Scrolling through 26 Photos Of Pets Pretending To Apply For A Reverse Mortgage on the internet will surely help to Restore Your Faith In Humanity, but seeing them in real life paraded around on heavily-sponsored publicity tours will restore your misanthropy in short order.
Take Grumpy Cat, the most talked and Tweeted about celebrity animal at SXSW by far. The cat is at the Mashable tent, where she has been receiving visitors (like the Queen! Who is a human!) for days—this video shows hundreds waiting in line. Grumpy's owners—who are earning a pretty big paycheck and reaping some nice benefits through their cat (who also shot a Friskees commercial)—told ABC News, “A lot of people think we are exploiting the cat, we limit her exposure greatly. She is only here for an hour at a time. Ninety-nine percent of the time she is just a regular cat. She is not front of the camera at all times." But the internet tells a different story, showing huge crowds of people waiting to meet her, flashing cameras, and plenty of cloying hands holding and posing with her. The cat doesn't just look grumpy, it looks uncomfortable.
— Lindsey Weber (@lindseyweber) March 10, 2013
— Emily Price (@Emily) March 8, 2013
Whoever the man behind the curtain of Internet Famous Animals is, he's got power, because oddly, PETA seems okay with all of this! This thing goes deep. The organization's Media Officer Wendy Wegner told us yesterday:
"From what we understand, Grumpy Cat is now receiving visitors at SXSW only two hours a day and very few people are allowed to handle her—usually, the people lined up to meet her are allowed only to take photographs, so that’s a good thing. Every cat is different, and some don’t mind traveling and attention—but all cats like to sleep during the day, they need their down time, and they don’t relish being handled nonstop. That’s why it’s important to be sensitive to the unique needs of each cat. And when traveling is necessary, always follow PETA’s tips to keep animals safe and comfortable and never allow animals to fly in the cargo hold."
Grumpy Cat's appearance at SXSW isn't the first time an Internet Famous animal or animal species has stepped out of its comfort zone for a PR tour. Earlier this year several animals visited the Buzzfeed offices in Manhattan (where Grumpy Cat also dropped by last year), and photos of a miniature horse surrounded by "fans" were plastered all over the internet. At that time, PETA told us that they sent Buzzfeed the below message, adding, "we are hopeful that we've seen the last of its wild- and exotic-animal visitors."
"Torn away from their mothers as infants, wild animals used for entertainment are subjected to abusive training methods and denied everything that is natural and important to them, including adequate space, proper exercise, and companionship. Abusive training methods are common, as trainers strive to suppress the instinctive behavior that makes wild animals so dangerous to humans. It's common for trainers to resort to beatings, shock devices, whips, and food deprivation in order to keep wild animals under their control. And since captive wild animals often exhibit abnormal behavior as a result of captivity-induced stress, such displays fail to teach people about the real nature of the animals."
Requests for a comment from Buzzfeed on this went unanswered.
So is this practice humane? Should owners of Internet Famous animals be putting their pets through the publicity machine? Let's turn to one of the most famous internet cats, Maru. Maru has a fiercely protective human, and sources tell us that cat has turned down plenty of publicity opportunities, even those that would have allowed the cat to remain at home. And we can't think of one good reason to not follow Maru's lead—so keep your pets at home. Upload photos and videos and start Twitter handles for them, but IRL, let cats be cats.