My editor at Catster: “How do you deal with cat hair?”
Me: “Selective inattention.”
Selective inattention. For cat owners, it applies to more than just cat hair. As a general guiding principle of my life, I am in favor of facing reality as directly as I can. But as a cat owner, there are times when you just have to cover your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears, and pretend that reality isn’t true. Here are six things cat owners absolutely cannot think about if we don’t want an early heart attack.
1. The realities of cat litter.
The paws that delicately pat you in the face to wake you up? The paws that make bread on your belly? The paws that mischievously jump up on the kitchen counter? The paws that walk on you and your furniture every day of your life? Those are the same paws that have just been digging in the litter box. Don’t think about it.
2. The fact that you will never have nice things.
You will never have a sofa that isn’t shredded. You will never have a beautiful rug from India. You will never not be picking cat hair off your clothes. Unless you have a home big enough that you can keep entire sections cordoned off from the adorable little terrorists — or unless you’re rich enough to buy new furniture and rugs every few months — your home is always going to look a bit like it was hit by a fuzzy tornado with a chainsaw. Accept it. I mean, ignore it. Move on.
Do not — whatever you do — think about the amount of money you will spend in your lifetime on cat food, cat litter, cat condos, catnip, treats, scratching posts, vet bills, medications, cat toys. Not to mention the money you’ll spend repairing the stuff they break, replacing the stuff they destroy, dry-cleaning the stuff they pee on.
Do not add this up, even as a rough estimate in your head. Do not think about the vacations you could have taken with that money, the books you could have bought, the dinners you could have eaten out, the college fund you could have enlarged or indeed started. You will drive yourself to drink.
4. Cat spit.
It’s all over their fur, all the time. They clean themselves by licking themselves. When you pet them, you’re petting cat spit. Don’t think about it.
5. They want to kill … and kill … and kill.
“Awwww. Look at Talisker chattering at the light dancing on the wall. She wants to tear its throat out.” “Awwww. Isn’t it cute how Comet is shaking that napkin. She’s trying to break its neck.” “Awwww. Isn’t it funny how Houdini likes to pull at Ingrid’s hair with her teeth. She’s trying to strip her of her feathers so she can devour her.”
Our snuggly little darlings are carnivores. Predators. Killers. When they “play,” they’re honing their killing techniques. When they fall asleep in your arms with their jaws gently nuzzled against your neck, try not to think about it.
And we put up with all of this for animals with walnut-sized brains. Animals whose evolutionary line diverged from ours 70 million years ago. Animals whose basic neurological and psychological wiring is so radically different from our own, we can’t possibly hope to actually understand them.
Based on carefully calibrated, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed studies conducted in our living room, I estimate that 90 percent of our relationships with our cats is projection. All those long conversations we have with them, all the extensive detailed analysis of their personalities — projection.
We do not have the slightest idea what they’re thinking: how they perceive the world, what it’s like to live in their consciousness, how they experience their relationship with us. I suppose we might someday, when the science of neuropsychology is no longer in its infancy, when we have a better understanding of consciousness and how the mind works.
But right now, we have no clue.
I like to think we have a decent broad idea of what our kitties do and don’t like: Houdini likes laps and quiet, dark places, Talisker likes the heater and as much food as we’ll give her, Comet likes leaping about and getting into things and biting and biting and biting. But they’re a different species.
Our common ancestor was a small, shrewlike placental mammal that lived in the Gobi desert 70 million years ago. The little darlings might as well be space aliens. Space aliens who destroy our homes, who cover their bodies with spit, who use their hands to bury their feces, who want to kill and kill and kill.
Space aliens who we will spend tens of thousands of dollars on in our lifetime, for the privilege of having their company. Their sweet, delightful, wildly entertaining, utterly incomprehensible alien company.
Don’t think about it.