A photo of a cat swimming in Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Texas with an annoyed look on its face has captured the imagination of internet users, becoming at once a symbol of the resilience of cats as well as the plight of animals left behind after their humans evacuated.
On Aug. 30, Getty photographer Scott Olson saw the cat swimming near an apartment building in Houston that had recently been flooded.
When asked if he had saved the cat, he said the cat didn’t want to be saved.
“Most of the people had been evacuated and the cat was in no mood to be messed with so he is probably still on his own,” Olson wrote on Twitter.
He posted a photo of a similar-looking cat on the roof of a car with a caption saying it was seeking refuge from Harvey flooding. He again faced questions on Twitter about the fate of the cat, and replied, “The cat jumped from the car, swam to a wooden fence, climbed it, splashed down on the other side and?????”
What became of the cat or cats is anyone’s best guess. A request for comment to the photographer was not immediately returned.
Whatever its fate, netizens expressed outrage that the photographer didn’t rescue the feline, as well as at the people who left it behind.
“The person taking this picture should be rescuing and not just taking this poor kitty’s picture, we can see the panic and fear on its face….so sad!” said Facebook user Barbara McCormick Hill.
“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,” wrote Twitter user Sam.
“I would never, ever leave my fur babies behind. How sad to think others think their pets lives are so forgetable [sic] like that,” wrote Facebook user Jodi Johnson Beckman.
“I’m so upset and distressed that you’d take photos but not rescue this poor kitty. :(” wrote Twitter user Tiffany Odette.
Some commenters suggested that it could have been a feral cat because of its clipped ear. Vets often clip the ears of stray cats as a sign that it has been fixed, but some pointed out that even feral cats can be tamed and have owners.
“2 of my cats have that and were former strays. It doesn’t mean he isn’t a pet,” wroter Redditer TheFuturist47.
Others were more understanding of the photographer and his decision not to rescue the wet, angry-looking cat.
“He wants to kill the first thing he sees when he gets out of the water,” said Redditer Firemanz.
“Dude, have you ever TRIED picking up a wet, scared and angry cat? It’s basically asking to become a new lattice art piece of blood!” wrote Twitter user Mel Smith.
“Everybody, lay off this guy. He was not equipped to do a rescue & could have gotten infection if cat drew blood after being in floodwater,” wrote Twitter user Sorex ornatus.
“Waiting for the article, ‘Kitty was rescued, 4 rescuers hospitilazed [sic] with angry cat inflicted mayhem,’ wrote Reddit user Unknwnpoltroon.
Whatever the photographer’s actions, the photo will surely go down in the history of Hurricane Harvey as a symbol of the devastation it left behind and the animals whose lives it affected.