It has also sent me reflecting on pet-owner relationships. I had grown up with dogs, especially a cherished dog that was considered “mine.” Unlike those who have a strong inclination as a "dog person" or as a "cat person," I like both sets of animals equally. Consider me "bi-animal."
When an animal that you had a relationship with as as an adult dies, though, it strikes me as fundamentally different. Maybe it’s partly because, even though I had a tentative ownership over my dog, my parents still had the ultimate authority over her treatments. With my cat, only I could make those decisions.
Most people have been remarkably sympathetic. Those who haven’t, it seems to me, are more likely to have never really had a dog or cat as an adult. For some of them, noting the loss of my cat registers at about the same level as if I had said that I totaled my car. They understand it’s a bad thing, but can’t quite imagine it as a loss of a valued friend.
Indeed, some have misguidedly allowed their first thoughts to flow unfiltered from their brain straight to their lips. Since “pet loss” is seemingly difficult for such people to grasp, here is a list of things that are not that helpful to say upon the death of cat (all of which I have actually heard over the past week):
– I didn’t know you had a cat.
– I don’t like cats.
– Your cat never seemed to like me.
– A cat once bit me.
– Cats aren’t that affectionate anyway.
– At least now people with allergies can come to your house more often.
– How long did you think he was going to live anyway?
– He was just an orange tabby. Can’t you just get another cat just like him down at the shelter? I mean, it's not like he was a rare breed exactly.
– My brother has a cat that destroyed his furniture.
– Look on the bright side! Now you can get a dog.
– Your cat died of kidney disease? Did he have a drinking problem?
– Traveling will be much easier for you now.
– You wasted a lot of money trying to save him. I wouldn’t have bothered.
Considered it a public service announcement from GayProf.