There’s a TikTok trend of picking your cat up like a phone, but animal experts say it could be harmful

"Gupta. Mhmm. Mhmm. Mhmm. The Queen is coming."
“Gupta. Mhmm. Mhmm. Mhmm. The Queen is coming.”

k0uvr, colleen / TikTok

  • There’s a trend on TikTok to recreate Sandra Oh’s iconic scene from “The Princess Diaries” using your cat as the phone.

  • Oh, who played the character Gupta, picks up the phone, briefly speaks, then hangs up to say: “The Queen is coming.”

  • Many of these TikToks are just for fun, and the cats don’t seem to be in any peril. But veterinarian Dr. Jessica May says people should be careful when picking their pets up this way.

  • She told Insider the trend could lead to “a dangerous misunderstanding of how animals should be handled,” and it’s particularly bad when they are held upside down.

  • Paula Stewart, the codirector of The Animal Talent Agency, told Insider cats are treated worse than dogs in social media videos, possibly because of a misconception that they aren’t as intelligent or emotional.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Another day, another TikTok trend to do with your cat.

A popular sound on the platform right now allows people to recreate Sandra Oh’s iconic scene from “The Princess Diaries,” which sees her character — Vice Principal Geraldine Gupta — answer the phone by saying: “Gupta. Mhmm. Mhmm. Mhmm,” before hanging up and saying: “The Queen is coming.”

With the latest trend, though, TikTokers are replacing the phone with their cats.

The cats don’t seem to be in any peril in many of them, but veterinarian Dr. Jessica May told Insider people should be careful not to manhandle their pets.

She said the trend “could ultimately lead to a dangerous misunderstanding of how animals should be handled.”

@k0uvr

I couldn’t hold it together when he fell off the counter 😂 btw this is one of my favorite movies

♬ original sound – maddieyoungman

It could be ‘frightening’ and harmful for the cat

According to May, some of the cats are clearly not being held appropriately — particularly when they are upside down.

“Many are handled roughly and their body language shows a negative response to having been picked up,” she said. “It is especially concerning to see some cats being held upside down — something that is not only very frightening for the animal but that also puts the pet at risk of head injury if dropped.”

Picking them up at such an unnatural angle could also lead to damage of their back, spine, or skull, she said.

“Whilst such injuries are rare, they may require expensive treatment, or could cause irreversible injury, leaving a pet with a long term impairment and pain,” she said.

@colleen

who started this trend??? whoever it is, they’re a genius and i’ve been laughing at these videos all night.

♬ original sound – maddieyoungman

May said it’s also troubling that there’s little indication of whether the cat is placed down appropriately afterwards.

“When placing an animal down it is important to ensure that they are slowly lowered towards the floor feet first, and that they are able to step away once their paws have come into contact with the ground,” she said. “If an animal is scared, and is scrambling to escape, they risk falling, which could in turn lead to sprains or broken bones.”

Sam Webster, a vet at Joii Pet Care, told Insider kittens can get bruised if they are not handled carefully enough or squeezed too hard. Plus cats can’t really tell us if they’re stressed.

“Some obvious signs that your cat is unhappy with a situation include: wide staring eyes, dilated pupils, ears held flat to the head, whiskers sticking out rather than relaxed and resting on the face,” she said. “Any cat struggling to escape or hissing should also immediately be released — these animals are very upset and telling you that.”

She said it’s also worth remembering that “some cats give very little warning when they are upset.”

“You may be holding an angry kitty near your face,” she said. “The risk of scratches or bites is real.”

@aylajalyn

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist… 🤣 ##thequeeniscoming ##MAYBEITSMAYBELLINE ##YouGotIt ##ohayla ##fyp

♬ original sound – maddieyoungman

People seem less likely to treat a dog that way

Cats are inherently amusing creatures, so seeing their reactions to things is always entertaining. But trends such as “The Queen is coming” highlight a bigger problem on social media of pets being used like objects.

Paula Stewart, the codirector of The Animal Talent Agency, told Insider she is supportive of pets being used on social media, provided the animal’s welfare is put first. Her agency is very strict about the content the animal owners they work with post, and would never work with an owner who was making content inappropriate or unfair to an animal.

“Something like holding a cat upside down, it’s just not nice is it?” Stewart told Insider. “You wouldn’t do it to a baby, so I don’t understand why you’d do it to an animal.”

She said it seems like people are much less likely to treat a dog in that way. People have also used puppies and dogs in “The Queen is coming” trend, but they appear to handle them in a much gentler way — sometimes only using a paw.

@maddieyoungman

Even he thinks I’m crazy ##keepingactive ##dogsoftiktok ##fyp

♬ original sound – maddieyoungman

“I really think it’s entirely different to how dog owners treat dogs,” Stewart said. “I think that people give more respect to dogs, because I think they think, ‘Oh, well a dog can be trained.’ But a cat can be trained just as well.”

Stewart works with cats that paddle board and go on walks with their owners. One regularly goes mountain climbing. She says it can be just as well trained as dogs, it just might take a little more patience.

“If you’re showing a cat performing a series of tricks like giving a high-five or a paw, or doing a sit and stay, I think that’s a really great use of TikTok videos,” Stewart said. “Because what you’re doing is you’re increasing awareness that cats are as good as a dog. I think in that way it’s beneficial. But when you’re treating a cat badly, nobody wants to see that.”

Cats also often have a blank expression, which may mean we don’t always comprehend when they’re upset. Meanwhile, dogs are famous for their “puppy eyes” and sad, guilty faces that break our hearts, which makes us more sympathetic.

“I can’t imagine many people holding a dog upside down,” said Stewart. “But I think that we need to realize that animals, cats and dogs are sentient beings. They’ve got emotions like us and we shouldn’t treat them badly.”

Webster said making TikTok videos with your pet can be a great way to bond and spend time with them, but we should remember that these are animals and not props.

“Try not to put them in any scary or uncomfortable situations,” she said. “At the end of the day you should both be having fun.”

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