Confession: I love to drink so much that it could be my full-time job. If I let myself, I will swill wine and whiskey to the detriment of my actual full-time job, my relationships, my waistline, the ever-growing laundry pile in my room … and, unfortunately, my cats.
I gave up alcohol more than a year ago, but when I was going out several times a week, I didn’t always give my cats the attention they deserved. I neglected to clean their litter boxes or give them fresh water. I was often hungover and unwilling to play. A few times they even got out when I didn’t close the front door all the way. This could have hurt me as much as them. We all got really lucky.
These days, when I start thinking happy hour might be the cure for a stressful week, I let my kitties talk me out of it. Here are five ways my cats help keep me sober.
My personality trends toward the melancholic, so when something goes wrong, I ruminate. I turn it over and over in my head like a clothes dryer, except the clothes never get dry and the lint trap is overflowing. My brain is gonna catch on fire! This can make a bad day seem like the end of the world, and the only reasonable response to certain doom is whiskey, right?
My cats halt this mental nosedive long enough for me to get my bearings. When I open the front door, Phoenix meows to greet me, and Bubba Lee Kinsey stands under a nearby chair, eyeballing me like the creepy old man he is. When I sit down on the couch, everything is okay the moment my fluffy kitty friends mob me with purrs, wet noses, and headbutts.
It is entirely on me to feed my cats, clean their litter boxes, and brush them in the spring and summertime. If they don’t have any toys or scratching posts and decide to shred my furniture? My fault. If they don’t have clean water and knock glasses off the kitchen counter? My fault. If I fail to clean their boxes and my house reeks of poo and catstink? My fault.
I look at it this way: My cats did not choose to live in my apartment. I brought them here, so I am committed to them for life. They deserve the best care I am able to give them — and that includes love and attention. If I’m too hungover to do anything but lie on the couch eating microwave enchiladas while crying and texting apologies to my friend for hitting on her boyfriend last night, my cats will suffer for it.
I live alone. This is awesome for a number of reasons, including but not limited to underpants as dinner wear, Decemberists singalongs that annoy no one, and the absence of a roommate’s crap everywhere. Also, I never feel the need to write passive-aggressive notes about washing the damn dishes from the point of view of the moldering food in the kitchen sink.
But it also gets lonely. Sometimes I wish I had someone readily available to whom I could air my daily grievances — someone other than a bottle of discount Shiraz from Mr. Z’s corner store. That’s when I like to grab Phoenix and motorboat her belly floof. It is impossible to frown with a faceful of belly floof.
For better or worse, the whole “God” thing just doesn’t work for me. But I do feel a connection to something greater than myself — to the collective energy of the universe, perhaps. It’s that tingly feeling you get when you watch a sunrise or press your face to an ancient redwood tree, and you realize we are small, so small, and everything else is vast and infinite, and utterly incomprehensible.
As unwieldy as the universe can be, I am still the only one right here, right now, drinking this particular sugar-free turtle latte and regretting that particular sub sandwich I ate for lunch — no one else ate that sandwich, and the experience of indigestion is mine, all mine!
Few things connect me more fully to my unique sense of time, place, and experience than my cats. When I’m able to admire them and appreciate how strange and wonderful it is to share my bed with fanged, carnivorous predators, I don’t even want that glass of wine.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Purring is pretty much the most amazing thing any animal can do. In fact, I am convinced that a purring cat is the same as a tiny, vibrating wizard.
So when Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix gang up and surround me with their good vibrations, it diffuses my anxiety — and the desire to drink. I know I’m exactly where I need to be.
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