Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

Checkers cat costumes create contrary catfight. Compassionate cat critics cry cruelty.

Okay, my awful alliteration abuse aside, these are the kinds of headlines surrounding a animal rights flap taking place in my area.

Tampa-based Checkers Drive-In Restaurants recently re-released a commercial starring a rapping feline named, of course, RapCat.

When it was first released last Fall, it was an "overnight success", according to a Checker's spokesman. I loved the commercial when I first saw it, both for the Right-side vs. Left-side aspect, as well as RapCat. I still love it, and walk around singing the RapCat song after I see the commercial again ... and sometimes just because. People, and my own cats, give me odd looks when I do. I don't know why. ^.^;;

Watch the commercial for yourself and decide if RapCat is stupid or genius. Either way, I bet you get the meow rap song stuck in your head. ~.^

The commercial spawned dozens of letters and emails to Checkers requesting RapCap merchandise.

Now, RapCat has his own official website at http://www.rap-cat.com/ where you can get RapCat merchandise (coming soon), download RapCat themed goodies, read RapCat's bio, and watch RapCat's Music Video World Premiere on March 5th!

Wrap Your Rap Cat in RapCat's Wrapper!Checkers even has carry-out bags emblazoned with RapCat's jersey design. Instructions on the bag tell fans how they can dress their own cat like RapCat:

1) Cut out the holes
2) Put YOUR cat in the bag
3) Submit the best pics/vids of your cat keepin' it real ...

Herein lies the problem.

At least according to Hillsborough County Animal Services.

They issued an advisory on Monday asking people not to put their cats into the bags. Their fear is that a cat or cat owner will be hurt stuffing a cat into one of the bags. The department also stated in a news release that if someone does force a cat into a bag, they could be charged with animal cruelty. A First Offense comes with a stiff $300 fine and arrest.


I mean, okay, it's probably not the nicest thing you could do to your cat, but I don't think it is cruelty. Not any worse than the pet apparel you can find in most pet stores. How about those ridiculous costumes for animals? Are those cruel? (Well, actually, yeah they are cruel to the people who have to look at the poor animal in its stupid outfit).

Let's take it a step further ...

Is it cruel to force men to wear constricting neck ties to work? How about women forced to wear hot pantyhose or feet twisting heels? What about our put-upon children whom we dress in school uniforms and march them off into the halls of conformity? (Note: I like school uniforms, keeps my budget down. hehe)

The Hillborough County Animal Services Animal Ordinance describes animal cruelty as:

  1. Unnecessarily overloading, overdriving, tormenting, depriving of necessary sustenance, shelter, or medical care, or unnecessarily mutilating, or killing any ANIMAL or causing the same to be done, or carrying in or upon any VEHICLE, or otherwise, any ANIMAL in a cruel or inhumane manner.
  2. Intentionally committing an act to any ANIMAL which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done.
  3. Poisoning a DOG, CAT, FERRET, PET PIG, or other pet ANIMAL.

I suppose some may consider placing a cat into a paper outfit tormenting, or even infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering. I don't see how it's painful unless you violently wrestle the cat in. The bag would likely be ripped to shreds if the cat really, really didn't want in. It'd be more painful to you if your cat has all its claws. Sharp, needle point claws.

I get shredded by my cat because I clip his claws. He hates it. With a passion. I force him to do it for his safety, and ours. This involves me physically restraining him. He hates that even more. Is that abuse. Am I being cruel to my cat? Does it hurt him? No.

Putting your cat into a paper bag outfit is not torment, it's just stupid. Funny, perhaps. Maybe even cute. But stupid.

Checkers even includes a warning on the bag stating, "Not all cats will be down with wearing this bag. Do not harm or endanger any cats."

Yeah, it's probably meant more for legal protection than actually warning that some (ha! most) cats won't like it, or to avoid hurting them in the process. Still, anyone who tries this will find out very fast if their cat will submit to the indignation of it or not. I say not.

You may remember my previous blog entry about tape and cats? We showed how cat fur acts like a sensory organ, making the cat try to "get away" from the pressure of the tape (or clothing, or paper sacks). Most cats simply do not like it. The same applies with the RapCat bag outfit.

Sure, you will get an amusement factor from it, and it won't actually harm the animal, but you may stress it some. And it probably won't be happy with you for a while. And, I don't see how it's cruelty any more than a leash, collar, or other cat apparel.

See how this cat, named Tufts, reacts when put in the RapCat bag:

Tufts doesn't particularly care for her new wardrobe, but she is not overly stressed. As shown with cellophane tape, Tufts seems more concerned from getting away from the strange pressure sensation than actually upset. She appears to go check her food bowl; not a sign of a distressed cat. Her tail swishes in annoyance, but it is not down or curled under with anger or distress. She even seems to be purring at one point. Of course, an argument can be made that cats are known to purr when in extreme distress ... usually when seriously injured, however.

A local station, Fox13, posted a news story on the whole RapCap and bag thing while I was writing and researching this article. I could have saved myself some time. *sigh* Watch their news video for more info.

Seems to me they are playing it slanted towards sensationalism. I'll post updates on this as I learn them.

It's lunchtime now ... I'm going to Checkers. ~.^

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 51 days is:



Girl said...

it is awfull!

Raivynn said...

The commercial, the bag, RapCat himself? All of it? :D

I joked about going to Checkers. I don't particularly like their food. Especially after they stopped selling apple nuggets. Mmmmmmmmm

And, I wouldn't stuff either of my cats into one of those bags. Not because it's cruel, or even stupid. I just don't want to get clawed to death. ~.^

Doug E. Pudge said...

Raivynn, after seeing and reading this I completely understand why you and bruiser are friends! B4T

Bruiser said...

For the same reason that you and I are friends, Doug. And the same reason that you and Raivynn would be good friends if you knew each other better. We're all sick, twisted individuals.

But what I wanted to say was this: If we aren't allowed to put the cat in the stupid bag, then how could we possibly use "okay, who let the cat out of the bag" when it broke free?

Anonymous said...

I found your blog while searching for info on the Rapcat bag controversy. You have the most sensible take on this whole matter. There are things we have to do to cats for their well-being (like restraining them at the vets or giving them shots) that are more "cruel" than putting on a bag costume. If putting a bag on a cat is cruelty, then I must have suffered child abuse when my mother made me wear scratchy, uncomfortable dresses as a child. (And I don't think of myself as a child abuse victim.) Why don't they get on the people on stuffonmycat.com who have been doing this sort of thing a lot longer than Checkers? Ridiculous. Even according to the definition, this is not animal abuse. The Animal Control Dept jumped the gun and is being overly sensitive, and the media is hyping this for the ratings. It may be stupid, and it may be uncomfortable, but the bag is not abuse.

Raivynn said...

Thanks for the comment. I agree the HCAS jumped the gun. It was all precipitated by some of their employees going to Checkers and noticing the bag their meals came in.

I had no real problem with the department issuing a warning that stuffing a cat into the sack might be a Bad Thing™. But to threaten arrest and fines for it? Sheesh!

Pina Colada said...

If putting a cat in a paper bag is abuse, then Paris Hilton needs to be hunted down and arrested for torturing poor little Tinkerbelle!

Seriously, if the cat is high strung enough not to like it, the owner shouldn't be stupid enough to try it. I'm motivated now to locate a RapCat bag for my own little feline. :D He actually likes to get into bags, so I am sure that this will be no different.