Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves: Duncan Birmingham Discusses the Suicidality of Cats and Dogs
"When I die of embarrassment, please don't bury me in this."
Duncan Birmingham is the author of the blog turned book Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves. He lives in Los Angeles, where it's happy and sunshiny every single day and yet cats and dogs and guinea pigs live in silent agony.
What is the leading cause of suicide among pets?
Without opposable thumbs to use a gun or tie a hangman's knot, pets don't have an easy time offing themselves. The lucky ones have owners into hard drugs or senile enough to not see them dart under their wheels. Research shows more and more suicidal pets are choosing obesity as a slow--but not completely joyless--way to end it all. I'm not saying that if your dog or cat loves to pig-out that means they hate your guts and are miserable... no, actually I am saying that.
Of all the pets you've seen, which was the most tortured or suicidal?
There's a fluffy white cat in a rainbow vest that sits forlornly on a windowsill somewhere in the West Village. I've posted various photos of "Rainbow Kitty" emailed to me from passersby on the street. This cat haunts my dreams. To stare into that fluffy puss is to see the face of unbearable ennui.
"I can't pick my nose or my owner, at least I can pick my owner's nose." (All photos courtesy of Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves. Captions by Duncan Birmingham.)
"Have you been playing with my new bone? Cause it smells just like you"
True or False: Cats get way more upset than dogs when humans put them in funny outfits.
Truer words were never spoken. Dressing dogs is an art form; but dressing cats is an extreme sport.
"Just pull your pants up and leave the milkbones on the night stand"
"Look At This Fucking Hipster Dog"
Have you ever met a pet who LIKES being dressed in a funny outfit? (You know, the pet version of Stockholm Syndrome.)
When I started the site, I thought pet-dressers were worse than movie talkers and airplane farters combined and that I was doing a public service tackling a topic too controversial for PETA. But after a few months, I was ordering costumes online and staging my own 'dogs playing poker' photo shoots. It was a religious conversion. So maybe I'm deluding myself now, but I believe that many pets like it and not just the masochists.
"Shut off the camera and let's go Abu Ghraib on this pussy"
"Yeah, you guys go have fun picnicking and making sweet love by the river bank. Don't you worry about ol' me... I'll just hang here"
Why do you think people do this stuff to their pets?
We love the hell out of our pets. And as Americans that's what we do when we love someone, we shower them with stupid gifts. Gandhi said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Every time I get a holiday card with a dog dressed as Santa or see cat carried in a Baby Bjorn, my heart fills with pride and I get the urge to stop and salute cause I know America really is #1! Plus, dressing your pets is so fucking cute.
How many photo submissions do you get per day?
The most I've had is 38. The least I had is zero.
Do you ever get tired of looking at them?
I get burned-out on the pedestrian stuff. A guy can only take so many dogs in sunglasses and cats sulking, but then I get a dog looking like Michael Phelps in Speedo or a kitty with dreadlocks and that makes it all worth it.
"No offense, but I think you've officially run out of shit to crochet"
As a citizen of LA, I'm sure you've seen those Chihuahuas in rich womens' purses. Do you think those Chihuahuas are happy or sad?
I actually think they're quite happy--who wouldn't want to be carted around town in your own gigantic leather diaper.
Having seen so many costumed pets, when you see a regular old naked pet, do you ever feel the urge to accessorize them?
I've seen so many dressed up pets that I'm embarrassed to say seeing a naked dog or cat on the street makes me blush like a schoolgirl. I'll take off my own clothes to cover them if that's what it takes.
"Overcome with jealousy, Miles turned away lest they see the tear on his cheek and the vengeful gleam in his eye"
"Oh, I get it. I'm a Greyhound, so you dressed me like a Greyhound. How wonderfully clever!... So where's your douchebag costume?" "Where's my freakin' royalty check?"
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