When I was growing up, we did not have pets, not in the 2.5-kids-and-a-dog sense. We housed an occasional turtle rescued from the middle of the road- the poor turtle would stay in a Styrofoam cooler with a leaf of lettuce and a cherry tomato until my dad super-glued its shell back together and we released it back to the creek across the way. But no domesticated animals (oh, god- unless you count that RAT my brother kept for a while in a cage in his room. I had almost managed to block that one out. Said rat escaped his cage one night and wandered his way into my room where he managed to get up onto my bed and proceeded to snuffle around in my HAIR. I woke the whole house screaming, and I’m not even sorry about that, not even these twenty years later) of any kind.
I don’t even remember really even wanting a pet (although my mom should feel free to chime in with alternate recollections in the comments)- and I grew up deathly afraid of dogs, plus we traveled a fair amount, so all these factors combined into a no-pet household. This no pets thing continued well past college and into my twenties, until I made it to Seattle.
It would seem, in Seattle, that everyone I met or interacted with was strongly associated with a pro-cat or pro-dog stance, and so I came to live first with a black cat named Squid and then with a black dog named Whistle. Eventually the constant exposure to domesticated animals of all kinds grew on me (or I’d gone completely stir crazy from all the rain-induced indoor time), and I decided I too, should have a pet.
So I adopted Max, a giant fluff ball of a cat. And OH, did I have some things to learn about pet ownership. Did you know that cats SHED? Everywhere? Hand to God, I had never, in all my twenty-something years on this planet, ever owned a lint brush, and I think I may have had a panic attack when first trying to remove Max’s considerable deposits from my black pants. Someone had to INTRODUCE me to the lint brush.
Cats also track litter in places other than the litter box, and sometimes this tracked litter gets stuck on the bottom of your bare feet. Clearly this is my pre-medicated state, since I recall screaming at my girlfriend at the time that there was LITTER! EVERYWHERE! AND! IT! WAS! STUCK! TO! MY! FEET! I may have collapsed in a puddle of self-pity at this moment as well, because I clearly did not have a good grasp on the important things in life at the time.
I moved into an apartment that didn’t allow pets after that, and Max went to live with a woman who came to pick him up in pants covered with cat hair. She sent me an email after his first night at her place, telling me he liked cooked chicken and watermelon, and said email had little cat prints running across the background, and so I knew I’d made a good choice for Max.
You’d think this experience with Max might have deterred me from continued cat ownership, what with the shedding and the litter and the scratching and the unsightly bits of furniture I was required to buy (good lord, why are cat condos so expensive?). But no! A friend moved to San Francisco, so we took her cat, and then we moved into our very own house and decided I needed a kitten, one to raise as my very own.
So now there were two cats, and I thought, whew. I have achieved domesticity as I perceive it to apply to me (you know complete different that how the books portray it- two lesbians in a bedroom community with two cats…. err, ok, fine. It was a glaring example of just the sort of lesbian stereotype I’m always trying to distance myself from).
You might wonder how I went from my blissful domestic portrait containing two cats to a household overrun with FOUR (that is, if you’ve read this far and if you’ve some how intuited that I, up until recently, had 4 cats)?
First, our friend’s cat passed away, and the kitten (who was by now a giant burly tabby with a teeny tiny meow) LOST HIS SHIT. Clingy, crying, generally being a nuisance, turning him from my precious wee baby I’d raised all on my own to the most annoying four-legged creature this side of the Mississippi (I totally sang the Mississippi spelling song in my head both times I typed that). AND SO, because I am the craziest of crazy cat ladies, I bought my cat a pet. Not a toy, not turning on the television during the day, no, no. Those solutions appear to be much too simple, too EASY. No, I went out and got my cat… a cat. And not just any cat, but a kitten, so now there was all the dealing and training and more shedding and even more litter everywhere, and you get the picture.
Fine, I thought. Two cats. Two is a reasonable number for a large subset of things- cats, dogs, children, waffles per sitting, etc. I was pretty happy with my two cats and their occupying of each other, and the litter boxes confined to a back room with less tracking all over the house, and the aforementioned domestic bliss with the two lesbians.
At which point, of course, that relationship developed a fatal error (the error in question being SOMEONE [not me someone] sleeping with her COWORKER), and everything went KABOOOM. So I sold the house, packed the litter box and the cats, and we started over in another part of Seattle.
I will not bore you with the details of all the relationships that started and faltered between this time of moving and the meeting of J, but I will tell you this. YOU JUST TRY MEETING A LESBIAN IN SEATTLE WITH NO CATS. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It cannot be done! So every potential relationship carried with it not only the foibles of the person in question but also whatever menagerie of pets she had with her, meaning I had to, at every new encounter, consider the possibility of increasing the number of cats directly under my care to from a minimum of three to a maximum of INFINITY, and well shit. That’s enough to put you off dating forever.
I guess love really does conquer all, because when I met J, she not only had two cats, but three dogs as well. The three dogs were sent off with her ex fairly quickly, leaving her with the two cats, and when I moved in several months later, my own two cats, bringing the total to a stereotype-reinforcing FOUR. Good lord, four cats. The smartest thing we did with this enormous number of cats was to teach them to use the back yard as a potty, thus eliminating the litter box altogether. What carefree days those were!
The oldest of the cats passed away right before we moved to California, leaving us with a still significant number of cats, and when they are all piled onto our double bed sometimes I wonder where, exactly, does the BABY think it’s going to fit into all this mess? And even though we’re back to having a litter box inside and one cat that doesn’t care to use it, I still think they are the damn cutest things I’ve ever seen.