by: Mar Curran
I am an unabashed cat person. I didn’t know this about myself until the first time I locked eyes with my first kitten, Sausage Rose Curran. She was as tiny as my hand and had bright blue eyes. The only other time I have ever felt that much love for some living creature at that point was for my baby sister who I stayed up late into the night with during her infancy watching the Colbert Report and laughing (she laughed too, I swear). I knew that Sausage and I were meant to be. I experienced this same feeling two days later when I also rescued her sister, my other kitten baby, Kiko James Curran. An ill pile of orange fur-covered bones, I helped nurse her back to health and was the primary caretaker for these two little nuggets for the first few months of their lives. From then on we were a package deal.
What no one told me was there are a lot of secret surprises that come with pet ownership. I have often relayed these to my younger sisters in hopes that they will make an informed decision about pet ownership. Here are some of my learned surprises, readers. Most of them are cat-centric, as those are my companion animals, but they can probably apply to most animals. Please make an informed decision about living with a companion animal before you bring one into your life.
Animals are people too.
Which is not to say that they are actually people, it’s to say they have personalities. If you’re a snuggler don’t get an emotionally distant, grumpy dog. If you are going to need a lot of alone time, don’t get a clingy ferret. Getting a pet is often like matchmaking. Be sure your lifestyles suit one another.
Animals are actually like children.
You will need to provide for their basic needs. Always forgetting to feed yourself? Think you can handle feeding another living being every single day? Hate poop and vomit? Maybe you’re not ready to come home to a bed covered in them because your pet decided that was the place they wanted to do those things. It’s not like when your roommate gets sloppy and you can just tell them to pick up their own shit, folks. You will be the shit-picker-upper in this relationship forever.
There will be hair.
I have not left the house without cat hair all over me in two years. Black pants on? Better not sit anywhere, let they turn into white fur pants. Which could be a look someday, I don’t know, but right now it doesn’t really make me look fierce. If you don’t want to look down and find a furball at your feet on any given day, maybe get a hairless breed.
Animals have weapons of mass injury.
A week into owning Sausage, she was climbing on my elevated legs and slipped off, grabbing onto my skin with her claws to slow her fall. This experience was not fun for either of us. I’m a firm believer that declawing is inhumane because of the physical and emotional pain that it causes cats, but there are other solutions: trimming their nails regularly, training them not to scratch you/furniture/your partner’s legs, and putting on nail guards. Just be aware that animals have teeth and nails and sometimes might use those against you, so respect their space and don’t kick them to the curb if they nibble on you when they get rowdy during playtime.
The doctor will see you now.
The most money I have ever spent on my cats was on Kiko in the first 48 hours of knowing her. She had an upper respiratory infection, eyes glued shut with mucus, internal parasites, fleas, and what my ex and I assumed was a swollen shut anus, but is really just a weird looking cat butthole. Luckily we could afford this care, but keep in mind that animals need to get vaccinations, neutering, and the occasional emergency treatment. You might want to start saving now for when Fluffy eats a roll of pennies.
Get ready for stupid things.
My cats love jumping into bathtubs and then tracking water all over the apartment. One time this resulted in them jumping into a tub with bleach in it while I cleaned and then licking themselves, causing Sausage to puke. Kiko has gotten stuck in closets because she’s afraid of heights but forgets that until it’s too late, and doesn’t meow so I assume she has run away until a few hours later when she finally gets hungry. They have also gotten stuck behind my oven, tried to live in the fridge, and peed on a My Little Pony drawing for no apparent reason. Cats are sometimes going to make you say, “What the– who ate half of a sock?!’ but at least they make good stories for dates.
You will probably love them.
My cats annoy the hell out of me, make smelly poops, cost me money and skin cells, yes. But I would never give them up. I have sometimes fed them over feeding myself, and am not ashamed that I once stopped seeing a girl in some part because Sausage hated her with a burning passion. These little furry bundles of joy have been there for me through thick and thin, and I adore them for it. I made a lifetime commitment to these little nuggets, so we’re sticking together.
Mar Curran is a trans/queer rights activist and community organizer; he is on the boards of Video Action league, Advocate Loyola, the Queer intercollegiate Alliance, and works with GetEQUAL. As spoken word artist, he has read at each All The Writers I Know event. He studies Communications and Women’s Studies at Loyola University Chicago. Curran likes beer and cats.