Have been looking at the difference seen in an older person living by themselves, versus an older person with a pet. Or two or ten pets, such as the “old lady with her cats.” The one nugget of information I got in my study, is that a person with pets is seen as more “giving,” where a person without pets may be seen as more selfish or self-serving.
Funny thing about that, is ‘self-serving’ is better understood in today’s society. Selfish orchestration is more tolerated than weakness. And most unsettling, is that a person who is self-serving or strong, is more respected and treated with greater deference.
If others are accustomed to viewing a person as the one with the cat, the one who is kind and gives of herself and time to care for a pet–that is an understanding or perception that is not easily moved. For years they will just see you as “the cat lady” who only happens to have no cats at the moment. But then the perception slowly changes, as they realize you don’t intend to place yourself under such a burden again.
Over the course of my life, I have owned cats, dogs, fish, birds…though ‘owned’ is a debatable word. More often than not, they own you. And I don’t regret a single moment of shared time with my “pets.” It’s just that I have grown beyond the need to have that dependence constantly surrounding me. Actually find myself feeling a little peeved on the amount of time it takes to just water plants.
Have I changed? No, but there was a reason for each pet I had and owned. They were strays, or saved from an animal shelter. Or they were bought for another family member. Or they were a matter of curiosity. What is it like to own a bird? Can I ever keep fish without feeling guilty? Could never get a large enough fish tank when using a living creature for decoration…
Oh it’s been quite the time, and I have had some extraordinary pets. That is why it seems fitting to end on a high note, with my cat Jazz passed away now and hunting cicadas in that great meadow in the sky. They say leave the best for last. So she is and was the greatest cat that ever lived. Though did try ‘owning’ a pet beta fish year or so ago, as a kind of trial run. It did not end well, the poor thing. And I still see Jazz as the last and best of a lifetime trying to find the ideal “pet.”
Replacing such an amazing animal seems to not be the way to go. I got Jazz kitty shortly after giving up my daughter for adoption. It was the remedy for a broken heart. Often I over-lapped the two, and though I knew my cat was not my kid, she became much more than just a cat to me. She was what saved me from complete emptiness.
Now that time has passed, with Jazz gone I can face my decisions and the way I decided to have things go. The need is not there to fill a hole with yet another pet. I saved her from a life spent with someone other than me, and I was the one that understood Jazz better than any human ever could. Don’t know how to explain that. Just know it’s true. Jazz kitty constantly condemned me. She knew what humans were in relation to her own species. And you know, I loved that about her. I often wondered how such a small skull held such amazing brain power.
Wasn’t imagination on my part, either. She was one of a kind, and I will always see her as not the cat that completed my own identity. I was never a cat lady, only posing as one. There are so many things to explore. I still think about the day I decided to get a pet cat, after coming home from the hospital in Salt Lake. There was no sense to it.
I was living in an apartment that didn’t allow pets. I was broke. And top that off, that it was snowing and my car was broken down. A friend and I took the bus to the humane society, and there she was. When every other cat was at the front of their cage, crying to be noticed. Jazz sat at the very back, scowling like you would never believe. But rather than clawing when taken out of the cage, she waited to see what kind of person I was first.
So that was how I came to “own” Jazz kitty. Though I didn’t own her and she didn’t really own me. It was more of a mutual need. Or maybe both taught each other the details of coexistence. We both understood that survival meant everything, more than trust or faith or demands. You have to draw those lines that keep the odds in your favor.
So no, I’m not just the cat lady who happens to be between cats at the moment. Was never one to give without getting something in return. I’m sorry about that, it is my nature and I suppose part of the different hardships. I never felt the need to see myself as a ‘giving’ person. And I’m ok if perceived by others as selfish and unyielding. Stubborn in my old age.
Truth be told, though, I was always stubborn. Ask anybody. LOL. It’s one of those things you just sort of realize and smile. As far as I’m concerned, the world needs to be in order, or it isn’t a world at all. You comprehend the disassociation of chaos after diving so deeply into insanity that can’t even see yourself. The best answer to cages, is to assume your own limitations.
So I am the non-cat-lady. The one who will be cursing insanity with her dying breath. The one who thinks hanging up towels perfectly is a waste of time. Yet the one who folds a towel anyway, only to laugh at how we are all seen. How life is a matter of acceptance — yet more importantly a matter of rejecting right and wrong. Or is that right and left?
You see–I see them both. That way, can quantify details of an opposition. More often than not these days, I toss up my hands, and enjoy a cigarette and coffee on the patio. Imagination such a wonderful thing, and Jazz kitty is often missed. But I know she served her purpose.