Generally I’ll give a cat a pass on most things: Meowling incessantly for food one hour after it has been fed, scratching and biting me when I try to pet it, puking all over my kitchen floor at four in the morning. These are obviously examples specific to my own two cats—which unfortunately have rhyming names, which I recently realized has fostered a power struggle between them—but for the most part, I afford more leeway to cats than I do most humans.
Sometimes, though, humans and cats work together to become a rat king of the worst of humanity. This is, in my opinion, what has happened with Tina and Louise, two adult cats living alone in a $1,500 apartment in Silicon Valley, the rat king’s nest of humanity.
The story is framed as a feel-good USA Today blog with the lavishly uncritical title “These Silicon Valley cats are so extra, they have their own apartment,” as though the cats themselves, nonverbal and likely unemployed, are simply YASS QUEENING all over the Bay Area, doing their outrageous thing and manifesting cat empowerment due to their ability to live alone. The true story is that the cats’ human mom, Victoria Amith, went away to college at Azusa Pacific University, and the cats did not get along with her father Troy Good’s fianceé’s dogs, so Good’s solution was to just get them their own place in a building owned by his friend, David Callisch. KPIX 5, which provides the nuance:
The cats may be getting a good deal–rents in Willow Glen for a studio fall just under $2,000/month.
Victoria Amith says it’s a temporary solution until she gets her own place after the school year.
“It’s not in a public space, it’s in someone’s backyard, because there’s obviously a huge housing issue in the area, and I don’t want people to be like, ‘Oh, this is taking away the housing,’” Amith told KPIX via Skype.
The cats live in an area where the differences between the haves and the have-nots are especially pronounced, and housing prices are sky high.
“It’s difficult because there is so much homelessness and there’s so much disparity in incomes in this Valley and it’s hard, and one person can’t solve those problems,” said Callisch.
I know I cannot rightly blame the cats for this—cats will lay their heads wherever they’re put—but my immediate impulse is to say fuck the cats. The apartment, a studio, may be “in someone’s backyard,” but that’s one more space where people could live and hypothetically afford, if it is indeed less expensive than the average rent in the surrounding area.
I also don’t necessarily blame the humans in this scenario, either, although I can’t imagine what it must be like to have enough money to rent out an entire apartment for my pets and not feel extremely shitty about the homeless population in Silicon Valley, which includes a number of people living and working out of their cars and RVs. It’s just another indicator of living in a society where our individual comforts outweigh the basic needs of the collective, and where income inequity is so commonplace that for some it barely seems to register, and where proper, safe housing in American cities is slowly becoming something of a luxury item. Aimee Chew at Inequality.org writes:
Our housing market is broken. Most renters now direct unaffordable levels of their income towards rent. But for-profit housing cannot meet most renters’ needs. And that’s by design: when profit determines pricing, the housing needs of low-income folks never matter as much as the demand of a few rich individuals at the luxury end.
Or, just a couple of very cute cats whose rent is more than mine. I take it back—CUDDLE these bougie cats—but fuck the income inequity that supports their lifestyle!