Slave to the moggie

The price I’ve paid for the cats has been compensated a million-fold

WHEN I went away for a month recently, I had a major dilemma: who would look after the cats? My home looks after itself; my daughter is now self-sufficient. But when, 10 years ago, I made the decision to buy two of the most adorable Himalayan kittens anyone had ever seen, I had no idea of the repercussions for years to come.

No one ever does when they buy pets. The idea of having a big, lovable dog to go for walks with or pampered fur-balls curled up and purring by the fire is part of the domestic dream. I’d grown up with pets and lots of them. We were a large family with cats who clawed the lounge suite and dogs who ate our shoes and dug up the garden, goldfish who did nothing but get eaten by the cats, budgies and terrapins.

I was determined to be a career woman, and when I left home it occurred to me that too many kids and/or pets guaranteed a life of domestic servitude. I was contented with one beautiful daughter, and one needy, demanding career to feed. But after my divorce, I started to yearn for something I’d always missed, something which makes every house a home: patting and nurturing an animal, and the unconditional, almost overwhelming love in return.

But of course I was right. Never a day’s freedom again. Never a night of not rushing home to feed the cats; never being able to scoot away for a weekend without endless arranging; never free of worry or unexpected dashes to the vet, or running outside at 2am to break up catfights.

Just before Christmas, with my break looming, I rang everyone I knew who’d want a beach holiday in Sydney over the new year. I heard the same few sentences. “I’d love to Ruth, but I can’t find anyone to look after the dog.” “I’d love to, but the last time I left Sassy (the cat) with my sister, she ran away.” “Can we bring Ben?” “Uhhhh, no.” The point is to have the cats looked after, not eaten. And so it went, a daisy chain of pet parents, all of us old enough now to have grown children, but with the possibility of true freedom thwarted by our furry friends.

Of course, I’d never have given this up. The price I’ve paid for the cats, and will continue to pay, has been compensated a million-fold in pleasure and pure joy. But I know that when they go, they’ll probably not be replaced. I will play with my daughter’s pets, then give them back, a happy grand-pet-parent, contented and obligation-free.

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