Two cat related items that inspired this post- the first is the fact that my own cat, Bogey, spent his weekend at the vet for an abscess on his neck. I’ll spare you the details, but he needed to have it dealt with and he should be fine. But I missed the little guy all weekend. I’ve had him for a few months now and, as Henry Higgins might say, I’ve grown accustomed to his face. He’s usually with me every morning as I make coffee and he does figure eights around my legs until I’ve filled his dish (You want some breakfast, buddy? is answered with a terse yes of a meow).
Bogey often comes bounding from the hedges or the yard when I come home from work and when we go in he trots up the stairs after me as I go to change my clothes. If I start back downstairs he races ahead of me, and if I stop halfway down he’ll look back and start chewing me out. At night when I curl up in a chair to read he’ll settle in the room somewhere. Occasionally he’ll (gently) grab at my hand with his claws if it’s dangling over the edge of a chair, and we commence to “wrestling” with one another while he gently nips and kicks at my hands and arms while I try to pin him down (I say try- I’m a lot bigger and stronger than he is so I pretty much always win).
But I didn’t have any of that this weekend and I realized how much I miss him. I like having him follow me around the house, I like having something to talk to and something to take care of. I like it when I sit there and literally do nothing but breathe and scratch his head for thirty minutes. I even like it when he wakes me up in the middle of the night by sitting on my stomach and kneading my chest. As everyone who’s owned a cat or a dog knows, you can develop an incredibly strong affection for your pet.
But that relationship, while certainly not one way, is not a substitute for human relationships. This brings me to the second item that inspired today’s post- Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. In the episode that came out today Marc talked about his own relationship with his two cats (a recurring theme of the podcast and a topic covered in his book Attempting Normal). Like me, Maron is single and childless and while he stresses that he loves his cats and obviously has a relationship with them, there’s a temptation to think of them as more than what they are. People will refer to them as “his children,” and put his relationship with them into those terms. Maron rejects this, because the relationship with a cat, however personally satisfying or based on deep affection, is not a human relationship. As he says, there’s an incredibly limited amount of growth that a cat goes through. I couldn’t agree more.
As much as I care about Bogey and missed him this weekend, it’s not the same as missing an old friend you haven’t seen. I love it when he sleeps on my lap and I can pet him, but it’s not the same as having someone hold your hand and put their head on your shoulder. I like talking to him (and he’s a pretty vocal cat who responds when talked to) but we aren’t having a conversation. A cat is not a child. It is not a friend and it is not a substitute for building relationships with people.
The other day, without thinking it through, my dad and I were talking about Bogey and I said something along the lines of “But he’s your grand-cat.” Ew. Ew EW EW! I don’t want to be that guy. I want to be a great pet owner and there’s a lot that you get in terms of affection and payoff from an animal. But mark my words, I am not going to become the stereotypical “crazy cat lady.” I am not getting Bogey a Christmas present and I won’t ever sign a card “From Paul and Bogey.” He is a cat, and if you ask me, he’s the greatest cat in the world. And I’m OK with leaving it at that.