Bruce Watson: Dinah the Cat is ready for her close-up

Last modified: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
LEVERETT — Dinah is distressed. Life as a cat in our house is rather dull, so every morning Dinah tries to perk us up by meowing and crying and carrying on in a manner that often lands her outside (hitting the ground on all fours but just barely.)

My wife and I have asked ourselves why Dinah is such a whiner. Needs food? No, her bowl brims. Water? She sips from the dog’s bowl. Might she miss her old feline pal Dorian, aka Fatty, who disappeared last summer, the victim of either boredom or coyotes? Perhaps, but then there are her paws. Owing to the common feline extra claw, Dinah’s front paws look like catcher’s mitts. Who wouldn’t whine walking around on catcher’s mitts all day?

Still, Dinah, a striped tabby with a look of keen curiosity, has always had mutant paws and only lately has she taken to reminding us each morning of The Terrible Twos. Luckily for this flying cat — MEOWWWWW!!! Have a nice landing! — I have discerned the source of her distress.

Only the other day, Dinah looked at me as if to say, “Call yourself a cat owner, Bub? Why aren’t I on YouTube yet?” And suddenly it struck me. Every last cat in America has had its 0:37 of fame on YouTube. Log on. Wait it out through the movie trailers. Skip this ad and that, dodge whatever is “Recommended for You,” and there on parade are America’s cutest, fattest, scariest cats.

Cats sucking vacuum cleaners. Cats stuck in paper bags. Cats whose meows, their owners insist, hum the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Cats as fat as pillows. Creepy humanoid cats you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. Cats who look like Gandhi, cats who bark, tap dance, rap, sing an aria from “Rigoletto.” The parade goes on and, while occasionally funny or sometimes pathetic, I think we can all agree that it’s also sick.

Now that YouTube is America’s Cat Hall of Fame, cat videos are our best evidence of the Decline of Western Civilization. True, the Egyptians worshipped cats. And a town in Belgium has an annual cat parade. But Cleopatra and the Belgians never let their cats climb in the toilet, let alone expect that the world would want to share in the sheer delight. And what will future civilizations, plowing through our ruins, our garbage, our digital demise, think of us when they see that a video of two cats pawing each other in a “pat-a-cake” got 19 million hits?

So no, Dinah. We have never whipped out the camcorder to make you famous. We have never followed you around hour after hour in hopes you might suddenly resemble Churchill or get trapped in a sock or unexpectedly cough up a hair ball shaped like Donald Trump. For reasons difficult to explain to a cat with catcher’s mitt paws, we refuse to contribute to the Decline of Western Civilization.

Besides, what would your 0:37 of YouTube fame look like? Would a video of you meowing like a banshee get 19 million hits? Even 19? Is America’s insatiable cat-video cult ready to see a striped tabby with a keenly curious look landing barely on all fours after a flight out the front door? And frankly, the cinematic potential for the rest of your day, invariably spent on the couch, sleeping, does not meet even YouTube’s lax standards.

So let the cats of America embarrass themselves. Let them continue getting stuck in shoe boxes, swelling to the size of watermelons, humming a few bars of “Dixie.” Let cats and their owners delude themselves into thinking we are laughing with them.

Right. Funny cat video. Show us another. And another. And another. But Dinah won’t be in the parade. Dinah is distressed but what can we do? Still, those paws are rather cute.

Bruce Watson’s column appears twice a month. He can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.