Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Furry family member, Part I

I've known people my whole life who had pets and these people were distraught about the loss of a pet. They were AS distraught as if it would have been a human relative. I never understood this because, growing up, we had no pets (unless you count the non-cuddly fish). My brother and I were allergic to everything as kids, all of which I outgrew, but the pet thing just never happened. We always wanted a dog as most boys do.

As I entered adulthood, it just never occurred to me. My ex-wife had 3 cats when we got together and when she moved in she wanted to bring them. There was no way in hell that was happening. Can you imagine going from no pets for 30 years and then to 3 cats? So she found homes for all but one. I was stuck and she brought him. He wasn't that bad really. When we moved to Mississippi from South Carolina we decided it was time for him to have a playmate and we got Shadow. We named her Shadow because she follows me everywhere I go. She was just a tiny 5 week old kitten when she arrived and she was adorable and clumsy. A real source of entertainment. I then began to understand how people fall in love and get attached.

When she left she took her cat, but Shadow was to remain with me. There was no way she was taking Shadow. Unfortunately, just like a person, Shadow reacted poorly to this change. Her brother and mom left at the same time and never came back. She'd wake up in the middle of the night with that crying meow they do. I'd leave for work and hear her crying through the door and find her sleeping by it waiting for me to come home. When she wasn't on my lap, she'd be sleeping on clothes. I had to leave a shirt on the floor for her to curl up with. When I had my (albeit very few) downturns in mood about the divorce, she got very maternal and would sit with me and look up or lick my hands to be reassuring.

They may be animals and incapable of expression or vocalization, but make no mistake, they know when people are happy, upset, etc and they react accordingly. Dogs, seem to do this less so, but my experience is quite limited. Cats really have a range of emotion.

So I go to get Shadow a sibling, Herbie. He's a tiny kitten with similar color patterns to Shadow. He's a lover and a cuddler and after a few days, they get along great. This is when the "crazy cat lady" jokes begin along with me developing a propensity to want to choke the people that repeat these jokes over and over.

A few months go by and I'm at PetSmart getting items for the cats and I see the cages with kittens. They are adorable and me and my buddy, Tommy, turn into blithering idiots. Some very tough looking guy passes us and we straighten right up until he stops to see what we're looking at and does the same thing. One of the kittens was Benny, but he had a brother and I wasn't about to get 2. Unfortunately for me, someone adopted his brother and I couldn't resist. The tiniest kitten I've had came home with me on the spot.

So now the jokes are in high gear. For some reason, having cats make me a crazy cat lady. For some reason, it's socially unacceptable for a man to have cats. Some people are light hearted about it and it's simply irritating due to repetition. Some people keep turning and twisting the knife because the are socially awkward and don't know when enough is enough. Some people have actually spread legitimate, serious rumors that my adoption of cats was because I'm actually gay, which is asinine - a) I'm not gay and b) the first gay person I know that comes to mind has a dog so explain the connection. Can you believe that one person actually gave me a stupid little sign to hang in my home that says "You say crazy cat lady like it's a bad thing." Did you really think I'd hang that up? And it was given to me in front of the rumor mongers.

I do not understand this. The notion of a crazy cat lady stems from the woman who dies old and alone surrounded by as many cats as years she's been alive. I can't see how I fit that bill. I'm not old, I'm not a woman, I don't have a house full of kittens. As far as being alone, that sterotype is the spinster who has always been alone whereas I was married and now divorced - like 50+% of people in this country. So, I'm failing to draw any parallels.

I like dogs. Having a dog would be awesome. I live in an apartment with no space for a dog to run. I work 10 hours a day, plus school, plus a brand new company I started, plus a social life. I do not have time for a dog. Cats are self sufficient. Full bowls of water and food and a litter box that needs to be scooped every other day and they do their own thing. It's easy. I can go away for probably up to 4-5 days without having anyone look in on them. My friends with dogs need to stop back home several times per day to let them out. My life does not support that.

There are tons of cats and dogs without homes. There are 3 less out there now. If that turns me into a 65 year old woman who dies alone, then so be it. Do you have pets? If so, then you understand the attachment. If you don't, then don't judge me. They are like children. Everyone with a pet knows this attachment.

So, I'm done with the crazy cat lady jokes. Enough is enough. It's rude and untrue and I've heard it 1000 times. Even a joke that started funny, wouldn't be funny after all that time. One that started out stupid, REALLY irritates the hell out of me. I've let it roll off my back for a year, but not anymore. So, can we move on to other things or are your lives SO hollow that you have no choice but to judge me for mine?

To be continued...

No comments: