Personal – The Perpetual Challenges of Pet Ownership

My cat is an asshole.  Not all the time, but just often enough to earn himself that label on a regular enough basis for it to be true.  He has a history of jumping at people and biting them for no good reason.  Maybe the reason is we haven’t paid enough attention to him.  Or we’ve paid too much attention to him.  Or it’s that time of night, and we should just know better anyways.

On the other hand, sometimes he is impossibly cute.  He climbs up onto the sofa while I’m watching TV, and decides to snuggle in my lap.  Or knead by belly and do a weird nuzzling motion at my bosom that makes me think he’s reverting to the habits of a kitten.  There are days when the Boy will get up earlier in the morning than me, and I’m still in bed.  If the cat has been freed from his nightly prison (more on that in a moment), he is sometimes waiting at our door, and the Boy will let him into our bedroom (a rare treat!) in order for some morning cuddles.

So yeah – this is all to say that having a pet is HARD.  And it’s not just cats.  It’s pretty much all pets.  You have so many wonderful cuddly times, and times when you feel like you’ve made a connection with this animal who happens to live in your house.  But then there are times when their behavior just doesn’t make sense, and it frustrates you.  Or they get sick, and you have to take them to the vet and those hard earned dollars that you were planning on using for say, new car tires, become medicine and care to make sure that your cats impacted bowel is dealt with appropriately.  Or any time you want to leave the house for an extended period of time, you need to figure out how your animal will be cared for.

As far as care during travel or extended periods away, I feel like we’ve been rather lucky, because cats are fairly self-sufficient.  If they have clean litter and enough food and water, they usually are totally fine chilling on their own for a little while.  I made the decision a few years back to get one of these automated pet feeders, which has different chambers to hold food, only one of which is available to the pet at any time.  You can set the frequency of the rotation, and so Winston gets food every 12 hours, just as much as I scoop out for him at any time.  Depending on when I fill the dish and how close it is to rotation, that means we can be away for about 48 hours (or maybe a little more) before things start to get antsy for the cat, and before I need additional help in making sure he is fed.  I also asked for (and received!) one of these fancy drinking fountains for the cat which hold a large quantity of water, but also have that water in constant motion.  Apparently this is more appealing for animals, and the large reservoir means I’m changing out or refilling the water less than I would be otherwise.  So short weekends away are easy enough, especially for a cat owner.  But the the search for someone you trust to take care of your pet while you’re away for longer, or if you have a dog can be hard.  It helps if you have family nearby, or if you have someone who already walks your dog that can either look in on the dog, stay with the dog, or keep them in their home.

Studies show that viewing this photo makes you laugh when you notice Winston’s little tongue licking his nose!

At the same time, there are actual health benefits for people who have pets.  Perhaps the biggest two being lowered blood pressure and decreased feelings of loneliness.  And honestly – that’s part of why I adopted Winston when I did.  When you live alone, and come home to an empty house every night, it can be depressing.  But walking into an apartment where someone was waiting for me, even if he had four legs and was sometimes an asshole made things much more interesting.

And every pet is different.  Winston is quirky in the way where if he feels he hasn’t had enough attention paid to him at night, he will yowl and meow for HOURS after everyone has gone to bed.  When we were in a two bedroom apartment with the living room between the bedrooms, it was so bad that there were nights I would sleep on the sofa for a few hours just to make sure that the Boy and the girls weren’t woken up, or didn’t spend more time awake than necessary.  He still yowls at night sometimes, and so we’ve restricted him to the living room and kitchen, where he has access to his food, water, toys and litter box, but we can barricade him via a swinging door with a lock on it.  I think he has figured out how to put his little mouth down at the gap and yowl into the crack, but it’s still less disturbing than it would be if he were howling at our bedroom doors in the night.

But overall, he’s a good kitty.  I do love him to bits, and as much as the Boy doesn’t want to admit it, I think he likes having Winston around too (I wish I could show you video of the two of them playing together).  We have our ups and downs, but generally, things are pretty good.  Adding another pet to our lives is probably not something that will happen, and when (in probably a decade or more) Winston decides to move on to kitty heaven, we probably won’t get another pet.  Because pets are hard, and they are a definite investment in your time and your mental energy.  But I won’t regret having made the decision to adopt Winston for one moment.

Ok – I know there are definitely some pet-owners out there in my readership.  Since we know that furry pets like cats and dogs are excellent at giving love, how about you share some of your most challenging moments as a pet owner?  Or tell me about the joys of owning some other kind of pet I haven’t mentioned here!

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