ANNAPOLIS – The ordinary calico cat would be elevated to official Maryland symbol if a new bill sponsored by Delegate Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany, is signed into law this session.
Maryland already has a lengthy roster of other official state animals, most with more obvious connections to the state: dog, Chesapeake Bay retriever; bird, Baltimore Oriole; crustacean, blue crab; and fish, rockfish.
Maryland even has an official reptile – the diamondback terrapin, the mascot of the University of Maryland, College Park – and a state insect, the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly.
So why is Maryland considering a state cat three years after naming the Astrodon johnstoni the state dinosaur? And why calico?
Last spring, five then-fourth-grade students at Western Port Elementary School in Allegany County felt that it was time.
The five girls had studied how a bill becomes a law and visited the State House. There they learned another group of students proposed Maryland adopt an official dinosaur and succeeded, said Emily Weber, one of the students.
In April, Weber, January Mullen, Abigail Rawlings, Lexi Gentry, and Molly Nelson wrote a letter to Kelly and explained their reasons for wanting a cat and asked him to propose a bill.
“Maryland has a state dog, and we thought that the colors of the calico cat would go with the Maryland state flag,” said Mullen.
The letter reached Kelly after the General Assembly adjourned, so the idea was put on hold.
The girls, now in fifth grade, continued to monitor the General Assembly Web site for their bill. They contacted Kelly last week, wondering what happened to their idea.
Kelly introduced the bill in the House Wednesday.
“No one has explained to me why we need a state dog and not a state cat,” said Kelly. “No one has explained to me why we need a state dinosaur and not a state cat.
“But really it’s about these students. They wanted to have involvement in state government, and I think that’s wonderful.”
Putting a kitty on the state symbol roster could be a national first.
“We think we might be the only state with a state cat” if the bill becomes law, said Mullen.
Both Virginia and Pennsylvania have state dogs – the American fox hound and the Great Dane respectively, but there is still no official Cat of the Commonwealth of either Virginia or Pennsylvania, and no plans to create one.
According to the Virginia Division of Legislative Information, the only bill before the General Assembly this year that affects official symbols designates Monroe Center in Fauquier County as the official gold mining interpretive center of the commonwealth.
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