Saturday, September 13, 2014

NBC's The Secret Lives of Pets is hogwash #PetCrazy

So I was looking for things to watch the other day and saw that NBC was airing an hour long special on the Secret Lives of Pets.

I saw the Today Show do a segment on cats earlier in the week, so I was interested to see where they were going with this. Let me say this, I think the show was justification for Hoda Kotb to talk about her dog for an hour.

My biggest problem with this show were the cat 'experts'. John Bradshaw is the director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol in England and is touted as the author of “Cat Sense” making him sound like he is a cat expert. Looking at NBC's own profile of him though, he also studies both. This will make a bit more sense when I get into this.

They also tout Martha Stewart as a cat expert because she has a line of cat toys and has four cats.

The third expert they have seemed a bit more legitimate, but she got very little air time. Mieshelle Nagelschneider is a Harvard trained cat behaviorist (They have cat behavior classes at Harvard? really?)

Okay, so why am I calling this show hogwash? Not even a minute into the show, you hear this:
Hota: Some people when they look at cats, they think, they don't care about us..
Martha: I don't think they do care about us
This sets the tone for the entire show (save for the segment by Mieshelle and the bit by Jackson Galaxy, but those don't talk about how much the cat cares)

So Mr. Bradshaw doesn't think a purring cat is ever a happy cat. The bit on the TV (sensationalized you know) with a great big negative sign over the "Purring cat = Happy Cat"
The purr doesn't actually mean happiness, the purr is there to get you to do something. It is an instruction.
Seriously? Now granted, I will go with the fact that a purring cat doesn't always mean it is happy. Cats purr to self soothe, but I highly disagree with his assumption that it is an instruction.

So how about Cat with Toy = Cat at Play?  They say no to that one too. Mr. Bradshaw says they are hunting.  Well yes, yes they are. Cats hunt. Is anyone shocked at that? What does he expect them to play pinochle? Why does he think that they can't play at hunting? This part really REALLY gets me:
Bizarrely we found that if a cat is hungry it will play more intensely than if it is fully fed.
Why is this bizarre? The cat was designed to hunt to get food, so it is designed to want to hunt more the hungrier it gets... so this is inherent. Nothing bizarre about that..

So about 25 minutes into the show Hota does a voice over bit that says
but if you really want to figure out cats, there is really only one thing to know. They are LONERS. Solitary and territorial. This means while they may like living with you, hanging out with cats is often a different story. Can you say "Cat Fight" (insert videos of cats fighting here)
and back to the interview with Mr. Bradshaw
Hoda: is it a good thing to have multiple cats living in the same environment?
John: Well if you set about it the right way, you can do it, but it is not something that anyone should set out on lightly
Okay, yes, but you shouldn't set out on owning any pet lightly, period. And while I've never had dogs, I doubt you should set on having two dogs in the same environment lightly either. But back to the show. Enter a woman with three cats that do not get along. In the segment she is sitting on the floor holding two cats, one in each arm, forcing them to be with in inches of each other. They have Ms. Nagelschneider come over and say feeding them all in the same spot is a problem and you should feed them all over the house, upstairs and down stairs, east and west because they are solitary hunters and would eat alone. She then finds problem with playing with all of the cats at the same time again mentioning how it brings out aggression. I have always fed in the same general area. I hate side by side bowls, but I feed all of my cats in the kitchen, but then again I meal feed instead of free feeding. And play might bring out aggression in the beginning, but done properly it drains energy out from a cat and helps them learn about each other and helps them 'speak the same language' if you will. Like Jackson Galaxy likes to day: Hunt, catch, kill, eat, groom, sleep.

I do like her quote about litter boxes though: Where in nature do cats all go and urinate and defecate in one spot? As well as her quote about the cat owner: She wanted to learn to think like a cat, that is the perfect cat owner.  Yup, I can't agree with that more.

Then the show goes on to talk about the "special gifts" of cats and dogs and they have a hero dog that saved its owner when she was stuck in a canyon. And a dog who is a service dog for a young girl, and then a cat who senses when people are going to die. So dogs are heroic and cats are morbid? How about the story of Tara? or Slinky Malinki?

