In my world, the more pets I can love, the better. If I have the time, space, and budget to welcome multiple four-legged friends into my home, why shouldn’t I? But while I might be perfectly fine with my decision to have four pets (three indoor cats and one small dog), I’m often criticized by others who don’t understand my lifestyle or share my enthusiasm for pet ownership.
I’ve written about the pros and cons of living in a multiple cat household before, but the truth is, despite all the “cons” I list, I love having three cats. I love being surrounded by warm little bodies, each with his or her own distinct personality and quirks. My life is actually better because I have a whole bunch of cats, and I love each one dearly.
Unfortunately, I’m often made to feel like somewhat of a freak when divulging the fact that I share my life with numerous pets.
I teach business English to adults here in France, and during the first lesson with each new student, I’ll introduce myself:
“Hi, I’m Crystal and I’ll be your teacher. I’m from Canada and I’ve lived in France for almost eight years. I don’t have any children but I’ve got a dog and three cats.”
[Insert student’s look of confusion/bemusement/bewilderment/horror here.]
More often than not, my pet “confession” doesn’t go unnoticed. Usually, I’m met with reactions to the effect of:
No, actually, I don’t know about “all that kind of stuff,” because I only focus on the good things about having multiple pets.
And, the last time I checked, even if you have just one cat (which is apparently much more socially acceptable), you have to make arrangements for its care if you want to go on holiday. It might cost me a little more to have a pet sitter for three cats instead of one, but the organization is the same. If I can’t find a great pet sitter or boarding service, I don’t go away! The pets come first and that’s always been my choice and my priority.
I’d also like to add that you don’t have to live on a farm or in a big house to have multiple pets. I wanted to have three cats because I knew I had the space for them in my large three-bedroom, cat-tree-infested apartment (complete with covered balcony for bird watching and sunbathing). And, for the record, my dog gets walked four to fives times per day, so he’s a happy, healthy camper as well. There’s no way I would have three indoor cats and a dog if I lived in a studio apartment, because that certainly wouldn’t be fair to them, but I don’t like being made to feel like my current situation means I’m an animal hoarder, either.
I could probably also write an entire article on the reaction I get when I tell people my cats are strictly indoor kitties.
As for the cost and smell, well, of course there’s a cost with having three cats, but I knew that before I decided to get them. Responsible pet owners never take on more animals than they can handle or afford, and that’s always been the case for me. And, because I live with everyone in an apartment where my cats’ “business” is my business, I make sure to be extra vigilant with cleaning the litter. I use a very good quality litter and stop to scoop the three large boxes pretty much every time I pass in front of the litter box room. (Yup, I have one small room in my apartment just for the litter boxes, so guests don’t have to see them when they come over!) As a result, people who do visit my home often have no idea that three cats live there until my feline companions pop out and start rubbing up against pant legs or jumping onto laps.
See? Justify. Rationalize. Explain. That’s what I feel I have to do every time I tell someone I have three cats and get raised eyebrows and shaking heads in response.
Maybe you are asking yourself, “Well, why should you care what others think?” In reality, I really try not to care at all. What matters to me is that I know my pets are happy and well taken care of. But, that doesn’t mean I still don’t get slightly hurt or offended when people (especially here in France) almost never have anything positive to say when I tell them I’ve got three cats.
So maybe now you are thinking, “Well, if you don’t want others to criticize you, don’t tell them about your pets.” I could keep their existence a secret, but I choose not to because, ultimately, I’m not ashamed to have four animals. My pets are such a big part of my life and of who I am (I’m a pet writer, after all) that the truth would come out eventually, anyways. Plus, when meeting new students who are a bit nervous to be speaking in a different language, the subject of pets is (usually) a great way to break the ice and get them talking! (Fran├ºois might not be able to explain to me in English what a profit and loss statement is, but he seems to have no trouble listing all the reasons why having three cats is just so “incomprehensible.”)
I wonder if I told my new students that I had three children instead of three cats, what their reaction would be. Instead of making a face because “who could possibly want three cats,” would they say, “Oh! How wonderful! What are their names and ages?” Instead of listing all the reasons why having multiple cats must be a burden/annoyance/inconvenience, would they list all the great things about having a large family and the joys of parenthood?
(Side note: Having three cats might get expensive at times, but I’m pretty sure sending three children through college is a lot more expensive.)
People may not understand why I choose to have three cats (and don’t even get me started on what they say when they find out that two of them are Sphynx cats), but I try not to let it get to me. If you are judging me for having four pets, you probably don’t (and shouldn’t) have any yourself. My cats and dog are my babies, and sharing my life with a house full of happy, healthy animals is what I’ve always wanted!
Do you ever feel judged or get criticized for having multiple pets? Would you ever judge someone on their pet ownership choices?
Read more by Crystal Gibson:
About Crystal Gibson: A child-sized Canadian expat in France who is fluent in French and sarcasm. Owned by a neurotic Doxie mix, a Garfield look-alike, and two needy Sphynx cats. An aspiring writer and pet photographer with a love of coffee and distaste for French administration, she can be found blogging over at Crystal Goes to Europe.