Walk around the city and you might see a cat atop a busker’s piano, a parrot fake-flying on a bicycle’s handlebars or a hefty pig on a leash making the sidewalk look awfully small. We cherish our pets in a big way here, and much is made of the fact that dogs and cats outnumber children under 18, leading to the reasonable deduction: Dogs and cats and their ilk are our kids. It’s hard to argue against it, so why bother? Instead, let’s celebrate some of the many reasons our furry/scaly/feathery BFFs love this city as much as we love them.
1. Because our love is more than skin deepRoll back the sleeve or hitch up the pant leg of an animal-owning, tattoo-loving Seattleite and you’re sure to find some sort of pet tattoo. From photorealistic portraits to names and paw prints and more, inked tributes to our best friends exploded in the late 1990s, says tattoo artist Alexis Witt of Two Birds Tattoo in Greenwood (twobirdstattoo.com). It’s now a regular feature of her work and of many others around town. Last fall, Witt inked the words “MEOW” and “WOOF” in a delightfully counterintuitive heavy-metal script on the fingers of David Bovard, the proprietor of Pioneer Pet Feed & Supply in Pioneer Square. “It’s the language I’ve been speaking for years,” Bovard says of his latest tattoo. Most of his other tats are not pet-centric, except for one that peeks out from his inner bicep as he gestures—a lifelike portrait of his Boston terrier-pitbull-mix dog Irko, based on a favorite photo taken at a skate park. Though Irko, who inspired Bovard to open his store, has been gone for several years, in this way, the loyal pup remains at his side.2. Because we’re crowdsourcing cat-centric coffee shopsInspired by the cat cafés of Japan, where patrons pay a fee to spend time with staff cats, Seattle felinophiles are planning to pounce with at least two in our part of the world. However, in a distinctly Northwest twist on the inspiration, most of the cats at our cafés will be available for adoption. Seattle Meowtropolitan (seattlemeowtropolitan.com) aims to open in a still-to-be-determined location on Capitol Hill by mid-2015. The café founders, Matt Lai, who formerly worked in online marketing, and Louisa Liu, who currently works in health care, are relying on funding through Indie GoGo. At press time, they’d raised 21 percent of their $50,000 January goal. Kitty Kafe (seattlekittykafe.com) is the passion-driven project of three recent Seattle Pacific University grads, who plan to solicit Kickstarter funding this spring, with hopes of opening in fall 2015 or spring 2016 in the University District—because who needs furry companionship more than dorm-bound undergrads? Dog lovers want a piece of the action, too: Plans for Central District–based PLAY Doggie Daycare’s (playdoggiedaycare.com) second Seattle location include a mezzanine bar for pet owners overlooking the dog play area. At press time, PLAY on the Hill was slated to open downstairs from the new Chophouse Row development on 11th Avenue on Capitol Hill early this year.
4. Because spiky spines are not a barrier to entryHedgehogs’ high cuteness factor is just one of the many reasons 12-year-old Iris Seiwerath wanted to add Poppy to her Central District home. Poppy the hedgehog with (clockwise from bottom) Iris, 12, Ruby, 15, and their mom, artist/writer Rachel Kessler, and their dad, Michael Seiwerath, executive director of the Capitol Hill Housing Foundation. Not shown: rescue mutt Smudge SM: Why a hedgehog? Iris Seiwerath: I chose a hedgehog because I always thought they were so adorable. Also, hedgehogs are my favorite animals, and when I learned you could have a hedgehog as a pet, I immediately wanted one! SM: What is the most surprising or cute thing your hedgehog does?IS: She will spike up into a ball and make a hissing/sneezing noise, and it’s surprising, yet cute.SM: Biggest challenge?IS: Cleaning her cage can be a hassle, because you have to do a lot of steps in order for it to be clean, and you have to clean it at least once a week. She runs all night on her wheel, which is noisy, and she poops, a lot, while she runs, so her wheel is covered in poop, and it takes a lot of high-powered pressure-washing with the hose to get it off. SM: What does she eat? IS: She eats dried cat food; she doesn’t really have any special treats. Once, she ate a bug.SM: Do you ever take Poppy out in public? IS: Not really in public, but we’ll take her to people’s houses. You can put her in your pocket and no one will know she’s there. People either really like how she looks or are creeped out.SM: What do her spines feel like?IS: They are not that spiky. When she has them down and you pet her, they feel kind of bristly. When they are up, they are sharper and kind of feel like small tacks.SM: What is the best thing about owning a hedgehog?IS: You can cuddle with her (even though she is spiky) and dress her up in funny clothing (she’s also very photogenic!).4. Because, hereabouts, pot is for pets, too Before you freak out thinking we’re suggesting getting high with your cat—relax. That is not cool, as the two veterinarians behind the Sultan, Washington–based Canna Companion (cannaforpets.com) know well. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component in marijuana, is toxic for dogs and cats. But animal docs Greg Copas and Sarah Brandon are at the forefront of creating low-THC cannabinoid supplements from industrial hemp to address health and behavioral challenges for our furry friends. The potential medical benefits cover a huge range, from helping with aggression disorders, anxiety and canine dementia to reducing arthritis pain, seizures and digestive issues.5. Because our cats rock the internetIf anyone understands the appeal of cats harnessed to the power of the Internet it has to be Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezburger, which launched in 2007 as a site dedicated to quirky cat pictures. Today, Lower Queen Anne–based Cheezburger explores the frontiers of what passes for funny online in myriad sites. Here, he breaks down the elements of Internet cat fame. SM: With Henri, Cooper, Colonel Meow and other celebrated felines, it seems like Seattle is an incubator for cat fame. Ben Huh: There isn’t really a geographic epicenter of cat stardom, but Seattle is as close as it’s going to get.SM: Why do you think that is?BH: In cities where there are more dogs than children, you are seeing a much greater emphasis on pets as children. There’s so much hope and investment into the celebrityhood of cats; it’s a similar phenomenon to a parent and their child star.SM: But why aren’t we talking about Henri Le Chien Noir or Keyboard Mutt? Are cats funnier than dogs? BH: In terms of personality traits, dogs are like 3-year-olds. They are really cute, they love you, everything is amazing, they can’t be without you. A cat is like a teenager, they need you, but they’re not going to admit it. They’re going to do their own thing; they’re going to come and go when they want. You’re going to try and discipline them, and they are going to be like “whatever.” A cat has very complex emotional requirements; a dog does not. We end up ascribing the complexity of human relationships to cats on the Internet because it becomes this humorous way of relating human emotions, but in a nonthreatening way.SM: That’s a good fit in the passive-aggressive Pacific Northwest.BH: What better way of passing along your passive aggressiveness than in the form of a cat picture? I really can’t think of one. SM: Who is your favorite viral cat of all time?BH: Maru from Japan. SM: OK, how about a local pick?BH: Le Chat Noir, he’s got a great personality.