Monday, November 3, 2008

Crazy cat lady

I've always been a dog person. I've never actually owned a dog but when I was growing up, I SO wanted a dog and I was always bummed we couldn't have one because of my mom's and sister's allergies (though I actually found out many years later that apparently the real reason was my parents couldn't agree on what kind of dog - my mom being a small dog person and my dad being a big dog person - but that's a whole different post). When I was finally living on my own, I kept thinking that I'd get a dog as soon as I got settled somewhere; I distinctly remember that when I got my current job eight years ago, I thought that I needed to find an apartment that would let me have a dog, or buy a house as quickly as possible so I could have one.

So although I've never owned one, I've definitely always thought of myself as a dog person. I definitely was NOT a cat person. Cat's have never liked me and I've never particularly liked them. What's to like about these weird animals that seem to think they are doing you a favor if they deign to look in your direction? But five years ago, I somehow became a cat owner. I'm still not quite sure how it happened. Well, I mean, I know how it happened - my sleeping partner at the time was going on sabbatical and couldn't find anyone to take care of his cat and was about to take her to the shelter so being a complete sucker, I said I'd take care of her for the six months he would be gone. And at first, it wasn't that big a deal. The upside of cats' notorious aloofness is that they are incredibly low maintenance. You pretty much just feed them and scoop out their litter box once a day (and if you have an outdoor cat, not even that). I didn't really pay much attention to her. But slowly, day by day, she began to grow on me. She would come sit on the couch with me while I was watching T.V., and then she started sleeping on my bed. She would bump my legs as I was sitting at my computer until I'd pick her up and then she'd just sit there in my lap. Somehow, by the time her former owner came back to town, she had become 'mine'.

What's particularly weird is that other cats seem to know that I'm now 'a cat person'. It used to be that if I encountered cats in other people's homes, they ignored me, just as I ignored them. Now, it's like they can sense something - if I walk into a house with cats, they will make a beeline for my legs. And my cat is curled in my lap as I write this, purring away.

So given my cat history, I loved a recent post from Bella DePaulo, about the stereotype of singles and their cats:
I wonder why it is that single people - women especially - are so often cast as cat-crazy. Is it a way of attributing a cat-like caricature to singles - say, aloof and unsociable? Or maybe even a more flattering portrait of cool and unruffled independence? By itself, the perception of singles as cat-people (or pet-people) doesn't bother me. What does rub me the wrong way is the interpretation that is sometimes offered for the supposed link between being single and having a pet - that singles have pets as "compensation" for not having a spouse.
In the comments, Becky points out that dogs simply require a lot more time and work: "So it's not a crazy lonely cat lady, it's a person with a full time job and social obligations without kids to keep them home... if you have control over it, a cat is often a more practical and humane choice in a pet if you are a busy single." That is certainly the view I have come to have. I love that I can go away for the weekend and not worry about what I'm going to do with my cat. If I get caught up at the office, or decide to spend the night somewhere at the last minute, I know my cat will be fine. She's still happy to see me and still keeps me company when I'm just hanging out at home but there's no guilt when I leave either. I still love dogs and I stop to pet every dog I see on the street. But I've come to think about dogs the same way I think about kids: they're adorable and I love to play with them at other people's homes, but I certainly don't want to give up my life to have one of my own. So go ahead and call me a crazy cat lady - I'll just take a lesson from my cat and ignore you...


Robin said...

Hee hee. Sorry, but I'm not sure you get to be a crazy cat lady with only one.

I've got some spares I could loan you. :-D

Jenn said...

Hmmm, good to know! I've thought about getting another cat but my current kitty doesn't really play well with others. Guess I should consider this a good thing! :-)