Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's A Cat Thing: But It's Also A Psychological And Gender-Bias Discussion, Really. And There's A Short Film!


A few truths about Cat Ownership:
1. There is no such thing as a Free Cat.
2. Anything and Everything becomes a Cat Toy...
3. Yet, cat owners will still browse the aisles of and purchase Cat Toys.
4. There is a strenuous and pervasive bias in favour of dogs over cats.
5. No one wants to hear your Cat Story.
6. Cat hair and Cat yak: goes without saying.

Let's take these Realities one by one and shine the Harsh Light Of Truth upon them.

1. Unless you are an eight-year-old who has a paper route and finds a stray in a vacant lot and then "makes a little house for it" and brings it scraps from your school lunch every day and pretends it is "Your Very Own Cat", then responsibly adopting a cat means getting it checked out by a vet, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and giving it regular meals of decent chow and taking it to the vet when it inevitably needs medical care (and it will). Piper and Marlowe were adopted at the end of May from a no-kill rescue shelter. They were already fixed and had their first round of shots. As of today, the bill on my Deed Of Kindness is up to about $1200. This is only as of May. OF THIS YEAR.

2. Cats will play with boxes, paper bags, milk lids, crumpled paper, string, and Marlowe's all-time favourite, the twist-tie, which she will play endless games of Fetch with. Also strewn about the Dept. are plastic spoons, a Matchbox car, prescription bottle lids, a stick-on bow, a tiny stuffed animal, a large button, some ribbons I tied onto a plastic scarf ring, and some plastic pull-rings from Coffeemate. If I use Aveda shampoo, Piper plays with my hair.

3. This does not stop me from dillydallying in the Cat Toy Aisle at any store that has one. Why? Because I am an idiot, apparently. How many balls can they lose down the basement? "As many as they can bat under the huge, heavy furniture" would be the answer to that. Jared is infinitely amused by the fact that I say that the kittens are "playing soccer" or "playing tennis" merely because that is what the ball is made to look like. The "game" is always the same: they bat the ball around until it goes someplace where they cannot get to it. Sigh. And Piper always carries his fake mouse directly to the water dish where he deposits it to decompose into a sodden, unmouselike mess.

4. How many sinister Urban Legends about dogs are there? When you open up a Sunday advert, count how many more ads there are for Dog Things vs. Cat Things. Does Brian Williams ever praise cats the way he smiles and lauds, "Now that's a good dog!" about a story? Did he cover this great Cat Story? Even President Clinton knew he had to adopt a dog in order to appear more American and stereotypically Family Man-esque. How many men do you see in cat food commercials? In a nutshell, using Studentspeak: Why all the Hating On Cats? or Why Cats can't get No Love?

5. Because of this bias, no one wants to hear your Cat Story. Really. Women who talk about their cats get the polite smiles and then, later, the listeners nod and tsk about how she is Becoming, Perhaps, A Cat Lady. Or, if she is young, she is One Of Those Single Girls Alone With Just Her Cat. You know. One Of Those. Now, if the same person waxes enthusiastically about a beagle or German shepherd, then of course, that is different. Perhaps it has to do with going outdoors to clean up the animal shit. No idea. In one case, you follow along with a little bag in public, and, like a postal carrier, must do it in rain or snow or dead of night. In the other, you stay nice and warm and can do it in the privacy of your own home. Hmmm....

6. Part of The Territory, yet so unwelcome. Honestly, in the case of the hair at least, can they not...hold it in? At least Marlowe, in an incredible display of Innate Politeness, vomits only on linoleum. You cannot teach that. That is just inbred. This trait balances out her persistent and annoying proclivity for leaping onto the counter, despite repeated admonition.

One final note: Last night in an attempt to avoid watching the Cleveland Cavaliers get decimated by the San Antonio Spurs, I happened across a television show on Animal Planet entitled "America's Cutest Cat." It turned out to be a mind-numbing parade of a bunch of kitten/cat YouTube videos, so I abandoned it pretty quickly, even though my kittens started watching it, drawn by the sound of the meowing. One video stood out, though, merely because the kitten was so perfectly named. I'm embedding it here so that you can catch a glimpse of Allen the tabby kitten enjoying his food. (His name is absolutely right for him, isn't it? And it's obvious the owner is a Poe fan; Allen's brother is Edgar. I've decided to overlook the misspelling because it's a touching tribute.)


  1. We bought the best pony in the world for $5 in 2003. By the time he died last year, we had spent over $20,000 in care, food, supplements, wardrobe, and medical expenses (his surgery alone was almost $9,000). As we tell every potential horse owner, it's almost never the purchase price that's the issue, it's the upkeep. Still wouldn't have traded him for the world, but it does add up.

  2. People should not make films of their kids for the same reason they should not make films of their cats. Come on. That was cute, but went on far too long. No one wants to see the elevnty billion hours of video I have of Maya's sleeping as an infant or of her colic, or even of her chewing on "Goodnight Moon".

    OK, I lied. That was pretty cute. My dog is cuter any day of the week and twice on Sunday, but honestly, only because my husband is deathly allergic to cats. I will admit to being slightly biased towards dogs because they can go for a 4 or 5 mile walk with you and enjoy it, and your house doesn't smell like dog shit (most of the time). But still, kittens are pretty cute, and I'd have one if I could.

  3. Mikey G.3:33 PM

    In one case, you follow along with a little bag in public, and, like a postal carrier, must do it in rain or snow or dead of night. In the other, you stay nice and warm and can do it in the privacy of your own home.

    I know people with cats, and whatever room the litter box is in, it smells disgusting. I don't want an animal shitting in my house unless it can aim it into the toilet and flush it down. And despite many attempts on the part of others, I haven't seen a cat do that yet.

