Eight years ago, I absently wandered into a pet store’s Humane Society adoption centre. Being an animal lover who grew up with a cat, I should have recognized the danger.
When a petite brown tortoiseshell tabby (also known as a torbie) looked up from her cage at my husband and me with bright, mournful green eyes, I knew we were in trouble.
After filling out the adoption papers, we swaddled our new one-year-old pet in an old bath towel like a baby and brought her home.
The pressure was on to find a suitable name. When we noticed the cat’s proclivity for running frantic laps around the house, we decided to name her Lola (as in Run Lola Run, the critically acclaimed German film from the late 1990s).
Though we doted on little Lola, we vowed not to become creepy cat people. You know the type. The type who refer to themselves as their cat’s mommy and daddy and get each other Mother’s and Father’s Day cards from the cat. The type of people who dress the cat up for Halloween, which we deemed equally humiliating for both parties. The type of people who document their cat’s every “milestone” in a Facebook photo album, then decide the cat needs its own Facebook profile to connect with its kitty friends (other creepy cat people).
No, we were not going to be those people.
We succeeded brilliantly at first. When our friends would ask how Lola was doing, we’d answer dismissively that she was doing fine and leave it at that. We hoped they would recognize we were not going to regale them with stories about our cat at every opportunity. And we’d have a good laugh at the expense of those magazines devoted exclusively to cats that we’d sometimes see while in line at the grocery store. After all, we weren’t that type of cat people. Yet.
The first symptoms flared up when we took Lola to the vet for some shots. My husband and I couldn’t agree whose last name to give the cat on the intake form. After a lengthy debate, we decided to hyphenate. And so our cat was given the rather cumbersome moniker Lola Gilmore-Paul.
Other signs that we were slowly becoming creepy cat people began to emerge. We had, for example, begun referring to ourselves, in private at least, as Lola’s mommy and daddy. In our defence, when we started doing this we were being completely tongue-in-cheek. But, over time, the irony was lost.
Worse still, we were now talking to our cat. That in and of itself might not have been so bad had we not also begun answering on her behalf in the squeaky, breathy voice we imagined she’d have if she could actually speak.
Soon after, we gave Lola an imaginary occupation as chaircat of the board of the Canadian Association of Torbies (CAT – get it?).
“How was your day, Lola?” my husband would ask when he got home from work.
“Well,” I’d squeak, “that fat cat down the block has been badmouthing meow to the CAT board. I think he’s after meow job.”
Yes, we had begun anthropomorphizing our cat, a sure sign we were well on our way to becoming creepy cat people. Lola didn’t have her own Facebook page yet, but that was only because she had concerns with its privacy policies.
Friends soon began to notice our transformation. They would talk about their children’s health problems – colds, flus, teething, bouts of diarrhea. In the past, we would have listened attentively, then politely changed the subject.
Now that we were full-fledged creepy cat people, though, we began responding with anecdotes about Lola’s health concerns. Unfortunately for our friends, our cat provided an abundance of material. She had a plethora of food allergies and a compulsive tendency to overgroom, which resulted in rashes and other skin problems.
My parents grew concerned when I began referring to Lola as their grand-kitty. They tried to laugh it off, but I could see the fear in their eyes that their daughter had become that type of cat person and that Lola was indeed the closest they would ever get to a grandchild.
If there were ever any doubt that my transition is complete, I suppose writing a missive on the topic seals the deal. I’m sure many cat owners that I would have formerly dismissed as those type of cat people are reading this and thinking, “Well, I may dress my pet up for Halloween, but at least I’m not writing essays about my cat.” To them I say: fair enough.
Of course, now that I’m one of them, I no longer think creepy cat people are so bad. After all, there are many worse things one can do than love their cats so much they come to see them as full-fledged family members.
Perhaps more importantly, though, I’d like to think this has made me less judgmental. Once in a while, when I see parents whose children are running amok, I’ll tell myself, “I won’t be that type of parent.” But then I remember I once vowed to not be that type of cat person either, and now here I am.
Plus, is the type of person who gives her cat an imaginary occupation really in any position to judge?
Karen Gilmore lives in Ottawa.