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When Time Predicted Cats Were the Hot New Thing

On December 7, 1981, 40 years after the bombing on Pearl Harbor, Time Magazine decided to mark the historic event with a cover story on ... cats?! Time, which once billed itself as “The Most Important Magazine to the World’s Most Important People,” scooped Newsweek with a cover story on this hot new trend. (They scooped the Internet as well.) But what may seem to the casual observer like a fluff piece was important enough that the magazine used several bureaus (including Washington’s Maureen Dowd!) to contribute to the piece.

That extra effort was worth it: At 2:27 p.m. in the afternoon, this Time Magazine officially became my favorite Time Magazine of all time (replacing this one). To celebrate, I’m sharing some of my favorite quotes from the cover story with you. Here are just a few of the wonderful indicators that showed that cats (in the ‘80s) were finally clawing their way to the top.

Indicator #1: Garfield, a comic-strip cat.

“The most famous feline to express this perplexing relationship between man and pet is Garfield, a comic-strip cat.”

In 1981, three different Garfield books were on the New York Times paperback bestseller list. One of them, Garfield at Large had been on the list for 84 weeks and had sold 2 million copies! But as the author points out, Garfield wasn’t alone. Three other cat books were also on the prestigious list, raising the total number to six cat-themed books.

Indicator #2: Cat-themed everythings had emerged. 

“Garfield and his top-selling feline pals are but one example of the cat boom in the U.S.”

America’s obsession wasn’t just limited to books. Cats had emerged as a force on Broadway. Specialty cat shops had popped up in fancy cities. Portrait artists had begun to charge $2500 to celebrate your cat.

Indicator #3: California was taking it too far.

“California, as always a seismographic chart of late-breaking obsessions, now has a cat resort, a cat department store, a cat rest home, a rent-a-cat agency, a cat dating service, cat psychics, cat acting coaches and a special annual contest to judge cats’ meows.”

Indicator #4: The numbers were strong.

“Cats, love ’em or hate ’em, are a hot number.”

In the early ‘80s, Cats were quickly gaining on dogs as pets. The story reported 34 million cats had worked their way into homes, a 55 percent increase over the last decade. And people were spending to keep those cats alive: Cat food sales would be $1.4 billion that year.

Indicator #5: Litter boxes had improved.

“Explains one close observer of the animal universe, Boston Veterinarian Jean Holzworth: “When you talk about convenience, the advent of cat litter is comparable to the invention of the electric light bulb.”

Litter boxes fueled the phenomenon of the indoor house cat. And in the ‘80s, those boxes were getting better and better: $35 litter boxes (about $95 today) had just hit the market boasting kick-proof, odor-proof technology.

Indicator #6: Breeders were getting into the act.

“Gebhardt’s glow is provided by Voodoo, a great black Persian champion who sired 200 championship kittens. Recalls Gebhardt, “Voodoo was the feline answer to Man o’ War.”

While pedigree cat breeding doesn’t bring in the same cash that dog breeding does, some cats were starting to sell for $500 to $1000.

Indicator #7: The Celebrity Cat had arrived. 

“The world’s No. 1 celebrity cat, Morris, has no problems. He is the feline Burt Reynolds...”

Between his awards, the fat cash he was making, his public adoration, his sassy jokes and his (grammatically appropriate) speech patterns, Morris wasn’t just the 9-Lives spokescat, he was a forerunner to the Cheezburger-craving cats and joke-telling felines to come.

Indicator #8: Also, they don’t give a #@%$. (But you do.)

“They pay no mind to politics, opera, opinion polls, fuel-stingy autos or nuclear proliferation. They remain unimpressed by est, Kiwanis, cocaine and PBS. Felines yawn equally at the reputations of Mick Jagger and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.”

Just to remind the reader, cats don’t care what you think … which only makes us want to impress them more?

Whatever the argument, the reporter’s prediction on the growing cat mania was dead right. Last year, an Animal Planet executive told the Boston Globe that cats and dogs were finally on equal footing, drawing equal ratings on the channel. The story also reported that there are now more pet cats in America than dogs: about 86 million to 78 million. And as one cat behaviorist told the Globe, cat lovers finally have the opportunity to show their pride: “The Internet is bringing to the surface what the truth is.”

To read J.D. Reed’s full cover story on cats, which has lots of interesting points that my mangled report didn’t include, be sure to click here.

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Animals
Sploot 101: 12 Animal Slang Words Every Pet Parent Should Know
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iStock

For centuries, dogs were dogs and cats were cats. They did things like bark and drink water and lay down—actions that pet parents didn’t need a translator to understand.

