Cat in the Courtroom

Rod Ponton, a Texan attorney, became an internet sensation this week when news spread of his interesting appearance in court.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the court case was being held online, and the lawyers and judge were all using computers and webcams with Microsoft Zoom to communicate.

Rod Ponton was, however, nowhere to be seen. In his place was a frightened-looking kitty.

But this was no pet.

The avuncular attorney had seemingly turned into a cute little cat — through the use of a software filter that he was now frantically trying to disable.

The cat’s mouth moved up and down whenever he talked, making his panic all the more comic for everyone who saw the video.

“I’m here live. I’m not a cat”, Rod had to explain, as the judge looked distinctly unamused.

Recordings are not usually allowed during court proceedings, but, when the session was over, Judge Roy Ferguson decided to release the video to the public.

He chose to do this because he wanted to remind other lawyers of the problems that can arise when you don’t check that your video-conferencing software is set up properly.

At least, that was the reason he gave. But I think he secretly saw the funny side of it and wanted to let us in on the joke.

Even so, this isn’t the first time that camera-created cats have been spotted at high-profile events.

Last year, a minister in the government of Pakistan shocked viewers during his live-streamed press conference.

He suddenly grew bright pink ears and long whiskers, looking remarkably like a cartoon kitty-cat — but the intrepid politician continued giving his speech regardless.

What’s more, a professional chemist wrote a blog post in 2003 about how he’d been affected during a job interview by exactly the same cat filter that Rod Ponton would end up caught out by.

You may think that filters are a pretty new technology, because they’re more associated with millennials and the Snapchat-generation than with middle-aged legal practitioners.

But the fur-faced creature was, in fact, generated by an old piece of software called Live Cam Avatar, which came pre-installed on Dell computers over a decade ago.

So you’d better watch out, because it’s really starting to seem as though anyone can turn into a cat at almost any moment!

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