The Hovering Fool

"Less work? Son, you are a hovering fool!"

So my mother said when I told her how much easier it was raising a cat than a dog, and it's true, I am a hovering fool. I think a lot of people are when it comes to their first born—furred or not.

That's what this column will be about: the crazy, stupid, wonderful experiences that come with raising a baby animal and how they relate to one another. How pet rearing is like parenthood (and how it's not), the strange war between cats and dogs, and the ethics of rescue/adoption.

Updates Monthly.

Raising Cats: an Exercise in Non-Attachment

Unlike dogs and children, cats don’t care about your approval or disapproval. Some people think this means that cat’s don’t love you, or aren’t happy to see you. These people have clearly never raised a cat.

When Firefly or Igmu walk up, flop on my lap, and start purring like mad, or when they slow blink at me (a sign of trust and affection), I know they love me.

However, when they lay down on my keyboard or book, bite my ankles while I’m trying to work, or continually knock over the trashcan (Igmu), I’m forced to recognize that they really don’t care about my displeasure. All they want is a little attention, and negative attention is as satisfactory as positive attention (as long as it isn’t violent, obviously).

Because negative attention is perfectly acceptable to them, the only really effective punishment for my girls is to simply stand up and walk away. At first, I did this often.

I would be working when one of them would come bite my ankles. I would stand immediately and walk into the bedroom. A stern rebuke for interrupting me while I was working – or so I thought. [Read more…]

The Ethics of Adoption

Every time I enter a pet store with my cat, Firefly, someone asks me if she is a rescue. I was so surprised the first time that I didn’t reply, “No, I got her on Craigslist,” but something rather more ominous: “Not yet.” In truth, I’m still surprised when people ask because the question seems so personal. No one has ever asked me if I was adopted.

Although I find the question surprising, the query itself isn’t irksome. No, what frustrates me is the predictable response to my reply. The questioner lets out a little, “Oh,” of disappointment, then turns away. We are no longer worthy of interest. There’s a strange devaluing of lovingly raising a baby animal implicit in this reaction that’s completely absent (or even reversed) in humans, where the majority of families are created through birth rather than adoption.

Is it because animals (and cats in particular) are over-populated, because you’re giving an animal a second chance, or because of the very real possibility the animal will be put down if it isn’t rescued?

Why isn’t adoption more celebrated in humans? Although human children aren’t put down if a suitable home isn’t found, their lives are often so challenging that they become hardened, bitter people.

I ponder these questions as I glance up from my keyboard at my astonishingly amazing girlfriend. As a baby, Hannah was adopted by two wonderful, loving individuals.

I have no doubt that if one were to describe her parents’ actions in adopting their son and then their two daughters as “selfless,” or “courageous,” they would humbly demure, saying they received much more than they gave. I’m sure they are right.

Yet, as I look back to my computer, open to the South Dakota Humane Society Website, I can’t help but think that any adoption (but particularly human adoption) requires both.

Let me back up.  [Read more…]

Nothing but NaNoWriMo Will Happen in November!

I meant to post this at the beginning of the month, but then didn’t.

If you’re wondering why no new essays have appeared, it’s because I am participating in National Novel Writing Month, which is eating up all my time and energy!

Therefore, our regularly scheduled essays will resume in December.

Have a great Thanksgiving everybody!


Pets Are Not Like Children

Parents find it frustrating when pet owners compare their experiences with parenthood. While there are some undeniable similarities—such as the apparent acceptability of putting your child on a leash while out for a walk—there are also some obvious differences. For example: petting a child with your foot while reading a book or spraying a toddler in the face when he or she chews on live wires would be frowned upon for parents, while both practices are common for pet owners.

Another difference between pet ownership and parenthood is a matter of scale. In her article, 13 Things Non-Parents Should Never Say To Parents, Scary Mommy blogger, Lola Lolita says, “Puppies are like babies in the same way cinder blocks are like bricks of gold, kittens are like tigers, André is like Dom Pérignon, and a light sprinkle is like a monsoon.”

Given all these differences then, when it was time for my girlfriend and me to adopt our first solo pet, it’s ironic how classically—even stereotypically—we adhered to our parental roles. For Hannah (read, the expectant mother), our baby existed from conception. For nine months she stared, starry-eyed and smiling at Craigslist ads looking for a kitten. I, on the other hand, assumed the role of nervous potential-father, incessantly checking my bank balance and worrying how we’d pay for everything.

“It won’t be that bad,” Hannah said. “A re-homing fee is usually only $60.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “but you’re not counting vet visits, food, litter, toys, the monthly pet-fee that’ll be added to our rent, and the non-refundable $250 pet deposit. We just aren’t ready for this kitten.” [Read more…]