Monday, January 28, 2013

Is That Cat American?

"Is that an American cat?" neighbor Ramon asked Josh and me.
We both looked at him, quizzical. We often don't understand the man. Did he say cat?
"You know, you brought him from Nueva York, right?"
"No, he's Dominican," Josh responded, kindly.
I laughed aloud, covering my mouth at the thought that I--known among friends and family for my dislike of indoor pets--would actually pay to have a feline shipped from one corner of the globe to another. If a cat was that important, I'd just buy a new one. Heartless, yes, I've been told.
"That cat can't be Dominican. He doesn't even look Dominican. He looks American," NeighborRamon insisted.
"Don Ramon," I composed myself, "we brought this cat from the campo. Not only is he from here, he's from the rough and tumble countryside!"
"That's no village cat," NeighborRamon was not convinced, "He's too fat and beautiful."
We shrugged our shoulders.

And then started looking at all the other cats in our neighborhood. Scraggly. Hungry. Matted fur, wide-eyed, fight-for-their-lives, little creatures.

Perhaps NeighborRamon was on to something. Danger is a Dominican cat, but he'd been tossed in a burlap bag and hauled down the mountain in a guagua as a kitten. He's lived with us Americans ever since.
We pay a guy $3 to come to the house and stab him in the side every once in a while, and buy about $6 of cat food for him every month. We clip his nails ourselves and administer most medicine he ever needs ourselves as well (Thanks, YouTube! We're experts now!). We even buy fancy sand for him to poop in. Doesn't seem like much, does it? About $100 a year.
We're doing pretty well by Dominican standards, though not by American ones (we don't have health insurance, for example, or any kind of vehicle to get around in). Knowing what our day-to-day looks like, what we have and don't have, we still can't figure out how most people survive on the island.
The BBC has a wage comparison calculator. You type in the country you live in and your wage. Here are my results:
Your wage is 237% of the Dominican Republic average and 74% of the world average.

Just for kicks, I put that we live in the US, using our same income:
Your wage is 34% of the United States average and 74% of the world average.

How's that for perspective?
I'm still not sure what it all means.
Josh found this site, "Stop the Hunger," which put these things in perspective on a larger scale and shows you all kinds of things.
I found much of this quite fascinating. Check out the second line "amount that would allow to feed the hungry today" compared to the last line, "spending on pet food in USA and Europe today." Not that we should euthanize all our pets tomorrow morning; I'm not that heartless. I do know its not really about pets, but it's an easy measuring stick, so there it is.
These numbers are constantly changing and you can find them at: 

So, if I was living in the U.S., I would have a "Dominican" cat--a mangy creature, neglected because of smart prioritizing of my meager income. In the Dominican Republic, my cat is an "American"--fat and beautiful.
Guess you were right, NeighborRamon. Except I don't think Danger is all that beautiful. He is a cat, after all.

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