The other day I logged on to Facebook, and as I scrolled down my feed, I saw, for what seemed like the thousandth time, an article with a title like “24 Ways You’re Killing Your Cat Without Knowing It.” Or maybe it was “If There Were Cat Therapists, Your Kitty Would Be Going to One Because of You.”
I used to click on these stories, anxious to avoid inadvertently killing my cats. I had to know if there was something I was doing that made the list. To my disappointment, there usually was.
If the articles weren’t enough, the cat-specific forums I frequented were great at piling on, too. For the most part, these forums, like the articles, are a source of good information. But occasionally someone posts something that brings all the Judgy McJudgersons out in force: "ZOMG! You feed your cat THAT? How could you? Do you also worship Satan?!"
Inevitably, after reading one of these articles or threads, I would be seized by crushing guilt and vow to the cat gods that I would change, I would be a better cat mom. My cats would not have to go to therapy because of me!
I kept these resolutions for a while. But slowly and surely, I fell back into old habits … until the next article with a dire warning popped up on my feed. Then the whole vicious cycle would start again.
But then one day, something changed: I didn’t click the link. What a concept! By scrolling on past, I avoided the feeling of being a terrible cat mom, and my cats still didn’t need a therapy session. Win-win!
Yet the guilt lingered. Because of the previous articles and threads I’d read, I knew all the things I should be doing but wasn’t. So mentally, at least once a day, I’d scold myself for not being better.
I can’t imagine that I’m alone in this. In our country, most cats are considered family members. The pet industry is worth $56 billion and growing. As a whole, we spend more on our pets than we do on our kids. We’re obsessed with our cats, and while that’s great news for them, it can also be hard on pet parents who never feel like they’re quite good enough.
That’s why I say it’s time to stop. Stop the guilt. Stop the anxiety. Stop the judgment of others who don’t live up to our own cat-parenting standards.
So today I’m going to start the movement by confessing a few of the ways I’m not the perfect cat mom. Deep breath. Here goes:
One of my cats, Abby, gets tartar build-up pretty quickly, and my vet suggested that I brush her teeth. After I stopped laughing and realized he was serious, I dutifully bought a cat toothbrush and toothpaste. And guess where that is right now? In my junk drawer, still in the packaging. Because, frankly, I’m pretty sure Abby would kill me in my sleep if I tried.
I also don’t brush the cats’ coats as often as I should. Or trim Abby’s claws (Smudge was declawed by his former owners) more than every eight weeks or so. I’m a grooming slacker.
Is there anyone in the world who loves cleaning litter boxes? Please come to my house if you do, because that daily chore is one I dread and put off whenever possible. I know how important it is for them and for me, and I’m generally pretty good about it. Yet there are days I just can’t bring myself to do it. Of course, by putting it off, I just make it harder on myself. It’s warped, I know.
As with humans, excess weight is quite the health crisis among the pet population. I’m not denying that; I think it’s really important. Luckily, both of my current cats are at a pretty good weight, especially for indoor cats. But in the past, I have had some real tubbos. One of our dearly departeds, Ripley, was a big kitten who grew into an even bigger cat. In my head, I knew it was bad. But even so, I couldn’t help but think his chubbiness was adorable. (And no, he didn’t pass away from a weight-related disease, thankfully.)
This might be part of the reason my past cats have been overweight, and it’s one of the most guilt-inducing issues for me. I know how important play is for cats, and yet sometimes a whole week passes without me dragging a string along the ground. They’re typically pretty good at amusing themselves, so I try to rationalize that they’re getting enough playtime. But I know I should be more proactive about this. It’s always fun for all of us when I get out one of their favorite toys, so I don’t know why I don’t do it more often.
This was something one of those online articles taught me. It said that if you stare at a cat, it’s perceived as aggression. Well, crap! Because I stare at my cats A LOT. Why? Because they’re so damn cute. I love to watch them move and play and sleep and look out the window. (Obsessive much?) I tried not staring at them but that turned out to be impossible. And guess what? They stare at me, too! I don’t think any of us considers the staring aggressive, but who knows? Either way, they’re just going to have to put up with it.
Well, there you have it. My confession. Whew! I feel so much better! And, well, a teensy bit nervous about putting this out there.
It’s obvious that I have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to being a cat mom. But here’s the thing — even with all my shortcomings, my cats have a pretty great life. They live with us as full-fledged family members, have the bed made around them when they’re in it, and get ear skritches on demand. They have cat trees, regular mealtimes, and big windows they can sun themselves in front of. We snuggle with them on the couch, take care of their illnesses and injuries, and when it’s time, we will hold them gently as they take their last breaths.
So no, I’m not the perfect cat mom. But you know what? I’m a pretty good one. And maybe, just maybe, being good is good enough.
Your turn: In what ways are you not the perfect cat parent? Tell us in the comments. (And if you are the perfect cat parent, well, please don’t judge the rest of us.)
OK, so now learn how to be the perfect cat parent:
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About the Author: Amber Carlton is a freelance pet industry marketing copywriter and content specialist for hire who also acts as interpreter and typist for her dog’s musings at Mayzie’s Dog Blog. She shares life with her husband, two dogs and two cats (all rescues except for the husband). Connect with Amber at her business website, Comma Hound, or on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.