Have you ever found yourself gaping with shock at something a person you thought you knew said about your cats? Like an unexpected slap across the face, thoughtlessly hurled words about beings you consider members of your family can leave you hurting and wishing you’d been able to think of some way to respond. I’ve been in a few of those situations, and I hate it! As fluent as I am in writing and as much as I love the art of banter, I have a really hard time responding to hurtful statements.
So, in the interest of exorcising some angst, I’m going to tell you about a few of my own experiences, what I did, and what I would have done if I’d had a chance to take a different approach.
Situation 1: The hypocrite speaks
About 12 years ago, one of my brother’s exes (who was his current girlfriend at the time) was at my house visiting with me — and attempting to cajole me into babysitting her toddlers, despite the fact that I was working at a job that required total concentration and I was on a deadline. I could see her getting more and more pissed off because I politely but firmly refused; after all, how was she going to be able to get her hair and nails done if she couldn’t foist her children off on someone? Then she saw one of my cats hop onto the counter. "Your cats are such spoiled brats!" she said as she stormed off.
What I did: Felt hurt. Said nothing.
What I’d do if it happened again: Not waste energy feeling hurt by an unreasonable response to a refusal of an unreasonable request.
Situation 2: Guilty until proven innocent
Several years ago I lived at the family homestead with my brother and sister-in-law. As I was about to leave for work one morning, my sister-in-law stomped up the stairs toward my place screaming my name. I had just about enough time to batten down my emotional hatches before she threw open the door and screamed, "THOMAS KILLED ALL MY BABY CHICKS AND THERE’S BLOOD EVERYWHERE AND YOU NEED TO CLEAN IT UP!!!"
How could I possibly refuse such a polite and calm request?
When I saw the carnage, it was clear to me that a cat was not the perpetrator. "This looks more like a weasel than a cat," I said.
"Well, maybe Thomas went crazy when he got in there and now ALL MY BABY CHICKS ARE DEAD!!!!!" (There were four other hens sitting on nests at that time, so more babies would be forthcoming pretty soon.)
What I did: You can’t reason with a person in hysterics, so I didn’t try. I cleaned up the mess and went to work. This wasn’t the first time I’d been on the receiving end of such interactions, so I knew the drill: Smile and nod and get the hell out as soon as you can.
What I’d do if I could do it all over again: Wouldn’t have lived there in the first place.
Situation 3: The trolls come calling
When you write a cat blog and you use the personae of your cats, you’re bound to attract a few trolls — and I certainly have. Back in the days when I was a young, fresh-faced web denizen, I used to have a hard time brushing off the trollish remarks because they seemed so very personal, but you can only get so many LOL UR SO STUPID CATS CANT TALK UR PROBLY A BIG FAT LESBIAN LOL before you just laugh out loud. By the way, "fat" and "lesbian" are not insults in my world, so try harder next time.
What I did: Laughed and laughed.
What I’ll do next time I get trolled: Laugh and laugh.
Have you had an awkward cat situation? What did you do about it? What do you wish you’d done? Got any tips for people who wonder how to handle it when people diss their cats? Let’s talk in the comments.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.