It’s a good thing my long-haired calico Hyacinth can’t read the newspaper. Otherwise I’m sure she’d be deeply offended by all the recent headlines about “fat cats.”

President Obama used the derogatory term in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” “I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street,” he said.

Granted, Hyacinth may be on the pudgy side, but she has little in common with greedy financial executives.

Fat CatFirst of all, her pleasures are simple ones. Fresh water, regular meals, and a ball of string are all it takes to keep her purring.

Wall Street executives are the ultimate in high maintenance. Ever since the government put the most modest of restrictions on compensation at bailout firms, they have been in panic mode. Desperate to free themselves of these constraints and protect their nine-figure-paycheck lifestyles, they are rushing to return the bailout funds.

Never mind that the top banks haven’t found the resources to provide sufficient credit to people who need it for their homes, businesses, or school tuition. The number of zeroes on their executive paychecks seems to be what matters most.

Secondly, how much damage could Hyacinth do to the world? A few hairballs here and there on the carpet-nothing a damp sponge can’t handle.

Wall Street executives, for their part, drove the global economy off a cliff. Their reckless behavior is largely responsible for tens of millions of people falling into poverty and joblessness. And now they are lobbying to block Congress from enacting new regulations to prevent future crises.

For thousands of years, cats have had one primary job: rodent control. They’ve done it well, with pride, required no training or exorbitant perks, and made only the most minimal demands on the rest of society.

In fact, recent research indicates that cats give back to us humans-big time. The University of Minnesota studied more than 4,000 Americans for 10 years and found that cat ownership reduced the risk of heart attack by nearly one third. Think having a banking CEO around the house would have the same healthy effect?

Contrary to popular belief, cats aren’t even all that lazy. A recent study by animal behavior specialists for the Nestle Purina PetCare Company found that cats spend only about six percent of their daytime hours napping.

I think it’s time to stop maligning our feline friends by comparing them to Wall Street executives.

Whether fat or not, cats deserve much more respect.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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