all do it. We have to be aware of it at least.

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