We've already got a cat running for U.S. Senate. Why not give felines a place to recreate, not just legislate, in the District?
DCist's Martin Austermuhle brings news that while overseeing the reopening of a dog park in D.C. on Thursday, Mayor Vincent Gray, quite likely facetiously, raised the possibility of cats getting their own play areas in the nation's capital:
"I'm not a dog owner anymore," Gray admitted in remarks at the ceremony. "I used to have two dogs. They now have gone on. But I do have a cat, and we have no cat parks...yet."
Austermuhle sounds dubious:
[E]very now and then I see a cat-owner towing around their feline friend on a leash. The cats rarely look happy to be outside, much less being walked around on a leash.
But cat parks wouldn't have to be outside. Conceivably, Japanese-style cat cafes -- basically indoor cat petting zoos, with coffee -- could work in the District. This idea has already spread to Austria. A BYOK (bring your own kitteh) version, Meow Mix Café, popped-up in New York eight years ago. Why not have indoor cat play spaces in D.C., too?
And we already have precedent for cats who enjoy a sociable stroll. Recall Harold the cat, who happily struts around Old Town Alexandria.
In short: Cat parks, not the Mayor's worst (facetious) idea?
Let's revisit Old Town Alexandria's Harold the cat and his people, Sarah Howell and her husband Jeff Jones:
Howell: It's nicer. A lot of people know us. [Harold] sits in our window all day and meows at everybody who walks by. We were just sitting outside of our house one day and this lady parked her car, got out of the car, ran across the street, and goes, "I have to tell you, I hate cats. And I love your cat so much." I had a client one time telling me all about him. She's like, "There's this cat in Old Town and he sits in the window and he's so friendly and he talks to everybody." I was like, "Is it a black and white cat? That's mine."
Howell: It wasn't our intention to walk him. I bought this leash, so that we could hold him in case he tried to jump out of the car. And then it just slowly evolved. It was really embarrassing at first. Because it's a cat on a leash. People would stare out their windows pointing.
Howell: If he sees somebody with a dog coming, he'll stop and wait for them. And if they walk past him you can see the disappointment on his face. He just cannot understand why they didn't want to play with him. I wish we could take him to dog parks.
Howell: Every once in a while he'll want to walk up to Washington [Street], where it's super crowded. I think he likes the big sidewalk. He'll just sort of strut around.
Howell: He's a super social cat. We take him over to our friends' houses. We were about to get him a friend, because he is so social. I know he gets lonely. But he's such an awesome cat. Jones: We'd have to get one that would compare to how much fun he is. Howell: We take him to PetSmart. Most of the time he likes it. One time I think he got into the catnip. He was really high. I just put him in the cart and walk him around. I set up the cart in front of the birds and he'll just watch the birds. The funniest thing is if they're doing a dog training class in that room with the big windows. He loves watching those dogs.
Howell: I've had people literally run across the street to ask "How did you get your cat to do that?" I get so many people asking "How do you do that? What do you do?" Jones: Staring him early was the key thing. Howell: If he's super antsy to get outside, we have [the leash] hanging by our front door. He'll go to it and he'll start pulling on it. He knows that means he's going outside.
Howell: There's this bush that's full of birds, and that's all he ever wants to do. Jones: The one down here, yeah. Howell: Sometimes he'll dive into the bush. We'll walk out our front door and he'll just take off running to this bush.