My cat Lucy

There is no question that I love cats; I love how smart and affectionate they are; I love that they are natural healers who will sit by their person when not feeling well. I love dogs and all animals, but there is something about the feline that brings calm and focus to my life.

According to the 2011-12 National Pet Owner’s Survey by the American Pet Products Association, there are 86.4 million cats in American homes, compared to 78.2 million dogs.  And even though there are more cats than dogs in American homes, cats continue to get a bad rap. With far more cats enjoying life as a family member, pet stores and speciality boutiques are still overwhelming dog-centric with a small corner dedicated to cats and other pets.

So today, I was shocked and disgusted to read this article entitled Why Cat Owners Should All Be Penalized by Dr. Arthur Caplan with the Center for Bioethics at University of Pennsylvania. At first I thought it was a joke when Dr. Caplan argues that cat owners should be taxed for having a cat because, in his opinion, cat’s are at the center for the healthcare crisis in America. Without providing any support or evidence, he claims that cats are at the root of skyrocketing healthcare costs as a result of allergies, asthma and skin conditions. He states that he has a dog, loves his dog, and thinks dog owners should actually receive a tax break (I would agree with that, but not to the exclusion of other pets). This man clearly hates cats. He feels that if we are going to tax overweight people for being a burden on the healthcare system, then we should also penalize and tax people who have cats. He says, “Many of you have a cat and you actually keep children in the house near this cat, so these are all horrible, terrible, inappropriate and immoral decisions.”

I am so disturbed that someone, especially an academician in a position of power, actually thinks this way. I’m a big support of our freedom of speech and I understand that there are widely differing opinions on ever topic. But clearly Dr. Caplan has not done his homework. In recent years, it has become accepted within the medical field that when babies and children grow up with pets and are exposed to pet dander, it creates a healthy immune system response. Because Americans have become germophobes and use anti-bacterial soaps, washes and lotions to extreme, we have actually harmed our immune system. I’m not a doctor, but it is common sense that when you live in a sterile bubble, you will have a negative physical reaction when you leave that bubble. Kids and adults who can get their hands dirty and be exposed to potential allergens will allow their immune system to react in a strong manner and provide you natural protection. We now have a nation of kids and adults with weak immune systems because we have protected ourselves far too much.

So whether you are a cat person, dog person, or other animal person, I hope we can all agree that having pets is a blessing and that penalizing someone for saving and loving a cat is not at the core of the American health care crisis. I’d love to hear from you on what you think about Dr. Caplan’s article (let’s keep the comments clean, okay?) 🙂