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Take Meow to the Ball Game

Admit it, baseball is less boring when a cat’s running the bases.

by Helin Jung
March 4, 2022
A cat running on a baseball field during a game at Angel Stadium.
Photo: KIRBY LEE, KIRBY LEE-USA TODAY SPORTS

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Getting into a professional sporting event these days can feel more complicated than getting through the airport. Sure, going to a baseball game sounds like a breeze, but even after you’ve paid (too much) for tickets and parking, you still have to navigate strict bag policies, security screenings, and so much peer pressure to do the wave. It’s A Lot.

Well, it’s a lot if you’re human. For a cat, getting into the stadium of their choice is a much easier proposition. They can sneak under a turnstile here, wriggle through a gate there, and boom — they’ve got water, hot dogs, and shelter for days. That is, until the dreadful moment arrives when they scamper through the wrong corridor and suddenly find themselves on the field during a live game with an audience of thousands of people screaming and pointing in their direction. What’s a cat to do then? 

It will come as no surprise that, for the most part, cats run. Take, for instance, a matchup between the Yankees and Orioles at Yankee Stadium last summer during which a shaggy gray cat got onto the field. The cat went scrambling as players and crew members tried to get a hold of them, but cats are fast, and this one was no exception. Each time the cat was able to evade capture, the crowd roared with pleasure. Eventually, the cat ran off the field on their own.

While broadcasters and fans might find these escapades amusing, the cat is anything but pleased. “I’m sure it’s very disorienting, very scary, and why people try to chase them is beyond me,” says Lisa Stemcosky, certified cat behaviorist and owner of PawLitically Correct, a cat behavior consulting business based in Washington, D.C. “You’re not going to catch the cat, and now you’ve added fuel to the fire. The cat thinks he’s literally running for his life from these monsters.”

Or, if the cat does get caught — as in the case of the legendary Rally Cat of St. Louis — they might draw blood in an act of self-defense. That particular kitten got mythologized when the Cardinals ended up winning the game thanks to a grand slam right after the cat appeared on the field. “He’s not part of the team. He’s not the shortstop,” Stemcoscky says about the superstition. “Humans are personifying him.”

Things got really dramatic at a college football game in Miami in September, when a cat somehow ended up dangling precariously from the edge of a deck during the first quarter. Terrified screams rang out as the cat started to lose their grip. Luckily, people in the stands below held out an American flag like a net and were able to catch the cat when they fell. What happened next — one of the people involved in the rescue held up the cat like baby Simba — probably compounded the cat’s stress.

Is there a cat-friendly way to deal with such a disruption during a game? Yes, but it’s highly unlikely to happen. If it were up to Stemcosky, the crowd would freeze and go mute. “I would have everyone sit down and be quiet,” she says. “Players leave the field, pop a can of cat food, and put some blobs there for him to follow as a trail of treats. Be quiet, calm down, let this cat get his bearings and find his exit.”

It’s a big ask when you’re talking about a major sporting event, but if you’d like to do right by a cat who disrupts one of your games, consider the poor creature before you start screaming. “Be a little empathetic!” Stemcosky says. “What if 12 cats — make that 12 mountain lions — were running after you?”

writer helin jung and cat

Helin Jung

Helin Jung is a writer in Los Angeles.