The next time somebody makes some disparaging comment about Utah -- how completely conservative we are, or how freakishly religious we are, or how so totally, incredibly bass-ackwards we are -- throw THIS interesting little factoid at them:
Oh yeah? Well, at least we rank dead last in cat ownership.
Say what you will, but a fairly accurate barometer of the intelligence of the residents in any given household is whether or not they own a cat. Or, more accurately, the cat owns them.
Other parts of the country may think they're all soooo much more enlightened -- they may look down their noses at us for our simpleton views on everything from guns to gays -- but in the end we get the last laugh. Why? Unlike them, we're the least likely folks in the country to allow ourselves to be enslaved by a race of litter-box Hitlers.
According to a press release from the American Veterinary Medical Association, Utah ranks 50th among the states for cat ownership, with just 24.6 percent of households sporting these furry little balls of aloofness. Did I say "just" 24.6 percent are cat owners? Because by virtually all standards for any other mental illnesses -- schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD -- a rate approaching one-fourth of a population would seem a terribly high price to pay. And yet, tens of millions of Americans have voluntarily -- willingly, even -- submitted themselves to the whims of a subset of allegedly domesticated animals that are easily the most self-absorbed narcissistic creatures this side of Tom Cruise and Kristen Stewart.
Make no mistake, people. Owning a cat is a mental illness. And from that standpoint, we here in Utah are the mentally healthiest people in these United Sates.
How do we know Utahns are such cat haters? Because the AVMA recently released its U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook.
Every five years, the veterinary association puts out a book with all sorts of interesting pet facts, gleaned from a national survey of more than 50,000 pet owners. For example, did you know ...
* There are about 70 million pet dogs in the U.S., and more than 74 million cats. Imagine if we could somehow put them all together in one ginormous enclosed space. I'd certainly buy a ticket.
* Six out of 10 pet owners consider their pets to be family members. And the other four? Think they're just overstaying houseguests who drink out of the toilet and lick themselves a lot.
* Eighty-one percent of pet owners honestly believe their animal can understand the English language. Another 14 percent think their pet can successfully conjugate verbs.
OK, I just made up that last set of statistics, but it certainly sounds true.
Now, before you animal lovers out there get all indignant on me, you should know that I am not anti-pet. Far from it. Oh sure, I hate cats, and most horses, and about half of the Rodentia out there. But other than that, I'm a real animal person. And, in fact, I LOVE dogs. (Although, admittedly, one of the primary selling points of canines for me is that, in general, they hate cats almost as much as I do.)
In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that my household is one of the 24.6 percent. We do have a cat, although I take no credit for this sad fact. About 10 years ago, our then-teenage son brought home a stray kitten, and the idea was to find it a good home. Well, do you know how difficult it is to find a good home for a cat in a state that ranks 50th among homes that want cats? By the time I'd finally found someone to take it off our hands -- and believe me, I had to promise them more than just the cat to get them to take it -- the womenfolk had already fallen in love and, well, there you have it.
Fortunately, the cat and I have developed this uneasy, unspoken understanding: It agrees to stay as far away from me as is physically possible, and I agree not to use it as a wheel chock.
That may sound harsh, but it's hard to develop an attachment for an animal that, except for that whole cleaning the litter box/feeding thing, doesn't care one whit about you. Unlike a dog, which seems genuinely -- and pleasantly -- surprised each time you come back into its oh-so-excitable field of vision.
I don't happen to be one of the 81 percent of pet owners who think our animals can communicate with us on other than the most rudimentary of levels, but if I were, I'm pretty sure I'd know exactly what our cat was trying to tell me: "Listen, just so you know? If you ever die unattended, I'm chewing your face off."
Utah dead last in cat ownership? Finally, a ranking that really means something.
Buy the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook at www.avma.org. It's only $315 in softcover. Or better yet, contact Mark Saal at 801-635-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and for only $29.95 he'll make up a bunch of interesting pet stats for you.