There are very good reasons why I am anti-pet these days.
I suppose I am actually anti-cage.
If I have a bird, I want it to grow feathers and fly free. If I have hens, they get to roam with the buffalo because it makes them happy. Dogs should have at minimum five acres of running space.
I absolutely refuse to accept that Shamu is happy in a tub.
I’ve looked into Shamu’s eyes and I’ve looked into the eyes of a mama whale off the coast of Maui.
The two whales told me very different messages.
When the kids were all young we had many smaller pets. We had hamsters and parakeets and guppies and lizards. I raised hens and cockatiels.
At some point, it occurred to me that I couldn’t have five kids and still do pet maintenance, so they all went to new homes. Anything more than a Beta fish was just out.
Betas live in tiny solitary puddles in the wild. That works.
When you name a thing, it belongs to you in a sense. You have given it an internal tie to yourself.
If you are raising a cow intending to make meatloaf out of it later, it may be best not to name it after your sweet Aunt Matilda.
I think God had Adam name each animal so that he would feel a personal attachment, a responsibility, to them. So he would understand that these animals existed in his world and depended on him to take that seriously.
Fat Kitty was never named, in a futile effort to avoid this.
We did not want a cat.
Perhaps she’d been abandoned. She just appeared in our backyard frightened and sad one day, and it was over.
We did not adopt Fat Kitty. She adopted us.
The giant calico must have been someone’s pampered princess kitten once.
She was always a lady and never scratched, bit or growled at us. She let our youngsters pull her by the tail, carry her like a baby, and ride her like a pony. When we put a harness on her, she instantly turned over, four paws waving in the breeze.
This cat didn’t ‘go for a walk’ on a leash. It was more like ‘go for a drag’.
But when she heard our car pull into the driveway she came waddling out to greet us, just like a dog.
In return, we fed her, groomed her, spent money on food, toys, and treats. We actually gave this outdoor cat a litter box which she deigned to use on rainy days.
I planted catnip in the herb garden once and she rolled around on top of it and then passed out, drooling, completely cross-eyed drunk. Once we stopped laughing hysterically, I decided not to replace the crushed plant.
For Kitty’s sanity and ours.
She never had kittens and she never got sick. She never invited the neighborhood cats over to play. She regularly placed dead birds, lizards and gophers at my doorstep.
As busy as our street was, she never crossed it.
Fat Kitty was not hit by a car.
She waited until Hubby and I were out of town and fell, overnight, desperately ill. The children called us in tears to say she would not eat or drink or walk. Several phone calls later, my sister took Fat Kitty on her final car ride and had her put down.
My oldest son buried Fat Kitty, wrapped in her favorite little blanket, deep in our garden.
I was not there to say goodbye or to comfort my family.
I want to say, “Well, it was just a cat.”
But she wasn’t an “it”.
And she wasn’t “just” a cat.
She was “our” cat.
And she mattered.
Every day of our relationship, she had the complete freedom to walk away and find a different life.
Turns out, love is pretty strong cage.