You sure do see a lot of cats lately, don't you?
Whether it's on the internet, commercials or just your friends that won't let you get out of their house without showing you a picture of their cat, our feline friends seem to be enjoying a type of popularity they haven't known since ancient Egypt.
People used to worship cats back then. Of course, people back then used to build giant buildings to glorify their own image and thought living in a desert was a good idea. It was like Las Vegas, just a little less tacky.
Why, exactly, are we caring so much about cats as of late? Don't get me wrong, I don't have a particular grudge against cats. And I'm not about to get into some labored debate about cats versus dogs for the title of Superior Pet; being allergic to both means I cast my vote for the third party "fish" ticket.
When did cat obsession move from the panels of a "Cathy" comic and into the realm of real people? Try getting on Facebook without seeing a picture of someone's poor cat being forced to dress like a person. It cannot be done.
If this phenomenon was relegated entirely to the confines of the Internet I wouldn't have a problem. But rather than "cat obsession" being filed away in the deep recesses of Reddit alongside Juggalos and Bronies (look them up, if you dare) it has gone mainstream, with seemingly normal people dotting over their feline companions in a fit of cat-obsession worthy of John Arbuckle.
And I have learned to deal with all that. But the latest iteration of feline fascination has crossed the line: Institutional cats.
No, this does not mean cats with severe mental health issues, nor cats that have been in prison so long they forgot the outside world although I bet both of these already exist as memes somewhere.
I'm talking about the kind of cats you find when you're just trying to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Astute readers of A Nation Burns (all three of you) may already be familiar with this but to the uninitiated I'll briefly elucidate: I keep late hours and I enjoy smoking.
I told you it would be brief.
So on one of my frequent late night trips to a local gas station, that shall remain nameless, I filled up my tank and started to walk inside to get a pack of Parliaments.
Then I saw a cat.
Normally, this is not something noteworthy. But when I returned to the gas station later that week I saw the same cat, now accompanied by a couple kittens.
OK, so the cat had kittens. Fine. But over the next few weeks I noticed that, on any trip to the nameless gas station, I would see the same cats.
But Wes, if cats aren't sleeping on the newspaper you are trying to read, they live in dumpsters all the time. Why do you think this is strange?
Well, I'll tell you, strangely critical voice in my head. Because it isn't just at the nameless gas station; it is everywhere.
Go to any gas station in this town, no matter which one, and you will find cats. Families of cats.
And it isn't just confined to stores that contain food. There are cats that secretly live in used clothing stores, electronics stores and photography studios. What is a cat going to do in a photography studio? Do uneven tripods and 80s-era laser backdrops make for good mice-hunting grounds?
No matter the intention of the institution I assure you it has been co-opted by a family of cats. Every business, every school, every restaurant is the secret home of at least two cats, maybe three.
All of which brings me to this point: we need to do something productive with this current excess of cats. Race them? Of course. Lash them all together and make them pull snowplows? Sure. Use them as some form of currency? Why not?
I'm sure the current crop of cat-obsessed folk out there will come up with something. Just remember: dressing them up like people is NOT an option.
Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.