When I became a parent to humans, nearly 18 years ago, I was nervous about everything. Pretty typical for a new mom. Was the food nutritious enough? Would she have awful health problems because I didn’t nurse long enough? Were the toys I bought adequately educational or was I inadvertently growing a child who wouldn’t be ready to tackle the now-rigorous curriculum of kindergarten? Of course, after a while I dialed it back a notch or 12, and by the time my son came along, I was pretty easy-breezy (hopefully, Cover Girl won’t go after me for using that).
Both my kids were born into a family of cat lovers. My husband and I both grew up with cats, and when the kids were little, we shared our home with a sweet kitty named Dobie. It has always been important to me to raise my children to be compassionate members of the human race. Since they were young, we’ve volunteered as a family to help both our animal and human friends, and we regularly discussed the topics of respect and dignity.
It never occurred to me that some people subscribe to certain gender roles and consider cats to be less manly than dogs. I guess it’s because I’ve always lived with men who love cats, and the whole deal about labeling what’s masculine and what’s feminine has irritated me to no end. When I’d visit a drive-through restaurant and the cashier asked whether my kids wanted a girls’ or boys’ toy, I respectfully let my feelings be known. My daughter wanted a little car now and again, and my son liked plush kitty cats. Even at Walmart I noticed they have an aisle labeled “Girls’ Toys” and one labeled “Boys’ Toys.” Who has the right to generalize these playthings? Not Walmart. Not Burger King. Not anybody.
When my son moved through middle school and now high school, I was flabbergasted at some of what he shared with me. Last year, he took a Small Animal Sciences class and said many of the boys in the class made terrible jokes about killing cats and spoke of dogs being far superior, implying cats were “girly.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I know some people prefer dogs while others prefer cats, but it’s never OK or funny to joke like that or belittle another living being. This bothered my son, who has always had tight-knit relationships with our cats, especially Saffy, our big gray girl.
Recently, a distant family member made some Facebook comments to me about how the only cat his son would ever hold is his girlfriend’s cat. And then he went on to make offensive cat jokes. My Facebook page is the wrong place to make jokes like that — my friends went after him (in a respectful, but direct way) and he finally stopped. Part of being compassionate is not firing back with the same ugliness that’s pointed at you.
Maybe this is why “cat guys” are such a novelty. I never thought they were until a few years ago. It’s especially evident since I’ve become involved in social media. Our own Cat Dandy writes a fabulous weekly column about life as a “cat guy” — or as he pointed out in his first post, maybe just “a guy with a cat.” I think once we start making everything — including pet preference — gender-specific as a society, we’re drifting farther apart instead of creating a world where inhabitants respect and value one another. As we raise our children into this society, which can sometimes seem scary or confusing, let’s forget about obsessively fussing over food or toys and instead teach our children the one thing that really matters: Love is love, and compassion is compassion. And every one of us matters.
Are you raising your boys to be cat lovers? Tell us about it in the comments!
About the Author: Angie Bailey is a goofy girl with freckles and giant smile who wants everyone to be her friend. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, and thinking about cats doing people things. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in comedy web series that may or may not offend people. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.
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