I do love my cat. She makes me very happy. She relaxes me. She makes me laugh and smile and believe in inherent goodness. I realized just how much I loved her about a month ago when I contemplated moving to Portland without her, and one day I looked into her eyes and she looked into mine and purred and rubbed her head on my hand, and I thought, “There’s no way I can leave her here.” She loves me too. She used to walk around the house crying for an hour every morning when I left for work (my roommates at the time, somewhat irritated, informed me of this); when I leave town, even for a weekend, when I get back, she doesn’t leave my side for hours and follows me into every room.
However, I have to say, I really related to Judith Warner’s column today about whether or not loving her dog “just enough,” was, in fact, enough. People who treat their pets like humans freak me out a little bit.
A generation ago, I think, people allowed themselves to be “good-enough” pet parents. They didn’t routinely get their cats’ teeth cleaned. They didn’t – as a friend of mine in New York recently did – spend $10,000 on kitty chemotherapy. They didn’t take their puppies on “play dates,” as the owner of the returned puppy told me she was instructed to do: “The trainer said, if we were going to have a dog who was going to be socialized appropriately and not have any issues, we had to have her meet 100 people a week so she wouldn’t develop any phobias. Plus 25 to 50 dogs.”
And they didn’t, as a family I know in Washington recently did, spend thousands and thousands of dollars on repeated surgeries for a puppy that had dashed out in traffic and been hit by a car.
Sometimes I feel guilty that I don’t buy my cat “special,” very expensive cat food that I have to go to snooty places to buy. Partly because I think pet food is largely all the same, and, much like bottled water, there’s a huge industry built around convincing people that it’s not. Partly because, at least right now, I simply can’t afford it. And partly because I don’t think my cat should eat better than I do. Sorry, but I don’t.
She’s a cat. She eats poop and dead things. She doesn’t care.
I don’t buy her the cheapest food. Just not terribly expensive stuff, either. And you know what else? If she got terribly ill from something like cancer, I’d probably just put her down rather than go into debt for 20 years to pay for treatment. Sorry, kitty, but I’ll see you on the Other Side. And I really resented being harshly, and vocally, judged by a good friend of mine when I was contemplating leaving her in Austin.
Does this make me a bad parent? Probably, to some people. But I rescued her from a being abandoned on the streets and probably dying, and I found homes for her brothers and sisters, and fed and nurtured all of them until I found those homes (and, honestly, I’m not even a “cat person”), and I give her a pretty cushy life, I must say. I make sure she’s taken care of and has a clean litter box.
But she’s not my whole world. It’s nice to be greeted by her, and to have her snuggle up to me in bed, and come sit next to me on the couch while I’m watching television or reading, just because she wants to sit next to me. But she’s also just a cat.
Granted, a very special, sweet, warm, friendly, adoring, and irreplaceable cat. When she’s gone, I can pretty much guarantee you I won’t be getting another one. I hate having fur everywhere; I hate the smell of litter boxes; I hate that certain people won’t come over to my house because they’re allergic; and she tends to make a lot of noise at night and wake me up frequently, which, if you’re already a bad sleeper like I am, is enfuriating.
So I don’t really know what the point of this post is, except that it feels nice to say out loud, and publically, that I could, in fact, probably love my cat more than I do, but I choose not to.
And I don’t think that makes me a bad person.