The show ends with a "which is the better pet" segment where they get opinions of people on the street. They even did a poll on their Facebook page according to the show. I don't know how many of you watch NBC news not-news segments, but if you do, you will have come to realize pretty quickly they are very dog centric over there. I am not shocked in the least that the fans of NBC's facebook page are dog centric. But to then go on to say..
Hota: it has come down to this dogs vs cats which makes the better pet
John: A pet for most people would be a dog, if you have the time to look after it
Hota: did you just say dogs were the better pets?
John: for people who have plenty of time to look after them. For people who do not have so much time, it's a cat.
This is the 'cat expert' that they have had on several times, touting him as a cat expert, and he is saying if you don't have any time get a cat?  Seriously? Doesn't he know the more time you invest in a cat the more loving and responsive your cat is going to be? People who think cats are loners and have no use for you are people who have cats who are loners and they have no use for their people, because the people have trained them not to depend on them for affection. As someone who starts out the day with four to six cats on her, purring, snuggling, cuddling, in one great big cat pile of love, it FLOORS me when people say cats are loners and aren't affectionate. (Now for those of you who think they just want something, please know my husband gets up before I do and feeds the cats, so they are wanting nothing but to welcome me to the day)

The dog expert Brian Hare gives one of the better quotes in the cat vs dog 'debate' on this show. He said: That's like asking me if a hammer is a better tool than a screwdriver. Well done Brian.. well done indeed. It is very very true. Cats are so different from dogs that it really is an apple vs orange issue.

They end the show with Martha Stewart. They like her because she has a line of pet products for both cats and dogs (and also more likely because she works a lot with NBC [is she partnered with them? on contract? I couldn't find an answer on a quick google search, but you know they are affiliated because she shows up on the Today Show a lot])
Hota: we asked people which were better pets. Clearly people think dogs make better pets than cats.
Martha: well because they're needy, and they are obsequious
Hota: the people?
Martha: well both, so a dog will come and put his paw on you and look at you with those soulful eyes and want to be, want to be nurtured. (said in a loving nurturing way, like one might talk to a child) A cat couldn't care less. (said with almost dismissal or even disgust) 
I find it fascinating how her whole body language changes when she talks about dogs and when she talks about cats.
Martha: I like the idea that cats are independent, as opposed to dogs who are totally dependant. Cats come and go, they will be cuddled when they want to be cuddled and they will not be cuddled if they don't want to be cuddled.
Hota: Some people when they look at cats, in general, they think they are lone rangers, that they are a little haughty, they don't care about us..Martha: I don't think they do care about us. I really really don't. I think they will put up with us.
Why is it qualities you admire in a person (not cuddling when they don't want to) are traits to be put down when they are held by a cat? When you invest time in a relationship, that relationship blossoms. Cats are like little mirrors, and they give you back what they take in. As I type this, I have five cats surrounding me. I have had to kick Jack and Muffin off me more times than I care to count because I didn't want them messing up my typing. At this very moment he has his paw on me and he is looking at me with those Puss and Boots eyes.  Kit is snuggled up with my husband, her absolutely favorite place in the entire world to be. She loves him with reckless abandon. Fleurp has now shown up.. so we have six..  I wouldn't say my cats are obsequious, because they are not here to serve me, but they obviously love me and my husband and want to be near us whenever they can.


  1. We were disappointed as well. What a prime opportunity to educate and all they did was reinforce the myths. Shame on NBC. As we watched, Tommy snoozing on the chair next to mom, Coral was sleeping behind mom's head and Mo was begging for attention. Well said....

  2. I'm ever so happy I missed that piece of sensationalist hogwash.

  3. I recorded it but haven't watched it yet. Wondering now if I want to...

  4. It is a really good thing my human didn't see that show because just your description of it made her blood pressure rise! How come we kitties are so popular on the internet and so totally misunderstood, even now? **sigh** Sparkle didn't tell me I had so much work ahead!

  5. I watched it last night. Not impressed at all. I also wondered why they didn't talk about Tara the Hero Cat. So many interesting and positive things they could have said about cats, and they hardly said anything! Pretty sad when the best quote about whether cats or dogs make the better pet comes from the dog expert.

  6. I am glad I missed that show or I would have been as annoyed as you are.

  7. The mom saw most of it and was sadly disappointed, too. When the so-called "cat expert" said cats purr because they want you to do something...that's when she started tuning out and only half-watched. It was very dog-centric and really missed the mark as far as cats are concerned. Hisses at NBC.

  8. I did not watch the show and I'm glad...
    I think Brian Hare had a great point, too. Cats and dogs are so different. I do not like that they even discussed "which is the better pet." That is really hogwash to me.

  9. I agree! I watched the first 30 minutes of the show, but couldn't bring myself to watch the rest, because most of the so-called cat experts didn't sound like they understood cats at all. I agree with you completely on all of the points in your post. The show only served to misinform and reinforce myths.

  10. So glad that the head peep didn't see this. Just the description has her blood boiling! It's beyond any of us why cats are consistently "second class pets" to so many people.

    Did Martha Stewart ever take back her position on declawing from earlier this year? After that, she's not credible, but unfortunately, she has the public ear.

  11. I didn't see this show, but I have been disappointed over all by these news stations covering pets. First the coverage of shelter dogs and their dangers and then one person saying that they use a shock collar to keep their dog from getting hit by a car.

    People who are so obviously ignorant about animals calling themselves experts and speaking to a very large audience of people who believe them kind of worries me.

