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  • Molly Kelsey

Is It Worth The Views? Distressed Cats And Viral Videos




If you’re like me, a cute viral video from various social media platforms of a cat doing what cats do can bring a smile to my face. Our cats are wonderful individuals, and their antics are a source of joy for us bipedal beings. With social media being the focus of many people’s interaction with others across the globe (especially during a pandemic) there are millions upon millions of videos featuring cats being shared every single day. While some of these videos feature happy, secure cats doing their best to make our days brighter, some videos are orchestrated at the cost of a cat’s mental well-being, and their sense of safety and control.



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You might remember the trend last year where people would place a cucumber on the ground behind their cat and then grab their attention, causing them to turn around and see the cucumber on the floor. Most if not all these videos show a cat that is very much afraid - some are seen jumping in the air, yowling, running into a glass door to get away or urinating on the spot frozen in fear. I love pranks as much as the next person, but cats cannot comprehend or consent to being involved in such a debacle. Videos like this attract millions of views and are shared rapidly online with most reactions being positive. This is where the issue lies. Is the mental well-being of a cat worth numbers or comments from strangers on a screen?




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When we use cat’s (or any animal for that matter) as props for our entertainment at the cost of their well-being, we are not doing right by them. Many of us are not aware of a cat’s behavioural cues and body language that might indicate pain, distress, or fear. This is part of the reason why some videos of a cat that is displaying signs of distress go viral. Another example of this troubling trend is videos of ‘grumpy cats’ where a person further agitates an unsettled cat to illicit a response that some people find amusing such as growling or swiping at the person bothering them. These cats could be in significant distress and may even need veterinary attention. By learning more about their cat’s behaviour and body language, I believe this kind of thing can be avoided and instead make way for more video content that is made to not only entertain but also enrich a cat’s life. For example, videos of cats being trained using positive reinforcement to do tricks like ‘high-five’ or ‘play dead’ are enjoyable not only for us to watch but are also enjoyable for the cat and the person working with them in the video.


Cats have evolved to survive by relying on hiding vulnerability and because of this it is our responsibility as cat-guardians to take the time to educate ourselves about what a happy vs unhappy cat looks like. There are many fantastic resources for identifying behavioural cues from a cat’s body language at the end of this article. International Cat Care have recently launched an international campaign to educate the public about this issue by creating awareness advertisements on social media platforms that are queued before a video with keywords such as ‘funny cat’ or ‘cat being grumpy’ will play.


Despite the sheer volume of these videos available online I am cautiously optimistic that with education and awareness, less cats will be subjected to situations that potentially cause distress or injury to them for the sake of human entertainment. Remember cats cannot speak for themselves, so it is up to us to advocate for their emotional and physical well-being.


Give your cat a treat and chin rub for me,

Molly







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