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The saga of Jorts the cat

I linked to this in the previous thread, but it might be slightly easier to read in text. This is a Reddit thread in the AITA (Am I the Asshole?) subreddit. It’s long, but funny. Well, I found it funny.

AITA for “perpetuating ethnic stereotypes” about Jorts?

THE STORY We have two workplace cats in one area of our worksite. They add value to the worksite, we all love the cats and the worksite cat presence is not the issue. One of the cats (Jean) is a tortoiseshell cat we have had for years. The other cat (Jorts) is a large orange cat and a recent addition.

Jorts is just… kind of a simple guy. For example, Jorts can’t open a door even when it’s ajar— he shoves it whether he is going in or out, so often he closes the door he is trying to go through. This means he is often trapped inside the place he was trying to exit and meows until he is rescued.

My colleague Pam (not her real name) has been spending a lot of time trying to teach Jorts things. The doors thing is the main example — it’s a real issue because the cats are fed in a closet and Jorts keeps pushing the door closed. Jean can actually open all the other interior doors since they are a lever type knob, but she can’t open this particular door if she is trapped INSIDE the closet.

Tortie Jean is very nice to poor orange Jorts, and she is kept busy letting him out of rooms he has trapped himself in, so this seems easy to resolve. I put down a door stop.

Pam then said I was depriving Jorts of the “chance to learn” and kept removing the doorstop. She set up a series of special learning activities for Jorts, and tried to put these tasks on the whiteboard of daily team tasks (I erased them). She thinks we need to teach him how to clean himself better and how to get out of minor barriers like when he gets a cup stuck on his head, etc. I love Jorts but he’s just dumb af and we can’t change that.

Don’t get me wrong— watching her try to teach Jorts how to walk through a door is hilarious, but Jean got locked in the closet twice last week. Yesterday I installed a cat cutout thing in the door and Pam started getting really huffy. I made a gentle joke about “you can’t expect Jean’s tortoiseshell smarts from orange cat Jorts” which made Pam FURIOUS. She started crying and left the hallway, then sent an email to the group (including volunteers) and went home early.

In her email Pam said I was “perpetuating ethnic stereotypes by saying orange cats are dumb” and is demanding a racial sensitivity training before she will return. I don’t think it’s relevant but just in case, Pam is a white person in a mostly minority staff (and no she is not ginger/does not have red hair).

TL;DR: AITA for ‘enforcing an ethnic stereotype’ by joking that orange cats are often dumb?

And the follow-up

Thanks for responding to my query which had truly upset me. I work to have a good relationship with my team and the situation had gotten weird so gradually that I lost perspective.

I just met with HR, she had already met with Pam. HR was concerned about Pam’s comparing ethnic stereotypes with giving a cat a doorstop and they addressed that which went well. HR will follow up to make sure Pam understands. (The replies to my query were helpful to me for this discussion.)

HR also addressed Pam assigning other staff Jorts-related tutoring, as it is not appropriate for Pam to assign others work. This also went well.

We both think Pam had a hard time with the transition from volunteer to staff, and may have “new kid” sensitivity projected to Jorts. Pam got emotional about her perception that I favor Jean over Jorts and gave specific examples. Some of these things are fair. Jorts deserves respect as a member of our team.

There are 3 buildings in our workplace. Jean and Jorts are limited to one. HR told me there were 5 holdouts about vaccines, and restricting unvaccinated people from entering the building (to protect Jean and Jorts) was enough to win over 4 of them. That’s CRAZY, but great.

More importantly: the cats’ presence greatly enhances our work with our clients, and Jorts’ friendly nature has been so great. Both cats truly are doing important work. Truly Jorts deserves to be treated with respect.

We all deserve to be treated with dignity at work, so I will apologize to Jorts about some things that were insensitive or disrespectful.

a. Jean has a nice cat bed with her name on it, while Jorts has chosen an old boot tray in my office with a towel in it. Recently a visitor put wet boots in the boot tray and Pam saw Jorts sleeping on the wet boots. I bought a bed for Jorts today and a name tag has been ordered.

b. I will apologize to Jorts and remove the sign saying “DAYS SINCE JORTS HAD A TRASH CAN MISHAP: 0” Jorts likes to fish dirty paper cups out and he often falls into the bin or gets a cup stuck on his head, etc. (He is able to get out of the bin by tipping it over so it isn’t a safety issue.)

c. Jean’s “staff bio” has a photo of Jean, while Jorts’ bio has a photo of a sweet potato. I did not actually know either cat had a staff bio, but we will use a photo of Jorts instead of a sweet potato.

HR also suggested changing Pam’s duties so she is “in charge” of the cats. This I refused, the cats are my staff, not Pam’s. I think Pam was well-intended but actually not meeting the needs of either Jean or Jorts so they remain under my supervision. (Pam is also not to put cups on Jorts’ head or intentionally put him into frustrating situations given his unique needs.)

Lastly, and this made us both laugh so hard we can’t deal with it in person and will be said via email: Pam admits that she has been putting margarine on Jorts in an attempt to teach him to groom himself better. This may explain the diarrhea problem Jean developed (which required a vet visit).

Pam is NOT to apply margarine to any of her coworkers. Jean has shown she is willing to be in charge of helping Jorts stay clean. If this task becomes onerous for Jean, we can have a groomer help. I am crying laughing typing this.

Have a good weekend, everyone! Next week will be short and sweet.


Comment from G_d’s middle finger
Time: December 17, 2021, 9:14 pm

worth the read…. thanks weez!

Comment from OldFert
Time: December 17, 2021, 9:44 pm

I think Jorts might’ve worked in our IT shop.

Comment from Stephen Falken
Time: December 17, 2021, 10:13 pm

There might be something to his stereotyping of orange cats. I have two and they are friendly and lovable, probably not as intelligent as other cats I’ve known, and don’t groom as much.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 17, 2021, 11:25 pm

And yet…and yet…by far the smartest cats I’ve ever had have been gingers. I’ve had four, and they were all rockstars.

Comment from Sabrina Chase
Time: December 18, 2021, 12:15 am

He does have a point about torties, though. They are the true masterminds of the cat world, and their only weak point is a tendency to monologue at length. The tortie I grew up with considered my sister and I to be her special needs kittens and did her *damndest* to teach us how to hunt. “I won’t be around to provide for you forever,” she would say in cat several times a day. And then she would go on about the good old days when a single Dire Mouse could feed a family…

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: December 18, 2021, 5:48 am

I figure this must all be happening in one of these:

a. department of intersectional studies at university
b. psychiatric wards at teaching hospital
c. low-security prison
d. group home for developmentally disabled adults
e. division of motor vehicles office

What’s your guess?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 18, 2021, 10:06 am

I was thinking it was something like Goodwill or the Starvation Army. He said most of the employees were volunteers.

Comment from durnedyankee
Time: December 19, 2021, 1:56 pm

Here’s me kicking puppies again – Pam’s ass would be sitting in a new building, ‘volunteering’ in a new company, assuming that last note was even remotely accurate and not done for fun.
Little brat needs to let Jorts BE Jorts!


Oh, wait, smile, because I no longer have to put up with this crap except vicariously.

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