    And following a dog around and cleaning up after its messes is much nicer if you picked a place where the temperature next dropped below freezing ;-)

  4. Mikey G--Litterbox Odor is a symptom of Poor Cat Maintenance. Or simply a too-small apartment. Or cheapo litter. I perform daily catbox sifting, use clumping Fresh Step deodorizing litter, and my house does not smell of cat shit. Period. Trust me: I ask everyone, and even people--unprompted--will say, 'I can't even tell you have cats!' It is possible to have a Non-Shitbox Smelling House.

    J.@jj--It is a painfully long video, and there is no reason to watch the entire thing. Now, as far as a smell: I know several people with dogs whose houses, quite frankly, smell of DOG. Not dogshit, but DOG. One, in particular, smells so strongly of it, I cannot breathe in that home. Again, it is the OWNER's issue, not the dog, who is a nice animal. And your dog, by the way, has a lovely, kind face.

    LAFF--I noticed, with some alarm, the word "wardrobe" in your comment. Please tell me that you did NOT dress this dear pony up in some horrifying outfits. You know how I feel about animals in clothing. And they, you must know, hate it. I am hoping that it means something else in Horsey Speak terms. (Oh, I hope it does not mean funny hats and clown pants and such.)

  5. Because I often forget that not everyone is living in Horsey Land, the use of the word wardrobe in this case refers to the multitude of blankets we had for The Little Brown Pony. (We actually still have them all as we can't bring ourselves to sell them and have no other horse that they fit.)

    Since clipping all the hair very short for horses for winter is the norm for many horse owners, you need a variety of blankets to keep them warm when it's cold out. Lightweight, medium weight, heavy duty, ones for when it's raining, ones for after bath time, etc. etc. etc. The horse blanket section in any good tack catalogue is just filled with pages and pages of horse blankets of every size, style, and color imaginable. Since we loved our pony, and there were often good sales, he had many blankets.

    As for actual clothing, I feel the same about animals in outfits. Just say no. The only exception was Halloween when my daughter dressed him up for the costume contest--she was really creative and they usually won.

  6. Regarding animal clothing, I once dressed my beloved dog (when I was 8)up in a Very Pretty Dress, and she promptly ran away in shame. Jumped into the back of a pickup truck when it stopped at the stop sign in front of our house. Thankfully, we found her a few blocks away in the parking lot of a grocery store, and she was fine. I will always wonder what the driver of that truck thought when he found her in the back of his truck? Lesson: Do not put your animals in clothing. They do not like it. Unless it's a cozy horse blanket on a horse.

    Regarding the cat litter, I agree wholeheartedly. I am sometimes asked to care for the cats of neighbors while they are away. We live in townhouses, all exactly the same size. Both places have two cats. One uses really good quality cat litter, and I never smell a thing, no matter whether I clean out the box every day or not. The other house uses the cheapest COSTCO litter, and the house reeks, no matter how often I clean it. And when I do clean it, I gag.

    Regarding dog smells, indeed, the dog smell in the house is horrid. Esp wet dog. Pets are a burden, indeed. Gen just had a bath today, in preparation for Thanksgiving, and she smells like mangoes. Or, at least, mango shampoo. She is humiliated. She is thankful. Luckily for us, we live in a fairly arid climate, for it is wet dogs that give off 80% of the odor, I am convinced. Dry dogs can still reek, just not as much. (Gen never reeks enough to smell up the house, but I've been in houses like the one you describe. Usually with labs. I love labs, but not the smell.)

  7. (I intended to say, SHE is humiliated, smelling like mangoes. We are thankful.)

  8. LaFF--Oh, thank goodness! Of course, blankets on horses are a necessity, not an adornment.

    J@jj.--Your pet was probably hoping that the owner of the pickup truck was a sensible farmer who would take her away and use her as a sensible working dog. LOL. On another note: some cat owners feed cats--unnecessarily--a lot of canned or tubbed "wet" food. This causes smelly litterboxes too. Our cats have always subsisted on a nice, balanced dry only diet with no table foods. That is, until EmilyCat was so old that she lost most teeth and was so ill that she had to have the thinned out wet food gruel. Sigh. Bad days, those.

  9. Nance, I agree that pet odors in the home are to be blamed completely on the pet owners. I have one sister with two cats and the litter box is in the garage with an out-of-sight cat door that goes to the well-disguised litter box. Absolutely no smell in her house. The other sister, however, had two cats and four litter boxes sitting around her very tiny house: bathroom, laundry room, living room (OMG!) and the guest bedroom. While she diligently cleaned the boxes a couple of times a day, the house smelled like old cat litter, which I found extremely unpleasant. She has gotten married to a cat lover and they live in Arizona with 12 cats. I don't think I'll be visiting them anytime soon!

  10. But you forget, Dear Heart, that Mr. Clinton also had a cat, named Socks. Or perhaps he belonged to Chelsea? When I go swimming and then lounge around in front of the TV in the "big butt chair," Pepper plays with my hair. It's a kitty thing, I'm sure. And I'm glad to see that your two are growing up to be healthy, but not necessarity wealthy and wise...

  11. Melissa--No, I didn't forget. Implicit in my mention of President Clinton, I thought, was the fact that because he was a Cat Owner, he had to then adopt a dog in order to appear more American and Family-Man-esque. Socks got left behind, however, adopted after the Clinton Presidency by secretary Betty Currie.

  12. Susan--A litter box in the living room? Yikes. While I'm very fond of my kittens, I would never put a litter box in the living room. As a matter of fact, they have to trek to the basement to use The Necessary. That's just The Way It Is.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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