I just wanted to ask – is there any chance all of you ‘normal’ human beings could give multi-cat householders a break? I am really fed up with reading newspaper articles and seeing guru-type psychologists on TV explaining that any woman (we always seem to be women) with more than three cats – especially if she is stupid enough to be childless and living on her own – is a pet-hoarder. I am so sick of hearing earnest discussions as to how many of the little furry encumbrances should be removed, forcibly, from their owners and how the owners might then be ‘educated’ or worse still ‘supported’ into not adding further pets to their collections. How dare they?
I watched another one of these experts yesterday. Anyone with more cats than she has (two, currently, but her absolute limit is four) is by definition an obsessive and their poor, flea-ridden, un-neutered, stressed, overcrowded, verminous pets are to be pitied. If I were to tell her that all of my thirteen cats were neutered, healthy, flea-less, chilled out and if anything slightly overfed, would she believe me? If I were to tell her that at least nine of those thirteen cats would be dead by now, if it wasn’t for me and my neurotic need to express my thwarted child-rearing urges by welcoming into my home an embarrassing number of non-humans, would that make any difference? Probably not.
Whilst accepting that some obsessives will hoard pets, just as some obsessives will hoard piles of old newspapers and houses full of the most appalling junk, to the extent that they have to climb over mountains of valueless crap to get from one room to the next, not everyone who has a lot of one particular thing is an obsessive, and not every multi-pet householder is a lost soul in need of therapy, conditioning, re-education or support. It just all begins to remind me of Soviet Psikhushka of the 1940s to 60s – mental hospitals where perfectly sane people were confined and medicated for failing to embrace what ‘everyone knew’ to be the correct political views.
Yesterday afternoon I was telephoned by a financial advisor chappie whose company is likely to be involved in my house move. He wanted a breakdown of my income and outgoings which, in spite of the request being somewhat unexpected and involving a lot of puffing up and down the stairs, phone clamped to my ear, I supplied him with. Oh dear, he said, your outgoings currently exceed your income, in spite of all your budgeting, by… quite a bit.
I know, I said. (Strangely enough, I can use a calculator too – and wasn’t I the one who had just supplied him with all the figures?) That’s one of the reasons I’m moving.
But, he said – I’d be failing in my financial duty if I didn’t advise you this for your own good – you have to get rid of at least ten of those cats. You are feeding those animals whilst living on Toast and Marmite. This can’t be right. You are putting their welfare ahead of your own! Furthermore, you must not buy any more cats.
I never bought a cat in my life.
He noticed the silence.
I mean, he said, maybe faintly aware that he may just have shot himself in the foot, you don’t have to kill them or anything. Just find them nice new homes.
I couldn’t afford to hang up on him. I wiped my eyes and tried to stop thinking which ten. Which ten must I give up? Which ten of my thirteen Reasons for Living could I pick out as being less precious to me than the others, pack into pet-carriers and hand over to the RSPCA? After he was gone, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, or (pathetically, since it was all in my imagination) crying.
This morning I had to drive four of the monstrous Thirteen to my friend Stan the Polish vet, to get their cat flu injections up-to-date prior to moving/cattery day. I told him about the phone call.
You should work here, he said. You’d end up with more than thirteen.
And if he had thirteen children, he said, through the little plastic syringe clasped between his teeth – which ones would he give away?