As heartbreaking images of pets caught in the destruction of Hurricane Harvey take over the internet, there’s one picture that stands out. The image of an “angry” cat swimming through floodwater has potential to become the quintessential symbol of the 2017 hurricane season.
It’s been shared thousands of times across social media, been turned into memes, and it even made headlines on local news channels. Many people are praising Getty photographer Scott Olson for his quick shooting and perfect timing in capturing the cat’s menacing scowl, but others are less concerned with the picture and more worried about the cat.
A cat swims for dry ground after an apartment was inundated with water following Hurricane Harvey. pic.twitter.com/kVj0B3Waow
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) September 2, 2017
When asked if he rescued the cat after taking its picture, Olson’s response was that the cat didn’t want to be saved. He said on Twitter,
“Most of the the people had been evacuated and the cat was in no mood to be messed with, so he’s is probably still on his own.”
Following this statement, Twitter users erupted in outrage geared toward both Olson and whoever left the cat behind. Olson also posted another picture of a similar-looking cat seeking refuge from the flood on the hood of a submerged car. He had the same story for this cat, saying,
“The cat jumped from the car, swam to a wooden fence, climbed it, splashed down on the other side and ?????”
Cat finds refuge from flooding on top of a car. #gettyimagesnews #HurricaneHarvery pic.twitter.com/VngJteziTR
— scott olson (@olsongetty) August 30, 2017
While there were voices in the virtual crowd defending Olson’s actions to keep his distance, many commenters expressed their opinion that he should have made an effort to bring the cat(s) to safety. Twitter user Sam said,
“The animal doesn’t want to be captured wow that’s a first. The cat doesn’t know the extent of the danger it’s in! You however do.”
Another person commented,
“I can’t believe you guys took the picture and left….that’s so cold.”
I can't believe you guys took the picture and left….that's so cold
— Anastasia (@sf_anastasia) September 3, 2017
Amidst the alarm for the cat’s well-being, there’s also a debate about whether the cat is a pet or a stray. Some people argue its clipped ear means it’s a stray or feral that someone took to be sterilized, but not everyone agrees.
Veterinarians commonly clip cat’s ears so people can tell it’s been neutered or spayed, but many rescue cats and household pets also have clipped ears. There are still more people that say regardless of the cat’s ownership status, even strays and feral cats deserve to be rescued.
Despite the debate, the famous cat’s whereabouts are still unknown. The image of its extreme annoyance at having to swim through floodwaters will likely remain a reminder of the historic storm that ravaged Texas in 2017. It represents the animals that were left behind and abandoned as well as the state’s resilient efforts to keep moving forward.
Featured Image Source: Twitter/Scott Olsen