There is something about being in my thirties that has inspired a bout of honest self-reflection. I’ve made a series of choices that each have shaped who I am, like going to college, getting married, and having kids. I don’t know if I am having a mini-mid-life crisis, but it seems like I am busy trying to figure out what actually makes me happy as opposed to what I was told would make me happy. Spoiler: Student loans totally don’t crack a smile on my face, but mocktails rock my world. Who knew?
There is one choice that I’ve recently made that I feel especially conflicted about: As much as I’ve loved my pets, it turns out that I am not a pet person, and this particular revelation is causing problems at home.
Last Christmas our beloved cat Franny had a stroke. I held him close to my chest as the vet injected him with a lethal dose of painkillers. He put his sweet paws on my face as he closed his eyes for the last time. I held on and recounted in my heart the million-and-two lovely memories we’ve shared over the past decade. I cried my eyes out for days. But when my kids asked about adopting a new cat, I gave a firm, “heck no.”
I grew up with cats and dogs. When I was a kid, we even braved the world of clownfish and hamsters. By the time I was a tween, we had a legit pet cemetery in the backyard. We were pet people, and no amount of cat fur on our clothes or smell of dog on the carpets could deter us from enjoying our furry friends. My mother is the queen of pets. At family gatherings, when she starts telling stories from my childhood, she talks about our four-legged family members as if they were my actual siblings. That’s how much of a constant pets have been in my life.
But after Franny passed away, part of me sighed with a tiny bit relief. I wouldn’t have to clean up cat puke or fix pulled threads from his scratching the upholstery. No more dead mice on my doorstep or trying to get cat hair off my clothes before leaving the house. And maybe most importantly, no more expensive veterinarian bills to fit into the budget.
When my kids look at me with big sad eyes and ask for a new cat, I feel torn. I loved our cat, but I have no desire to take on the unpleasant things that come with caring for another animal. Since I know that I can’t ask a 4-year-old to clean up cat vomit, I realize all those unwanted duties would fall to me.
Pets offer up a world of fabulous experiences for kids. They can teach us everything from empathy and loyalty to responsibility and consistency, but can’t kids learn those skills in other ways? Am I depriving them of a valuable experience if I can’t stand the thought of scooping the poop or dealing with flea collars or attempting to trick our beloved fur beast into swallowing a pill? (And while I’m at it, why on earth do all these chores always fall to the mom?)
As long as my children are too young to take the dog for a walk or clean up cat barf or deal with any of the other annoying aspects of caring for a pet, my house will be a pet-free zone.
When my kids ask—scratch that—when my kids beg for another pet, I’ll shuttle them across town to their uncle’s house where they have four dogs to play fetch with.
I’m just not a pet person like I thought I was, and I’m totally cool with that.