My cat may not be my child — but he is still my boy

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

In case you’ve missed it, there’s a debate raging across the Internet. And believe it or not, it’s got nothing to do with the election. It’s not about Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals or Hillary or Trump.  In fact, it’s got nothing to do with politics whatsoever.

But it’s heated. Because this debate pits pet owners against non-pet owners and animal lovers against non-animal lovers.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

It all started not too long ago, when a New York Magazine writer penned an article claiming pet owners who think of themselves as “parents” to their dogs and cats are delusional. The headline simply read: Pets Are Not Children So Stop Calling Them That.

As someone who always wanted to have kids of my own but didn’t due to circumstances beyond my control — and as someone who has had pets for most of my life — I actually agree with him. But only to a point.

Personally I think that dressing companion animals in “costumes” resembling human clothing (for any reason other than to keep them warm in exceptionally cold weather) is taking things way too far. I feel the same way about transporting them in strollers and throwing parties to celebrate their birthdays. To me, there’s something about it that just isn’t right.

However, I strongly object to the author’s contention that, “In stark contrast to pets, children are always trying to outgrow, outflank, and outsmart their parents. Children are cunning and devious, with long memories and big plans. They don’t just grow, they develop.”

This comment shows a considerable lack of insight and a remarkable amount of stupidity.

I got my first cat when I was 10. She died when I was 27. So we literally grew up together. Her name was Tiger. She was a little Siamese cross with a huge personality.  And she was a peacemaker. Whenever there was drama in our house (and there was lots of it), Tiger would stand between the warring parties and cry her little lungs out. She didn’t stop making noise until we did. She wasn’t necessarily “cunning and devious,” but she was smart.

Then there was Heals. She came into my life a few months after I lost Tiger. She was a big, outgoing, happy-go-lucky cat. She was also adventurous and insisted on being outdoors, even after I moved twice in a short period. When we lived in West Harrison, she had a habit of wandering into one neighbor’s garage to say “hi.” I don’t know for sure, but I rather suspect she got a few treats there, too. So was she “cunning and devious?” Perhaps. Was she “trying to outflank and outsmart” me? I wouldn’t have put it past her. Was she intelligent? No doubt.

And now I’ve got Eli. My big, sweet, wonderful boy. He came into my life back in 2008. I adopted him from the Fauquier SPCA when I lived in Virginia — and it was clear from the beginning that he’d had a troubled past. He spooked easily and ran from anything he thought he could be hit with. Even soft toys seemed to pose a tremendous threat. He didn’t like men, or little kids and cringed at loud noises. At times, he acted out in ways that were clearly indicative of “fear aggression.”

So can I honestly say he has a “long memory?” Hell, yes. But with time and patience and love, I won his trust. And we now have an unbreakable bond. He is definitely my cat. And I am his number one person.

Like Tiger and Heals did before him, Eli counts on me for everything, but most importantly food, shelter, water, healthcare and a clean litter box. As long as he is alive, I am responsible for his well-being. And as long as he is alive, I will remain fiercely protective of him (as I was with Tiger and Heals).

Anyone who even thinks of putting a hand on him in anger or malice has to come directly through me. Yes, I would literally defend him with my life. I love him that much.

And in that regard, I am no different from any other parent.

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