Confessions of a (Kinda Sorta) Cat Lady
It's a Cat, Not a Sticker Collection
"Don't talk about your cat," a friend of mine said when I told him I was writing this. "People will think you're crazy."
"I know" -- I couldn't argue -- "but why? It's just a cat, not a sticker collection."
"Because you're too young to write about your cat."
Or, not young enough. As much as cats are unfairly associated with curmudgeonly shut-ins, there is something simultaneously sticker-collection-y about them. Acceptance of cat ownership is generally relegated to the bookends of life, while as a culture we never outgrow the joys of puppies. There is no break in our obsession. If a grown man walks down the street with an adorable puppy, it can only mean good things for him. But when it comes to kittens, we're supposed to have cut the cord by age 10 and reattached it around age 70.
As a woman, it takes a lot of self-confidence to own a cat and be content with publicly adoring it. Did you ever hear the one about the spinster found dead in her pink bathrobe, surrounded by golden retriever puppies? Me neither. I once saw a candid shot of a supermodel holding her brood of Siamese and Abyssinian babies and thought: Do you have any idea how attractive and cool and sexy you have to be to own that many cats?
This should all work in reverse, especially in cities. Cats are compact and quiet. You can leave them be for a night or two and they have a natural skill set that prevents them from urinating on the floor. As if all this weren't enough, their mere presence deters rodents. Yet we opt to praise dog owners, giving credence to the unnatural existence of a dog in a yardless landscape. When I see a Great Dane on a crowded downtown street, my first thought is: Where on earth is that thing going home to?
At least what cats lack in retail homage, they make up for in embroidered quotations and cheesy poetry. In her more flowery days, Drew Barrymore reflected that "if I die before my cat, I want a little of my ashes put in his food so I can live inside him." First of all, this is why the words "crazy" and "cat" are bound tighter than a spool of yarn. Second, unless you're only feeding your cat wet food, it's totally impractical. Finally, dear Drew, what goes in must come out. And there you'd be, stinking up some crazy cat lady's apartment, waiting to be scooped up and flushed away.
Adapted from an essay that originally appeared in the New York Times. Sloane Crosley is the author of the essay collections How Did You Get This Number and I Was Told There'd Be Cake.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, March 2012.