  12. Argh. Stuff like this is so frustrating. Martha Stewart especially makes me mad. What a wasted opportunity all around.

    Unrelated: Kit's toe floof is so cute! :)

  13. I'm so glad I didn't watch this. I haven't had many cats in my lifetime and even I agree this is hog wash.

  14. Wow, I can't believe that these "cat experts" are perpetuating these misconceptions about cats. That's just terrible. I have five cats - they all get along, and they all DO care about me and my husband both. And I play with all of them together - they love it! These people have obviously never had a real relationship with a cat before.

  15. I like Brian's comment about comparing dogs and cats--like comparing a hammer with a screwdriver. I was thinking how could anyone make any comparison like that. Some network programming is just plain stupid and a waste of time. Unfortunately, people will see it and come away with a distorted view of cats or confirm their dislike of them.

  16. I hate shows on cats and dogs or just cats. They are NEVER going to get it right. They just repeat the useless hogwash that started however long ago, and never bother to try to sort our what is wrong. MY cats have always loved me because...SURPRISE! If you love them, they love you back! And show it!! That's what Katie's blog is all about. Her love of me. That I love her too is a given and obvious. But it's a relationship that we BOTH have worked on and contributed to.

  17. Stewart has 4 cats you relate? Well, it must be because of her business. She sure isn't caring for them. Her helpers are.

    1. No, she doesn't "care for them" A couple of years ago, I heard her say that the cats are confined to the basemen because Martha will not tolerate any of their fur getting on her furniture and is unwilling to do without any of her many house plants that "heaven forbid" the cats might mangle & chew on. She didn't mean she worried about the cats possibly eating a poisonous plant, she meant she didn't want the cats to touch her precious plants and possibly break a leaf or branch. I got the impression that the cats she owns are likely for breeding purposes only and, yes, the house staff feeds & grooms the cats in Martha's place. She doesn't know to love any living thing as far as I can tell.

  18. OMG I am glad I didn't see this! I have never liked Martha Stewart and now I have a better understanding of why! Hope her assistants take care of her pets because with that attitude I am sure she is a poor pet caretaker period! I hate ignorance, especially when spread by high powered people. You have research groups and tons of money backing you, get it right! Totally insulted right now! Grrrrr!
    Marty and the Gang's Mom

  19. Wow. I've not watched the show...but based on your blow-by-blow, I'm appalled. You couldn't be more right, Connie... I absolutely love everything you wrote in your last paragraph. you were surrounded by your cats.

    Is it possible to lose respect for someone whom you had no respect for in the first place? If so, just apply that to Martha Stewart X 10.

    NBC should be ashamed of themselves.

  20. Bravo!! Great post and I am so glad I did not watch any of that. People who feel that way about cats have never loved a cat in my opinion. I have always had both cats and dogs there have been times when a cat paw would be on one of my hands and a dog paw on the other. We have had as many as 13 cats living with as many as 3 dogs...all got along well. Cats and dogs both will love you if you love them and take good care of them...they will love you back and either are capable of saving your life if need be. Hugs and nose kisses!

  21. I had very little respect for both NBC and Ms. Stewart prior to reading this, but now that has dropped even lower, if possible! And we wonder why adoption rates for dogs are higher than they are for cats?!?!?

  22. Anonymous2:46 PM

    Meowllo, me name is Deztinee and me has a sisfur named Alexandra. Weez awe called Dezi and Lexi fur short. Weez be Service Cats (not therapy cats or companion animals, but working trained service cats) fur ow hooman mommy. Hoo we luv unconditionally. We stawt ow meownins luvin' and massagin' mommy cuz hers can't move hers body in da meownin'. And of course wez do want bwekky, but weez offen wanna cuddle a little longer just cuz weez wanna be wiff mommy. Weez fink yous posty is gweat and while weez didn't see this show yous talkin' 'bout weez not like Martha Stewart at all and nevew hav. It makes us vewy angwy too when peeps say dogs be better pets and dat cays be aloof and uncawin', cuz itjust isn't twue. But weez wuldn't want any of those peeps anywhere near us anyways. Good fur yous fur stickin' up fur us felines. Fanks.

    Luv ya'

    Dezi, Lexi and mommy

  23. There are so many shows about pets that are a load of rubbish which is why I don't watch them

  24. Anonymous11:58 AM

    We don't watch junk TV which is anything NBC or ABC call "news"...just sayin'

  25. What idiots. Whiskers The Cat was the least solitary animal imaginable. He loved being around his people and when we weren't available to follow around or sit with he went found animal companions. He could often be found next door playing with the neighbor's dog and when a Spaniel was abandoned in our neighborhood Whiskers brought him home. And he always welcomed the kittens we brought home into the family. Whiskers, Socks and Squall-n-Baby always slept together and ate together.


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