Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pets as Children

A couple of weeks ago, we were invited over to have a glass of wine with some new friends. After a quick tour of their home, we settled in on the sun porch with several platters of tasty cheese, veggies and bread and several glasses of wine. Our hostess took the wicker loveseat - by herself - because one of the two cats they own was asleep, taking up half the cushion. That's okay - there was plenty of seating. Naturally, after we took the obligatory toll of who has how many kids and where they all are, we got to the more important discussion - how cute is our cat? We talked about other stuff, too; travel, work, family, etc. But clearly, the cats - because eventually cat #2 showed up to say hello to company - were the center of attention.

I am not quite sure when this happened, this pets-as-children thing. It's not like we carry pictures of our cat around with us, but do we earnestly join the funny-things-our-cat-does conversation? We most certainly do. I think it might have happened slowly and insidiously over the last couple of years. For the most part, all of our kids have gone their separate ways. They all come back and visit - and sometimes take up residence briefly - but the separation of needing us as parents has occurred in all three. And there we were...in an empty nest with no more parental duties save the occasional distress call, which actually allowed us to continue to feel needed. And then we got Maia, who, as a cat, is pretty independent. She no more needs us than she needs a little yellow kitty slicker to go out in the rain, but she tolerates us because of our ability to buy food and open it for her.  But it's starting to look like we might need her. My husband will call me insistently into the living room from the kitchen - and when I get in there he'll say, "Look how she's sleeping - isn't she something?" Like she was a baby three days home from the hospital. Ridiculous.

But even more ridiculous is the recent behavior I found myself guilty of.  Since our cat is so much smarter than the other cats on the block (shhhh...the neighbors think theirs is!) I thought I'd try a little training experiment. I put all her toys in a little basket on the floor to see if she would return them when she was done playing with them. She is so cute because she will bring one of her toys upstairs when she comes up to bed with us and leaves it on the floor - as if to have it available when she wakes up. Adorable. So I thought I'd give her a place for her things, you know, to keep things in order. When I'd see the stuffed fish or fake leopard-skin mouse, I'd pick them up and put them back in the basket. Sometimes, when we are watching TV at night, she'll meander over to the basket.  I'll shush my husband, pause the show and we'll watch her stare at the basket and make her choice. So discriminating.

This morning when I came downstairs, I found the fish and the leopard-skin mouse on the stairs and in the dining room, the new purple mouse was under the table. I gathered all three and headed towards the living room to put them back. And it hit me: Someone was being trained to put all the toys back in the basket, but it wasn't the cat. She was leaving her toys around more frequently and in new and different places - for me to find and return! How funny is she?

Wait til I tell the neighbors...
Maia (in my chair)

1 comment:

  1. The way people anthropomorphize their cats reminds me of the movie "Being There" -- they're just dumb animals, but everyone seems to believe they are brilliant abstract thinkers. When you look into those eyes, you're only seeing yourself.