Taylor Swift debuted her new kitten, a Scottish Fold named Olivia Benson, back in June. Ever since, she's been spotted carrying the cat (without a leash or carrier) wherever she goes, including the busy streets of New York City and, as of yesterday, on airplane tarmacs. The cat, it must be said, seems totally cool with this arrangement. This brings up a lot of concerns. Today, I contacted several local and very patient veterinary offices to find out what, exactly, is up with Taylor Swift's cat.
I am not the first person to be worried about Olivia Benson's wellbeing. Lots of people, including Elliot Stabler, have expressed concern for her, and Access Hollywood even asked the singer why she insists on holding it. "The kitten freaks out about being put in the cat carrier... she freaks out when she's in there. So I was just like, 'OK, all right, we're gonna just do this,'" Swift responded, later adding that she's really only carrying the cat for the "ten-foot walk from my door to the car!"
Okay, so Taylor Swift is not carrying her cat everywhere she goes, but only for the brief walks from one enclosed space to another. Understandable, but maybe not advisable, and still sort of odd.
These questions remain:
1. Is it ever safe to carry your cat around outside, without a carrier?
2. Cats are well-documented psychopaths, and that kitten seems... chill. Too chill. Is there something physically or mentally wrong with Olivia Benson?
My cat-owning coworkers all agree that none of their cats could ever been relaxed enough to carry around freehand like you would any other handheld commodity, such as a purse, an iPhone, or a human child. So I rang up Felton Veterinary Services and Prospect Heights Animal Hospital, both in Brooklyn, to see whether or not a healthy cat—and particularly Scottish Folds—would indeed be happy and safe while being carted around like that.
Truth be told, I was so nervous about interrupting these HERO animal doctors' work that I wrote out a script to stop myself from rambling on the call. It went like this:
I am a reporter calling from Jezebel-dot-com and I was wondering if there was a vet tech I could talk to briefly about normal cat behavior, specifically in regards to Taylor Swift's cat.
Very professional. Unfortunately, because I am unprofessional, what I ended up saying was more like this:
Uh, hi. I'm a reporter at Jezebel-dot-com and I would like to talk to a vet tech about cat behavior, specifically—oh, my god, this is so stupid—cat behavior in the cat owned by Taylor Swift. Olivia Benson. The cat, not the TV character. Sorry. Really, so sorry to bother you.
Turns out that I didn't need to be worried about the vet offices being mad at me. What I should have worried about was them laughing at me. Which they did, all of them. But they were still down to talk.
First, the vet techs and doctors all shut down my mildly offensive theory that Olivia Benson the cat might be disabled.
"It could just be a cool cat," said the vet tech at Prospect Heights Animal Hospital, going on to explain that cats, like people, have different personalities and some of them are indeed relaxed enough to be carried around without trying to escape.
"Different breeds have different temperaments," added a vet who I spoke to via text. (Scottish Folds, I learned, are notoriously calm.)
"If you've been conditioning and training your cat to be carried around since it was a kitten," said the vet tech I spoke to at Felton Veterinary Services, "it could be totally fine with it."
So Taylor Swift's cat is, more than likely, an entirely healthy, chill cat. But FOR HOW LONG?
"I would never, ever endorse carrying a cat without a carrier, especially in an urban environment," a horrified vet tech told me. There are simply too many external factors you have to take into consideration when bringing a cat outside. "It's definitely not safe, even if it's on a leash."
"Doesn't even matter how calm [your cat] is," she added. "There are dogs, traffic—and that's not to mention the parasites and germs that could make the cat sick."
All of the other vets agreed.
"Cats can get startled very easily," one said.
"I do not recommend carrying a cat outside [without] a proper container," another offered in an email.
So while your cat (or Taylor Swift's cat) might hate going in the carrier, it is necessary. There are also several things you, or Taylor Swift, can do to try and make the process easier. The vets suggested that Taylor Swift could hypothetically leave the carrier out in a room that Olivia Benson frequents so that it doesn't seem unfamiliar and scary. They also recommend that Taylor Swift place an item of her clothing—a pair of well-worn knee socks, for example—inside the carrier so that Olivia Benson recognizes her familiar smell. Taylor Swift might also try taking Olivia Benson on several short practice trips (5-10 minutes) in the carrier before a longer journey.
These are all things Taylor Swift could hypothetically do so that Olivia Benson doesn't—god forbid—die tragically in New York City traffic one day.
I had one more important question for these patient professionals: Are any of them Taylor Swift fans?
"I am," replied one vet tech. "I actually really love her."
"No comment," said the other.
Investigation closed. Give me my Pulitzer.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.