06/05/05 — Feline fun: Lawmakers overlook state cat candidate

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Feline fun: Lawmakers overlook state cat candidate

“Gee, Elmer, what’s the state cat up in Maryland?”

“Why, it’s the lovely, loving and loyal Calico Cat, Herman. And what’s your state cat down in North Carolina?”

“Our state cat is the felis concolor,” replies Herman, looking down ashamedly and shuffling a foot.

The felis concolor? Now what kid wants to tell his cousin in Maryland that his state cat is the felis concolor? None, that’s what.

Yet, that’s the very thing North Carolina kids would have to do if a bill that has been passed by the state Senate is approved by the House of Representatives.

This bill is fraught with fantasy, fiction and farce.

It started out at least truthful. Sen. Andrew Brock of Davie County introduced it to make the cougar the state cat. Cougars used to abound in the Tar Heel state, but they’re about gone now.

Then someone suggested that the state cat ought to be the Panther, because there is a football team in Charlotte named the Panthers.

That’s where felis concolor came in.

Brock said he would change his bill to make the felis concolor the state cat because felis concolor is the scientific name of a species that includes both the cougar and the panther. It includes the puma, too, along with catamounts. This is because panther, puma, cougar and catamount are all just different names for the same animal.

That’s a lot of cats, but it’s not all of them, as Sen. Charles Dannelly of Charlotte pointed out. He objected that the name felis concolor leaves out the bobcat and, after all, there is a basketball team in Charlotte named the Bobcats. Can’t leave the bobcat out.

So here’s how farce, fiction and fantasy were added to frivolity: Brock agreed to make it law that the scientific designation of the bobcat in North Carolina — as it applies to the matter of the official state cat — be changed from lynx rufus to felis concolor.

What power these legislators have!

But they overlooked perhaps the most notorious cat of all. The mighty wampus cat, with its fearsome cries in the night and with footprints as big as your hand, has horrified many a rural child in eastern North Carolina.

Of course, the wampus cat doesn’t really exist. It’s actually fiction, a fantasy, a farce. In other words, it qualifies.

And to a kid comparing state cats with his cousin in Maryland, it sounds a sight more impressive than that sissy old Calico Cat, and it certainly has a better ring to it than felis concolor.

Published in Editorials on June 5, 2005 12:00 AM