Nine years ago, Mr. Tiddles was left behind when his owners moved away. As a matter of fact, the rumor was that when his former owners left, the cat was stranded inside the empty apartment with nothing more than an open bag of cat food. When the new tenant moved in, she kicked him out. With nowhere to go, Mr. Tiddles wasted his days roaming the apartment complex’s parking lot, crouching under parked cars for shade and lapping up the dirty water that collected in the potholes.
My future husband would sneak servings of tuna and milk outside to the grateful cat, which explained why I found it clinging to the screen of our bedroom window one night, desperately begging to be allowed inside. I only abode its request so I could go back to sleep, but Mr. Tiddles hasn’t left our care since.
A year later, we rescued a blind Russian Blue. Then a week-old, white long-hair was added to our growing collection a year after that. And then a black long-hair a year after that. And finally, a deaf Abyssinian with a mild case of cerebellar hypoplasia a year after that. All five rescues, each with an interesting story, and all five sharing a tight, 1,200 square foot space with a man who has minor breakdowns when he feels like the cleanliness of his home is getting out of control (i.e. me).
Despite my obsessive cleaning tendencies, I struggled to learn how to cope with the expected (loose cat hair, vomit, hairballs, etc.) and the unexpected (childproofing cabinets, losing sleep, torn blinds, etc.). Because of my husband’s passion for helpless animals, I worked on myself so that I could learn to accept these challenges. Then one day, I began to realize that my life ended up revolving around the care and happiness of these animals. I don’t know how I did it, but I’m sure Xanax had something to do with it.
What started out as doing something I hate because I love my husband more than I hate having indoor animals turned into sharing a responsibility with someone with whom I love. I can’t imagine my life without these heathens. They not only give companionship, loyalty, and laughs, but they provide something of which my husband and I can bond.
If we’re not sending each other texts from one of our cats, one of us is playfully annoying the other by calling Zoe a drunk or claiming to repay a favor with “1,000 Elvis kisses” (which I still respond to by rolling my eyes and reminding him that Elvis kisses do not put food in our pantry). But none of this is my point. This is all just a history in which to emphasize it.
My point is, I wish people understood that if they aren’t not ready to make a lifetime commitment to an animal, maybe pet adoption isn’t for them. Cat
litter commercials and internet
memes do not accurately depict cat care life, and people need to know this because I don’t think my heart can take another story of a cat who has bonded with someone only to be abandoned when it becomes inconvenient for the owner. There’s a lot of poop. There’s a lot of hair. And there’s a lot of broken blinds and clawed furniture. But before anyone chooses to discard the loyalty of an animal because it becomes too expensive, too much work, or not as fun as they imagined, I hope they realize that if I can commit to caring for an animal for the rest of its life, so can they. There are no excuses.
No matter how much sleep I lose because Zoe spends the night opening and closing cabinet doors, no matter how frustrated I become when Blind Murphy vomits $5 worth of “special diet” cat food on the floor, I will always love and care for them because they are my family and always will be.