My Obsession With The Cat in the Shark Costume

Pets and Social Media

It began watching a cat dressed in a shark costume sitting on a Roomba (the robot vacuum cleaner) in a kitchen. “Mom” was attending to chores and the Roomba and cat slowly glided back and forth bumping into walls.

I was transfixed.

Over time, it got even better! There was a video of a young lion jumping up on a man and hugging him, a dog playing with a duck and one of Rabbits chasing cats.

It wasn’t long before it became problematic. Laurie, my wife, saw me engrossed on my computer and calmly asked what I was doing. I quickly cleared my browser history, slammed the computer closed and said, “Nothing.”

But come on! It was a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy playing with a lemon! What is more important? Watching this video or working?

I understand the larger ramifications of that question. I’m sure this shared obsession is a multi-billion drag on the economy — all that time wasted watching animals on social media. In fact, if I was president, rather than tax cuts I’d tell my fellow Americans to stop watching cats on Facebook! Seriously, get back to work! But then to show everyone that I was just a common man like them, I’d add, “Did you see the one of the dog freaking out the cats who were watching the bird through the window? Awesome!” (FYI, I am considering a run for office: #Herschforpres2020: Make America normal again)

Okay, I think we can all agree that I’ve spent enough time indulging my addiction for videos of animals on social media. So here is the question. How has Social Media changed our perception about animals?

First, I grew up in a time when animals had rigidly defined roles. Think of it this way, Wil E. Coyote would never just play or sleep with the Road Runner. Growing up, dogs hated cats, cats ate everything, horses and dogs were not friends.

Further, we (you and I and the rest of us humans) were clearly and unequivocally the cleverest of species.

Largely thanks to social media, we’ve been forced to rethink all this. Apparently, under the right circumstances, (like being raised together) even cats and chickens seem to work it out. Dogs and cats play together!

And, although I think we are still #1 on the intelligence hit list, watching crows solve problems, hearing whales communicate and watching gorillas use sign language, I’m betting that the intelligence gap between us and the rest of the animal world is a lot smaller than we previously thought. Also, the minority opinion in our household vociferously disagrees with my opinion, noting that intelligence tests were designed by humans for humans and a better test would be measuring a specie’s adaptability to their environment, or something like that. (I think I’m quoting accurately)

Next, social media has changed the landscape of animal adoptions. Shelters now have an inexpensive media to get the word out on who’s available for adoptions.

At the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society, the shift has been so dramatic that most individuals and families now come in to adopt an animal because they’ve seen it on the Shelter’s Facebook page(facebook.com/sfhumanesociety) or on Instagram. (instagram.com/sfanimalshelter)

The Shelter is riding the social media wave. They currently have 75,000 followers on Facebook. This has created quite a community of people and adopted companions. On their social media pages, there are hundreds of stories of newly adopted families as well as pets still looking for a forever home.

Then there is this. According to PRNewswire, (prenewswire.com) 65% of pet owners post about their pets at least once a week. One in six people have a social media profile for their animal and a third of owners post as much about their pets as they do their family.

My first reaction to the above news is that I better start working on a Facebook page for our dogs. Tank & Nellie get upset when they miss a trend.

Finally, I get that it’s a little weird that we are sharing our obsessions about animals with everyone in the world on social media. Maybe it is just a trend. On the other hand, partially due to all the sharing of posts of every conceivable pet and some questionable ones (snakes come to mind), let’s hope we are entering a new era of appreciation and love for our animal friends.

We’ll see. But right now, I am watching dogs sliding in snow down a ski slope. On their backs! Gotta go!.

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