In late August, Fox8 News in Philadelphia reported that a 26 pound cat named Mr. B was available for adoption by the local Morris Animal Refuge. The cat, who is a tabby, is according to the shelter, one of visually largest cats they have taken in. There were other cats that weighed in just a pound or two lighter, but Mr. B. looks really huge. He appears to be far more than merely a handful. The shelter decided to post a picture of the cat on its Facebook page, seeking an owner for a forever home. Its ad in part read, “He’s a chonk of a chonk.” For those unfamiliar with the term “chonk” according to the Urban Dictionary it is “an aggressively chubby housecat. According to the cat girth scale … a cat is a chonk (or chonker) if it has between 30 and 60 percent body fat.” In human terms, the cat is beyond obese.
A picture of the cat posted by People magazine shows that although Mr. B is all that cat and more, he is reasonably well-proportioned. There are not four spindly legs supporting a massive frame but instead it appears he can support his substantial weight without suffering any major structural problems. There is a lot to love here, and so that set off a digital feeding frenzy across the Internet. There are more than a million cat pics and videos available for viewing on the Internet, so what makes this cat so special that it attracted so much attention? For one thing, it was available for adoption. Mr. B. wasn’t a cat that you could look at and wish you could have for your own. He is a real live cat that you can have for your very own. It doesn’t hurt to have a large but well-proportioned body either. And for many cat lovers, best of all, it was a tabby.
What happened next is something the Morris Animal Refuge could not have expected. It announced that Mr. B. was going up for adoption and that interested wannabe owners could fill out an application online. The response was, to say the least, overwhelming. The next day the response ended up crashing the shelter’s website. There are a lot of things that can crash a web site, but a cat application? Now what happened was the shelter posted an update to its website that stated that while Mr. B. was doing well, there are still some things that need to be done, including the proper examination by a veterinarian. Once all the checks are completed, the shelter will post the relevant information to let everyone know.
Of course, this poses some interesting problems since there is only one Mr. B. There are going to be a lot more applications until Mr. B. is said to be ready to go to its forever home. Then all those applications have to be reviewed. What follows that is deciding which of the qualified applicants will be awarded the big prize. Last, but not least, will be the number of brokenhearted applicants who are certain to cry “foul!” For a good number of those applicants, there is only one Mr. B. and no substitutes are allowed.
It can be asked how many of the applicants are actually home-ready for Mr. B. One problem with social media is that posts like this can attract a 25 year old or a 5 year old. Maybe some parents filled out an application just to quiet their children. There are likely some who did it just for fun. The Morris Animal Refuge is an actual organization that is trying to do something positive for animals and people, yet they have to wade through an insane number of applications out of sense of duty.
But the real question is just how fair can the shelter be in picking a “winner?” What will the criteria be? Mr. B. will obviously require a lot of food and for the foreseeable future regular visits to the veterinarian. One additional piece of information has been added to exclude certain applicants; Mr. B. is not likely to be placed in a home where dogs are present. Will an applicant’s financial situation be a criteria? Food and vets cost a lot of money, and since this will be a forever home no one wants to see Mr. B. returned for recycling.
Since Mr. B. is only two years old, he has a lot of living to do. That would seem to eliminate many older people since if they are unable to take care of the cat than he will have to be returned. How will Mr. B. function in a home where there are small children – or expected small children? And then there is the cat’s celebrity status that has been unexpectedly thrust upon him. Whether this status will remain with him for the rest of his life is not certain, there may be a short term interest about who won the price and how the cat is doing.
Perhaps the best thing to do is to not announce who the lucky person is who will be taking Mr. B. home with them. With the flurry of interest in the cat, there will be a number of curious applicants who will want to know what became of him. On the one hand, it may be like winning the lottery, where people lose interest in a few weeks. On the other hand, it may be where people have a continued interest because, unlike the lottery, Mr. B. will live in many people’s memories, alive and well.
Social media has taken its share of criticism over the last few years. From privacy violations to data breaches, people have shied away from it. But it is stories like this one that make being on social media worthwhile.