Can Non-Cat Lovers Get Along With Cat Lovers? part 1
That’s a question that comes up a lot among people young enough to still care about their perceived popularity. (We’re 40, and don’t give a damn.) It’s not a simple yes or no.
There are different levels of cat lover. In fact, I’d wager that most cat lovers don’t really love cats. They might like them, and even have them as pets, but they don’t love them. Not like people like me. These are the ones who talk about cats as if they were interchangeable, rather than as their children. This can be true even of those who select excellent cat food, are careful to keep them indoors, and who say they love them.
Case in point: a relative invited us to visit. She lived four hours away, which meant a road trip and several days away from our babies. I mentioned to her that we had to consider our cats. We didn’t have a babysitter. She said “but we have cats THERE!”
Yeah. Didn’t say much for her as a mother. Like HER cats could somehow replace ours for the duration. Like any cat would do. Like it’s a matter of wanting the cats’ entertainment value wherever we are, rather than ensuring their security and care no matter where we are. Please. This isn’t like leaving your toothbrush and buying another one at the local market when you arrive. These are our children. When people say things like that they sound shallow, insipid and insulting. Replace “cats” with “kids” and get a response like that; no doubt anyone would not want to make that visit. Love us, love our kids: period.
So how would a cat lover get along with a person like that? Well, that’s largely in how the un-lover reacts to the importance of our cats in our lives. If
that person disregards it, then there is no relationship. You can’t have a healthy rapport with someone who dismisses your children, no matter what their problem is. Better the seas should part and go your separate ways. It’s appalling to me how many relationships don’t include any respect for each other’s interests, loves, and values. How do those even qualify as relationships?
A pair of acquaintances used to tune us out whenever we’d mention our cats. All they’d say is “we like dogs”. Wonderful. So do we. What’s your point? What if we followed every comment they made about their grown human kids with “we like cats”? We heard their repeated response as negating our family, the core of our life together. Theirs mattered; ours didn’t. No chance of getting along.
We used to interact regularly with a self-professed cat lover who had two of her own. She sure didn’t seem to love them, though. They had perpetually dirty water in their bowl and she ignored them when they wanted attention. She also objected stridently to anyone donating money on behalf of kitty causes (the standard line of bull about how money should instead go only for people’s needs). I even got a lecture after mentioning that I made toys for zoo tigers’ enrichment: how “tigers shouldn’t be a priority when humans are going hungry”. And this was a cat lover? Come on. No, we don’t need to be around anyone like that.
A friend dislikes cats, so he avoids our home. We see him elsewhere, like meeting in restaurants, the movie theater, or going to where he lives. It doesn’t pose a problem with getting along. He understands they’re our children, the way his dog is his child, and doesn’t express negativity about cats in our presence.
A former friend described herself as a cat lover and raved about how happy her cats made her, but actually she was threatened by my love for my own cat. She later explained that she loves her cats but they’re just cats, not her children. She declared that she’d never known ANYONE who loves animals as I do, so it wasn’t that she lied; she’d had no frame of reference for my level of love. She’d go a week without scooping the litter box, throw the cats outside to roam the apartment complex right on the edge of the freeway anytime she was tired of them, and constantly scolded me about loving my cat more than I loved her.
No one who doesn’t understand cat caregiving is going to understand us, but not all acquaintances require that depth. It can be enough for people to meet for lunch occasionally and talk about other things, but the relationship only goes so far. Accepting the limitations of said relationship means not taking it personally that this person does not get it.
What about significant others? Can a cohabiting love partnership work when one or the other doesn’t like cats? Clearly, if one objects to the presence of cats, and they’re around much of the time, that’s a no-go. But some couples live apart, for the most part. Maybe one travels for work or even lives elsewhere. As long as the primary caregiver is taking care of them and the other does not feel threatened or bothered, that’s probably ok. Especially if the cats are not a huge priority, or the couple’s property is so vast that the cats could always be elsewhere from the non-catlover.
But that wouldn’t work for my partner and me. We work from home; we’re home 99% of the time. If one of us did not like or want cats it we would not be partners. Our household caters to them and their needs as much as our own. Besides, the level of depth we both require in a serious love relationship exceeds what is possible with those that don’t have it in them to love cats.