The Domestiphobic’s Guide to Cat Ownership
Let me start off by stating that, technically, the above title is incorrect because ownership implies some measure of control or ability to exert your will over the subject in question.
When it comes to cat ownership, in reality you’re just signing up to share your home and all your stuff with it until either (a) it dies of old age, (b) you die of old age, or (c) one of you decides to run away and go live in the dumpster behind Subway.
Hey, is that Parmesan Oregano loaf down there??
So, now that we’ve got those pesky semantics out of the way, there are several reasons why you might be tempted to own a cat. Much like a Volkswagen Jetta, they’re practical, affordable, space-saving, long-lasting and generally require very little maintenance (this is especially true if the cat is a newer model or a mint-condition used one).
Of course, you think! A cat! Something I can love freely without all the requisite responsibility or criminal neglect charges of owning kids! What an entirely obvious and intelligent decision!
Now, I’m no “cat expert” mind you—mainly because that sounds like the kind of title someone with a wide assortment of nasal sprays and appliquéd cardigans would have—but it’s been my experience that cats will generally live forever with relatively little effort on your part as long as you do the following three things:
1. Feed it. If you don’t happen to have any foie gras or festering rodent corpses on hand, cat food will do just fine.
2. Water it. And, contrary to how this sounds, you do not water it as you would a plant. The water should go in a container of some sort. Don’t feel embarrassed, it took us a while to figure out that humdinger, too.
3. Scoop it. This is perhaps the most degrading of cat ownership tasks as your cat will stand there, smugly watching you try not to gag as you dig, hunched over with a scooper in one hand and bread bag in the other, through the crapbox to collect its disgusting little nuggets like you’re on some sort of seriously lame treasure hunt.
Or you can just build a rocket ship and launch its poop into outer space. That’s also an option.
4. Adhere to the service plan. Make sure it gets regularly scheduled maintenance and take it to the dealership if it starts leaking, oozing, sputtering, stalling, or making weird knocking noises. And definitely don’t attempt to check its fluid levels yourself.
Easy enough, right?
But what you don’t factor in are the emotional, psychological and olfactory (means your nose, people) costs of cat ownership. As a former and current owner, I can attest that to own a cat is to:
1. Resign yourself to a perpetual two-inch thick layer of hair and litter grit covering everything you own. Tumbleweeds of cat hair will collect in the corners of every room and any fleece apparel you own will take on a mohair quality. This is one thing you’re just going to have to get used to unless you want to pop uppers and spend all day vacuuming and re-vacuuming until you’ve worn wheel groves into your floorboards. Best to just go for a retro vibe and get shag carpeting. And maybe a lava lamp. You know, for atmosphere.
2. Never again be able to take the shortest route from point A to point B. Cats are diametrically opposed to efficiency and directness, which is why they will devote their time to weaving around your legs, darting into your path and stretching out in major household intersections so that you either step over them or smash your face on the linoleum. Either outcome is fine.
3. Be constantly judged by something smaller, weaker and even less useful than you. Because it has nothing better to do all day, it will take every opportunity to wordlessly point out your flaws and shortcomings and silently revel in your personal failures. It will glare at you when you fail to pet it. It will smirk at you when burn yourself or stub your toe. It will glower at you when you raise your voice. And it will literally incinerate you with its laser beams eyes when you forget to feed it.
4. Never have surplus hairbands. Or paperclips. Or twist ties. Or any other small, swallowable and temporarily unsupervised object.
5. Repulse your houseguests. Cats are “clean creatures” in the sense that they clean themselves. Contrary to how that phrase sounds, they will not help you dust, wash dishes or sort the laundry. And considering you’re already too busy devoting the majority of your day to cleaning up after them and maneuvering around them, it’s inevitable that your house will deteriorate into a den of filth and madness. Just stop inviting people over and let it all hang out, baby.
6. Live in a house that always smells like something. Whether it’s that weird perfume-y scent of fresh cat litter or the eye-watering, nasal-passage-burning ammonia stench of old cat piss is up to you. Bon appétit.
7. Have your emotions toyed with. The only time a cat will ever willfully show you affection is when it wants something from you. It’s like a manipulative ex-boyfriend and you should handle it as such. Look it straight in the eye and in a firm, yet even, tone tell it that you will not submit to its ridiculous mind games any longer. If it helps you to get your point across, get a little sassy with your monologue like you’re an audience member on The Montel Williams Show. Put your hand on your hip and and start pumping your index finger. Roll that neck. You go, girlfriend.
8. Come to terms with the fact that you now live with the worst roommate ever. Make no mistake, cats are thoughtless a-holes and have no desire to change. They will use your stuff without asking and then hide it from you, they will dirty up something you just spent an hour cleaning, they will hang around the house all day long and ignore you until they need a favor. And good luck getting them to pay their share of the utilities.
9. Look insane to the normal public. Case in point: Chuckles and I don’t want our cats jumping up on the futon and getting hair and god-knows-what-else all over it–which they do anyway because, hey, screw us, right? I read somewhere online that aluminum foil repels cats because they don’t like the feel of it under their paws. So, as a last-ditch effort, we decided to cover our futon in tinfoil until the cats were trained to stay off it. Except one day I forgot to remove the tinfoil before I left the house and the landlord let herself in to the apartment to drop off a spare set of keys. And she has not answered my phone calls since. The end.
In fact, contrary to popular belief, the only thing that is simple about owning a cat is figuring out what it wants. Its wants are simple: food, water, toys, and for you to leave it the hell alone.
That isn’t to say that on the rare occasion it won’t demand to be pet to reassure itself that it still wears the pants in this unhealthy trainwreck of a relationship. But, typically: see above. And as far as your wants go, it does not care about them. So stop bothering it with your pathetic neediness.
Now, here is the part where other cat owners reading this will interject and insist that their cats are friendly and their cats are well-behaved and their cats bring them thoughtful presents and do long-division. But that’s probably because their cats are outdoor cats, which means they’re independent and self-sufficient and out of your face long enough for you to actually miss them.
This post, however, specifically pertains to the indoor cat experience since that’s what I’m qualified to talk about. Our two cats, Roxy and Talula, are strictly indoor beings because we live in a city full of citizens who range on the crazy scale from Charmingly Kooky to Full-On Batsh*t Insane, and we never know when someone might decide to flatten them under their car tires just for kicks and giggles. And it doesn’t help that our cats have all the survival instinct and outdoor savvy of a bath loofah.
Ok, moment of honesty here: I’ll admit that, despite all their annoying habits and lunatic behavior, I have developed a begrudging fondness for our two little buggers. Especially now that I’m sans (that means without, people) employment, they fill what would otherwise be an endless, yawning void of thumb-twiddling, nose-picking downtime with their quirky, madcap antics.
So take whatever moral you will from this post. Just remember that you were warned.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some poop to scoop.