Since becoming a parent, I have seen many articles on whether having pets is just like having children. You have one camp who only has pets, sometimes by choice and sometimes not, who claim their pets as their babies, while people with children shake their heads and smile smugly because these pet owners just have no idea.
Now having both, I feel like I can definitely declare that having pets is more like having human children than those smug parents would like to admit. True, I don’t have to put away money for Kitty College. Nor do I have to worry about whether or not my parenting will lead to my cats being self-involved assholes with “affluenza” once they’ve grown up. But I keep adding to the list in my head every time I realize that I’m doing the same exact thing I’ve done with my own kids.
Get cats, she said. It’ll be therapeutic, she said.
1) I have to feed them.
Pretty self-explanatory, though not always as easy as it would seem. As with children, I can’t just give my cats any old food. I have to make sure that the food I give them has good nutrition. Last week, Bridgette and Belle’s dry food gave Belle wet, sloppy shits, some of which ended up on our carpet. Parents, don’t tell me you have had to deal with horribly messy poo because your child ate something s/he shouldn’t have eaten.
And once you do find food that’s right for your pet, they have to want to eat it. Cats can be especially picky, looking at you like you’re a fucking sociopath before they haughtily saunter away, because you dared to feed them salmon when they much prefer turkey giblets in gravy.
2) I have to clean up their shit.
Congratulations! They’re using the litter box you provided for them. Now, get down on your hands and knees and scoop it out. If that isn’t analogous to changing a diaper, I don’t know what is. There are even times when I have to check and wipe my cat’s ass because it wasn’t clean enough after going potty, just like when Zoë hasn’t wiped well enough.
3) I am paranoid about their health.
New parents, especially, all have had those nights when they’re trying to decide if their baby’s temperature warrants a call to the doctor. Then there are the nights they can’t fall asleep because their child is coughing because of a cold, and they’re pretty sure their child is in the next room choking on their phlegm.
Similarly, I now have two more lives in my care, which means I get to make Bridgette go through a deep clean ear wash, and then worry about whether or not Bridgette shaking her head means that it didn’t work, she has ear mites, and they’ve caused her to have an ear infection. Last week when Belle wasn’t eating her wet food as much and began having wet, gloppy poo, I did what all parents do and searched the Internet for what my poor kitty was afflicted with. And, like all parents who have foolishly searched the Internet when their kids are sick, I became freaked out that she had parasitic worms that are difficult to eradicate and that I would have to follow her around for the next year catching her anal leakage and cleaning up whatever I didn’t catch. This is compounded by the fact that I can’t exactly ask them how they’re feeling or where it hurts. Well, I can, but the only cat I speak right now is, “food”, “get up”, “sit down”, “pet me”, “play with me”, and “Mama! Halp! That crazy girl, Zoë, is chasing me again. Gah! Now she’s touching me. Dude! STAHP!”
4) I have to get a babysitter.
While someone doesn’t need to supervise them at all times, we can’t just take off for a week and hope they don’t have a kegger while we’re gone. As with a babysitter, I have to find a friend or boarding who will meet my cat’s needs and ensure that my feline family is alive and well when we return.
5) I have to keep them from getting into things.
Anyone who’s had a toddler knows the feeling of having to constantly bird dog someone. You’re constantly on the move saying, “Don’t touch that! Don’t eat that! No going over there….and don’t do that either!” As Belle is still a kitten, we have to do this with her more than Bridgette. Her specialty is locating ponytail holders; she’s obsessed! If there is one in the house that isn’t put away, rest assured she will find it. Then there’s chewing on paper, the living room rug, and kid’s toys. This morning I had to stop her from chewing on a pushpin. Many of you know the feeling of asking your child, “What did you just eat?” and prising their mouths open, hoping they haven’t always swallowed whatever was in there.
I have to stop them from climbing on certain pieces of furniture. They mostly have free reign, but the dining room table, countertops, and entertainment center are no-no’s. So naturally, Belle has to be on them all the time. She swaggers onto the table, sniffing around until I shoo her off. Of course, most of the time, she just looks at me quizzically like she’s thinking, “What? I do this all the time when you’re not here.” Trying to guide/push her off the table leads to her sitting down, clearly having performed the permanent sticking charm. (Professor McGonagall, is that you?) Have you ever tried to make a toddler go somewhere s/he doesn’t want to go? Dead weight is my favorite. And of course, I have to repeat this exercise with her several times within the span of a few minutes. As far as cats and kids are concerned, “No!” is just an opening bid.
6) Sibling rivalry is a thing.
Why do siblings fight? They fight because they have different personalities. (Rachael is an introvert; Zoë is an extrovert.) They fight because they have different agendas/ideas of fun. (Rachael wants to watch tv. Zoë wants to role play Team Umizoomi for the millionth time.) They both want the same thing at the same time. (“Nooooooo!” Rachael shrieks as Zoë tries to take a toy away. Zoë whines back, “I had it first!” I frequently refer to the noise they make as listening to feral cats fighting.) They both want to protect their territory from the other. (“Get out of my room!”; “I was in this chair first!”)
It’s not any different having cats. Energetic kitten, Belle, believes that now would be a great time to jump on Bridgette’s back. Generally more sedate, Bridgette doesn’t agree, looks at Belle as if to say, “The fuck is wrong with you?”, and pushes Belle away. A fun rough and tumble can quickly give way to Bridgette smacking the shit out of Belle because she wants to establish her dominance and possession of the cat tree at that very moment. As with kids, she didn’t give two shits about the cat tree until that very moment, when Belle wanted up.
It’s actually almost easier to deal with the girls when they’re not getting along. I mean, I can intervene if the cat fight gets too intense, but telling them that they had better stop or they’ll lose TV for the rest of the day hasn’t had the same effect that it does on Rachael and Zoë.
7) You wouldn’t trade them for anything.
When you adopt a pet, they become a part of your family. You know, unless you have extenuating circumstances…or you’re a monster. Those sweet faces you fell in love with grow into creatures with unique personalities and quirks. Fairly soon, you don’t entirely remember life before you had your furry companions.