Then the internet arrived. Scroll through the countless Facebook groups and Twitter accounts dedicated to sharing cute animal pictures and you’ll quickly see that dogs don’t have snouts, they have snoots, and cats come in a colorful assortment of shapes and sizes ranging from smol to floof.

Pet meme language has been around long enough to start leaking into everyday conversation. If you're a pet owner (or lover) who doesn’t want to be out of the loop, here are the terms you need to know.

1. SPLOOT

You know your pet is fully relaxed when they’re doing a sploot. Like a split but for the whole body, a sploot occurs when a dog or cat stretches so their bellies are flat on the ground and their back legs are pointing behind them. The amusing pose may be a way for them to take advantage of the cool ground on a hot day, or just to feel a satisfying stretch in their hip flexors. Corgis are famous for the sploot, but any quadruped can do it if they’re flexible enough.

2. DERP

Person holding Marnie the dog.
Emma McIntyre, Getty Images for ASPCA

Unlike most items on this list, the word derp isn’t limited to cats and dogs. It can also be a stand-in for such expressions of stupidity as “duh” or “dur.” In recent years the term has become associated with clumsy, clueless, or silly-looking cats and dogs. A pet with a tongue perpetually hanging out of its mouth, like Marnie or Lil Bub, is textbook derpy.

3. BLEP

Cat laying on desk chair.
PoppetCloset, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you’ve ever caught a cat or dog poking the tip of its tongue past its front teeth, you’ve seen a blep in action. Unlike a derpy tongue, a blep is subtle and often gone as quickly as it appears. Animal experts aren’t entirely sure why pets blep, but in cats it may have something to do with the Flehmen response, in which they use their tongues to “smell” the air.

4. MLEM

Mlems and bleps, though very closely related, aren’t exactly the same. While blep is a passive state of being, mlem is active. It’s what happens when a pet flicks its tongue in and out of its mouth, whether to slurp up water, taste food, or just lick the air in a derpy fashion. Dogs and cats do it, of course, but reptiles have also been known to mlem.

5. FLOOF

Very fluffy cat.
J. Sibiga Photography, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Some pets barely have any fur, and others have coats so voluminous that hair appears to make up most of their bodyweight. Dogs and cats in the latter group are known as floofs. Floofy animals will famously leave a wake of fur wherever they sit and can squeeze through tight spaces despite their enormous mass. Samoyeds, Pomeranians, and Persian cats are all prime examples of floofs.

6. BORK

Dog outside barking.
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According to some corners of the internet, dogs don’t bark, they bork. Listen carefully next time you’re around a vocal doggo and you won’t be able to unhear it.

7. DOGGO

Shiba inu smiling up at the camera.
iStock

Speaking of doggos: This word isn’t hard to decode. Every dog—regardless of size, floofiness, or derpiness—can be a doggo. If you’re willing to get creative, the word can even be applied to non-dog animals like fennec foxes (special doggos) or seals (water doggos). The usage of doggo saw a spike in 2016 thanks to the internet and by the end of 2017 it was listed as one of Merriam-Webster’s “Words We’re Watching.”

8. SMOL

Tiny kitten in grass.
iStock

Some pets are so adorably, unbearably tiny that using proper English to describe them just doesn’t cut it. Not every small pet is smol: To earn the label, a cat or dog (or kitten or puppy) must excel in both the tiny and cute departments. A pet that’s truly smol is likely to induce excited squees from everyone around it.

9. PUPPER

Hands holding a puppy.
iStock

Like doggo, pupper is self-explanatory: It can be used in place of the word puppy, but if you want to use it to describe a fully-grown doggo who’s particularly smol and cute, you can probably get away with it.

10. BOOF

We’ve already established that doggos go bork, but that’s not the only sound they make. A low, deep bark—perhaps from a dog that can’t decide if it wants to expend its energy on a full bark—is best described as a boof. Consider a boof a warning bark before the real thing.

11. SNOOT

Dog noses poking out beneath blanket.
iStock

Snoot was already a dictionary-official synonym for nose by the time dog meme culture took the internet by storm. But while snoot is rarely used to describe human faces today, it’s quickly becoming the preferred term for pet snouts. There’s even a wholesome viral challenge dedicated to dogs poking their snoots through their owners' hands.

12. BOOP

Have you ever seen a dog snoot so cute you just had to reach out and tap it? And when you did, was your action accompanied by an involuntary “boop” sound? This urge is so universal that boop is now its own verb. Humans aren’t the only ones who can boop: Search the word on YouTube and treat yourself to hours of dogs, cats, and other animals exchanging the love tap.

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Martin Wittfooth
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Art
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig

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