Catfood And Shoes

Robert Masterson
5 min read
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Cats are not finicky and women are not born with a “shopping gene” carrying a particular sensitivity to shoes. Both perceived states of existence are creations of consumer culture and both are evidence of systematic assaults on human nature in the name of expanding sales and markets.

The domestic cat has evolved over the millennia to be essentially omnivorous. Living within and upon the fringes of human culture, the feline digestive system lost many of its specific nutritional requirements and learned to process the results of scavenged meals, human leftovers, and associated vermin. It was sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s that advertisers began to insinuate that cats were hard to feed, were somehow “finicky,” and needed to be tempted into eating a proper and well-balanced meal. The obvious Freudian buttons pushed here (tempting pussy is what a lot of people spend a lot of time on anyway; tempting pussy to eat supposedly takes even more effort) just add to the overall piquancy of the campaign.

Any clear-headed individual who’s owned a cat and done even rudimentary experimentation will testify that a cat will eat when it is hungry and not eat when it is not hungry and that, when it is hungry or hungry enough, a cat will eat anything set before it. When we were hungry enough, my cat and I ate eggs and oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, and tofu. Not great or memorable meals, but enough to get the job done. Pencil, my cat, turns 21 this December and gets to eat tuna because of it, but “duck comfit w/mackerel sashimi” at $2 a can? I mean, after all and after how much I am truly fond of the beast, she is just a cat. Lock her in the bathroom for three days and she’ll be gnawing on her own poop and glad to get it. The same is true for human babies, the most notable of “finicky” eaters, and it doesn’t take three days by a long shot. Not that I would ever do something like that; I just know it’s true. Finicky eating is a myth.

The evil geniuses behind contemporary advertising have almost surgically implanted into Western consciousness the belief that cats are, nonetheless, “finicky” eaters. Americans spend $11 trillion dollars a year on cat food while allotting $7.63 for health care and environmental issues. That entire supermarket aisle of tasty treats and yummy
amuse-bouche for kitty aren’t aimed at the cats; they are marketed and sold to humans dumb enough to believe they will be bad “parents” if their “children” don’t gorge themselves.

Speaking of pussy, the same holds true for American women, shopping, and shoes. Advertising and popular culture has always presented the stereotypical housewife, the archtypical woman, begging her husband for more money to purchase more useless crap. The husband’s role in this scene is to provide the money to feed this exasperating but hopeless habit. In days gone by, the ultimate symbol of female monetary frivolity was the hat. Ricky sent Lucy out to by a “new hat” when he wanted her out of the house. Blondie was always trying to sneak the telltale hatbox past the sleeping Dagwood. At the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the maid’s proud declaration that she’s bought herself a “new hat” is a terrifically mundane and condescendingly female counterpoint to the financial love-fest unfurling in George Bailey’s living room.

Well, women don’t wear hats much anymore but they almost always wear shoes. And, much like cats, we are told, it seems that women are finicky about shoes and need many varieties in constant supply to remain healthy. To be a good boyfriend or a good husband means providing one’s woman-folk with the means to purchase as many shoes as she can possibly buy as if to not do so would endanger her mental and physical well-being. And nobody wants to see sick pussy moping around the house yowling for shoes.

To see the real fruit of this implanting of the concept of “retail therapy,” just look to Santa Fe. After struggling for decades to preserve the charm and character of that unique American city, somebody finally just said “fuck it” and gave up. Now, instead of useful business on the plaza (Penny’s, Woolworth’s, Zook’s Pharmacy, a diner), we have boutiques aimed at tourists who seem perfectly content to spend their vacations wandering in and out of air-conditioned shops buying t-shirts, howling coyotes, and, yes, shoes. There are outlet malls on the outskirts of town and in-crowd emporia inside the plaza. Santa Fe has become the spa of “retail therapy” and there is no rehab for this addiction.

So, what need is filled by the purchase of designer cat food and Jimmy Choo shoes? The need to feel useful, the need to feel as if we are contributing to our loved one’s welfare and well-being has been transmogrified into the need to provide “salmon tartar” and strappy high-heeled sandals. We don’t have the time or the energy to really be with each other, to converse or play with a piece of yarn, so we offer up the stuff in compensation. That those same evil geniuses behind contemporary advertising have derailed our parental and altruistic impulses into enriching corporate coffers speaks highly of their evil genius and our own vulnerability to it. Still, I feel safe in not succumbing, that is, at least, until they develop a woman’s shoe made entirely of cat food.

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