You know those annoying people who think of their pets as children? The ones who joke that we should be able to claim our furry family members as dependents because dammit, vet bills are expensive?
I’m one of them.
I don’t have human kids, so I’m also the first to admit that I don’t know the trials and tribulations of parenting a child. But my Mom does. She’s been stuck with me for almost 42 years. And like me, she has always considered the four-leggers she brought into our home members of our family. Over the years, she’s referred to the many dogs she has loved and raised as “her good kids.”
Really, Mom? One ate your socks and required surgery because they got stuck in his intestines. Another got into the Crisco and flour and left big white turd ornaments on our lawn for a week. And another thinks the best way to tell you he loves you is to bring you a dead critter now and then.
All I ever did was throw the occasional teenage temper tantrum and sneak cigarettes and beer. Oh, and there was that hole in the wall that I covered with the Ozzy poster. But those were tough years. I’ve mellowed out since then, and the dogs still bring you dead things from time to time.
In all seriousness, I totally agree with my Mom about the joy pets bring to our lives, and the care we owe them in return. Because I don’t want to offend human parents out there, I’ll refrain from a long comparison of critter care and child-rearing.
But I will tell you this. One of the struggles of parenting four-leggers is that animals never learn to talk. My cat Sylvester will never tell me in words what he is thinking, and I can’t teach him life lessons through quiet conversations.
There are moments I’d love to know what he’s thinking. And even more moments when I’d love to tell him a few things that would make our lives ever so much easier. A mom can tell her son to take a shower because girls won’t like boys with dirty fingernails and stinky feet. She can tell her daughter that she can only spend hours texting AFTER she cleans her room and does her homework, because some things in life are more important than her best friend finding the perfect nose ring at the mall.
Unfortunately for me, there are some things I just haven’t figured out how to share with Sly through our language of meows and baby talk and head butts. Some may find my decision to share my cat-parenting woes the week of Mother’s Day to be in poor taste. But since it was my mom who first showed me the joy of owning and being owned by animals, I consider it perfect timing. So here they are.
My Dearest “Fat Boy,”
There are some things I wish you’d learn along the way to make both our lives easier. Please give these some thought as you go about your busy days of eating, sleeping, meowing, rolling on the floor, leaving me prizes in the litter box and chasing random objects.
1. Before you leap up into that window where the ledge is barely big enough for your fluffy oversized butt, check out whether it is open or shut. This will save you many embarrassing tumbles and bonks in the head.
2. I love our snuggle time. But when you see that I have just eaten a meal that would make Larry the Cable Guy proud, wait a while before insisting on lying on my belly.
3. Along the same lines, I know you’re just trying to help. But those tummy-kneading sessions do NOT help much when I’ve got a stomach bug.
4. Because I love you, I will never, ever let you go hungry. But it will take me a lot longer to get food in your bowl if you cause me bodily harm by weaving around my legs when I stumble blindly and clumsily out of bed and to the coffee pot.
5. Speaking of eating, you’ll be a lot less likely to have those unpleasant yakking sessions if you slow down and chew your food. And I wouldn’t mind cleaning up less puke.
6. I want to spend time with you too. But there are some things a woman prefers to do in private. Peeing is one of those things.
7. You are always welcome to share my bed. But I’d really prefer not waking up with your butthole in my face.
8. When you head-butt my Kindle, it makes me kinda seasick.
9. I know that dead bug is a point of pride for you. Don’t take it personally when my initial reaction is to squeal or say “ewwww.” I realize you are a skilled and accomplished hunter and have yet again saved me from some creepy crawly thing.
10. I know you think you’re the man. I do too. But please remember that those outdoor cats you like to taunt from the safety of the window are street smart and you are sheltered and spoiled rotten. If you ever actually got out there to play with them, they’d kick your butt.
I know I’m not alone in wishing I could say this things to my little dude. What would you tell YOUR furry family member?
Oh, and by the way, Happy Mother’s Day to all of your nurturers out there. You make the world a brighter place for humans and animals alike!