A snippet of overheard conversation between two women the other day lit me up. We were passing on the sidewalk—me going one way, they the other. The one pushing the urban- assault stroller was dishing about someone who’d just lost a pet: “I was like, ghod, get over it! It was just a cat.”
That sentiment would be a prime trigger for shock and dismay if it were a bit less common. We love to tell ourselves that our species is more special-er than all them others, don’t we? What’s extra-dismaying is how often it shows up in the words or actions of mommies, aka Wellsprings of Nurture, including those who had pets before producing DNA replicants. For example, I once read a posting where some woman had serious issues around her sister having pets; Mommy made a cursory statement about how she worried about Baby’s “security” when she took said kid over to Sister’s house, but it was pretty clear she just had a problem with animals. She openly pondered “accidentally” slipping Sister’s critters some Lysol, complete with a smiley face afterwards. When are certain females going to get it that tacking some version of a Cute Little SmileTM to the end of a psychotic or bitchy statement doesn’t downplay the fact that they’re psychotic and/ or bitchy?
As any regular readers know, I have a cat. She’s not human, and she’s not my “daughter.” She is, however, an intelligent and sentient being, and I take seriously the self-imposed charge to give her the best life possible. When I see or hear the “ONLY a (non- human animal)” attitude being invoked, it’s just another brick in my misanthropic wall.
She adopted me about ten years ago, after beginning to include me in the several apartments she’d visit over the course of a week. She appeared one day looking a little thinner than usual and dull-eyed with depression; a neighbor had moved out recently, and I guessed she’d “chosen” them, only to get left behind. She was only about two years old at the time, but this had happened more than once. She began to hang out more often, and I responded by providing regular meals and attention; eventually, the light came back into her eyes, and she became more talkative and playful than ever. Bam—I was the newest sucker.
She turned out to be a lifeline. I’d let myself get stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship and a dead-end job, both of which were extremely draining. Taking care of and bonding with her slapped me awake, giving me the mojo to walk away from both without warning one fine day. She was not going to be abandoned again; she came with me, just ahead of a rash of cat poisonings in our old complex. I’ve never looked back, and I’m pretty sure she hasn’t either.
She’s getting older, and her time is coming. When it does, I’m going to be a proper mess for a while afterwards. If anyone mutters “It was just a cat” within earshot during that time, I won’t be responsible for what happens next.