Failing to make everyone laugh, the LolCats, these improbable photos of cats diverted on the Net and captioned with anthropomorphizing remarks, did no harm to anyone. The same cannot be said for the new fashion consisting in disguising and staging your cat to make Internet users laugh… at your expense.
Pirate, nurse, samurai, sunflower, lion, guitarist, Santa Claus… Today, there are countless costumes that you can buy for your cat, online or in store, for 15 to 20 euros, with even the possibility to get the “kitten” size. To do what ? To make his community laugh and pile up likes. Mersha, a little black cat living in the United States and wearing a new costume every day, has more than 100,000 subscribers.
At first glance, we don’t see the problem: Mersha looks comfortable and seems inclined to play the game. But make no mistake: it’s not because a cat does not struggle, does not try to scratch, bite or run away, that it appreciates what is done to it. For Claude Béata, veterinarian specializing in behavioral medicine, we are faced with a case of acquired resignation (or even learned helplessness): “At some point, the cat thinks that it is no longer useless to react, he won’t escape his fate, so he stops reacting and waits for it to happen”. Resigned and inhibited, in short, by uncomfortable situations for him, the cat is in fact very, very uncomfortable, which external signs also translate: flattened ears, slightly squinted eyes, yawning, licking of the chops, hyper-salivation or even the tip of the tail only which moves very slowly, must challenge.
“Fear of reprisals”
Admittedly, these disguise sessions only take a few minutes, and one blow is not enough to traumatize a cat, but the regularity of these situations of discomfort can be enough, even if the cat keeps a countenance each time, to upset it, and , ultimately, to alter its trust in its owner. Subjected to repeated stress, he can even develop chronic anxiety which then leads to a state of depression, with a cascade of behavioral problems: the cat is unclean, becomes bulimic and puts on weight, grooms excessively, causing alopecia, lives in the ground or then becomes aggressive for no apparent reason. Stress also decreases the immune defenses, is it important to remember.
All that to post a photo of his cat dressed as a Ninja? “I am almost more embarrassed by those who like or share this content than by those who do,” admits Claude Beata, author of “La folie des chats”, to be published soon. The success of these photos is such that what could only be a joke has almost become a business for some, eager to monetize the staging of their animal puppets.
Not everyone is fooled, however. “It annoys me that people send me these kinds of videos,” Anne-Marie tells us. There is no docility from the animal, just the fear of reprisals or the expectation of repeated rewards. » Valérie reminds us that « an animal is not a toy or a foil. It is a sentient being under our responsibility; our duty is to assure him the most peaceful and happy life possible. By meeting the needs specific to its species. And a cat never needed to be disguised. Except maybe Puss in Boots.
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*Hélène Gateau, author of this article, is a journalist specializing in the animal world, after having been a veterinarian.