Excerpt from YOU are PAWSOME! 75 Reasons Why Your Cats Love You, and Why Loving Them Back Makes You a Better Human
You clean the litter box
There’s no end to how feline-besotted the genuine cat lover is. So besotted that a bona fide devotee can find the positive spin on even the most negative aspects of cat care—the extra expense of a home-visiting pet-sitter when you travel (“Totally worth it!”); the always-dicey experience of pilling a cat (“Muffy looks so cute wrapped in a ‘kitty burrito!’”); and even cleaning up hairballs (“Bootsie and I both love the smell of Nature’s Miracle!”).
But the one un-spinnable task associated with responsible feline caretaking is cleaning the litter box. Probably the best that can be said is that, under certain ideal circumstances—including use of a high-quality litter and making sure not too much time has passed since the last cleaning—it’s relatively painless.
Then there are those other times. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those times when the store was out of your favorite litter, so you had to make do with some cheap substitute that doesn’t even pretend to cover up the odor, which probably explains why you waited a couple of days longer than you should have to clean it out…
And now here it is, the middle of summer, 95 degrees outside and even hotter than that inside, the sweltering heat and cheap litter apparently having caused the odor coming from the litter box to mutate into some hideous, nearly tangible, practically paranormal entity that surely no cat—certainly not your cat, who’s so cute and so tiny!—could possibly be responsible for, and that no human could be expected to withstand for long. Suddenly you’re Marlon Brando at the end of Apocalypse Now as a suffocating dread rises in your chest and you find yourself frozen in place, helplessly repeating the only semi-coherent thought your mind is capable of forming:
The horror! The horror!
In the end, though, you roll up your sleeves, clothespin your nose, grab the scooper and a plastic bag, and head in there to do what you have to do like the brave, never-say-die soldier you are.
And that’s because when the going gets tough, the tough get
You score weed for your cat
You’ve never broken the law in your entire life.
Never so much as claimed an even slightly questionable tax deduction. Never sped through an “orange” traffic light. Never carved your sweetheart’s name into a tree at the park or taken a chewed-up wad of gum out of your mouth and stuck it to the underside of a desk.
When it comes to walking the straight-and-narrow, you could teach a Master Class.
Which is what makes it all the more surprising to onlookers (although not, I can assure you, to your fellow cat lovers) when you oh-so-casually walk in with an ounce of that wacky feline weed nepeta cataria (otherwise known as garden-variety catnip), sprinkle some around the floor, and watch as your cat proceeds to get as high as a Georgia pine.
You spoil your cat rotten
My husband isn’t a particularly complex or hard-to-understand person—an attribute that I note here with a great deal of approval. It is, in fact, one of the reasons I married him. Cats are difficult enough to understand; there’s no point in making things doubly hard by throwing an excessively complicated human housemate into the mix.
Still, there are times when he manages to leave me completely befuddled. Like when he walks into the living room and finds me on the couch with a velvet cushion on my lap, resting atop which is my tripod cat, Clayton, sprawled on his back while I give him a thorough tummy rub, and he will say (my husband, that is) with a clear note of disapproval in his voice:
“You spoil these cats rotten.”
It's not the observation itself that leaves me so perplexed. Of course I spoil my cats rotten. That I do so is an inarguable fact. I spoil them absolutely and unapologetically, and if I have any single regret about it at all, it would only be that I’m not creative enough to come up with even more ways of spoiling them rotten-er. (Suggestions are always welcomed! @ me on Instagram!)
It’s the disapproval in my husband’s tone that I can’t quite grok. I mean, what’s even the point of adopting a cat—particularly a rescue cat—if it isn’t to spoil them rotten???
Nevertheless, this self-evident observation is one that’s oft repeated in our home. “You’re spoiling them,” my husband informs me, when I come home from the pet store with an entire shopping bag filled with brand-new catnip toys. “I can’t believe how spoiled these cats are,” he says whenever I prepare little Thanksgiving or other holiday plates of food for the cats, so they can celebrate along with us. “These are the most ridiculously spoiled cats I’ve ever seen in my life,” he’ll insist while watching me cede half my pillow at night to a fuzzy sleeping companion. (Forgetting, perhaps, that the only other cats he’s ever spent much time with were the three cats I had when we first moved in together seventeen years ago—three cats who were, I can assure you, just as spoiled then as my current cats are today.)
Sometimes I have to lean in and listen closely to hear his expressions of disapproval, like when I’m in the grocery store carefully evaluating varieties of Temptation treats in order to make sure I only bring home my cats’ preferred flavors, while my husband stands next to me shaking his head and muttering, “It is unbelievable how spoiled these cats are.”
Occasionally I wonder what he thinks is the potential downside of spoiling our cats. Does he worry that I’m not raising them right? That I’m fostering feline narcissism? That when they go out into the world and have to cope with friends and spouses and bosses, they’ll be socially maladapted or have unrealistic perceptions of their own importance?
What exactly is the harm?
And does my husband honestly think I don’t know what’s what when I see him coming home with some fancy can of high-end tuna he knows they like, or when he slips Clayton little bits of the turkey from the sandwich he’s just made himself, or when—after he thinks I’ve fallen asleep next to him—he gives Fanny the long and intense late-night back-scratches she craves, while murmuring in her ear, Who’s my pretty girl? Who’s a pretty, pretty girl?
The truth is, there are plenty of people in the world who are selfish or stingy or downright cruel. They’re the ones who tend to make the world a worse place to live in. But there are also a handful of us kicking around this big blue marble who take a profound pleasure in making others happy.
And while the business of making other people happy (although unquestionably worthwhile!) can be immensely complicated, making a cat happy is usually a much simpler affair—one easily accomplished with plentiful chin scritches, a bagful of crunchy treats, and a few strategically placed cushions in sunlit spots around the house.
Those of us who love cats live to serve. And that makes us PAWSOME!
Gwen Cooper is the New York Times bestselling author of the memoirs Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat; Homer: The Ninth Life of a Blind Wonder Cat; My Life in a Cat House; and Spray Anything: More True Tales of Homer and the Gang, as well as the novel Love Saves the Day (narrated from a rescue cat's perspective) and PAWSOME! Head Bonks, Raspy Tongues, and 101 Reasons Why Cats Make Us So, So Happy--among numerous other titles. Her work has been published in more than two-dozen languages, and she is a frequent speaker at shelter fundraisers across the U.S. and Europe.
Gwen lives in New Jersey with her husband, Laurence. She also lives with her two perfect cats--Clayton "the Tripod" and his litter-mate, Fanny--who aren't impressed with any of it.