Tag Archives: pets

If you want to live a good life, then be like an animal 

two dogs asleep on lawnAnimals seem to have life figured out. Whereas we humans tend to overcomplicate matters, animals excel at keeping things simple.

For example, animals have two primary objectives in life: hunting for food and eating food.

That’s it. That’s their life. They eat food to sustain their existence.

I like it. Though perhaps not the most ambitious of goals, the simplicity makes it admirable. Not everyone can be an astronaut or invent a gadget that benefits the world.

Animals know this, which is why they keep their goals attainable. They don’t have to make New Year’s resolutions because their daily objectives are within reach.

You never see a zebra trying to quit smoking, or a hippo in jogging shorts huffing down the neighborhood street. Animals don’t manufacture drama like humans. They hunt for food. And then they eat the food. And as long as the cycle continues, they consider their ambitions fulfilled.

But then again, animals also reproduce. So I guess you could list that as their third prescribed objective. Without reproduction, animals wouldn’t have anyone to carry on the noble tradition of hunting for food and eating food. The circle of life wouldn’t be complete without enthusiastic offspring to carry on these most laudable of customs.

Humans could learn a thing or two from the animals. We no longer hunt, but we navigate the supermarket aisles after work, filling our carts with 7UP and Crown Royal. Instead of wielding a spear, now we hand over a debit card. Laden with sacks of groceries, most animals would think I was the greatest hunter in the world.

And we don’t just reproduce; we have relationships. And then there’s heartache and breakups and husbands who don’t put the seat down. It’s excruciating. Humans might not eat their young, but we’re the only species that’ll argue over the upright position of a toilet seat. (But at least I don’t mark my territory by lifting my leg on the front door, so let’s be thankful for small favors.)

Animals, however, keep it simple. They don’t overcomplicate.

Case in point: When they’re not hunting or eating, animals are lounging. Once their daily obligations are completed, they sit back and enjoy life.

Look at domesticated animals. Because they don’t have to hunt, they can skip right to the eating and lounging parts. You rarely see a dog or cat scrambling during the morning commute. While we humans are toiling away at work, our pets are sprawled on the living-room rug with their tongues hanging out, asleep. (Whenever I end up on the living-room rug, it usually has something to do with all that 7UP and Crown Royal.)

So I think humans should study the animals and learn from them. They have a lot to teach us.

And until I see a hippo in jogging shorts — or a zebra wearing a nicotine patch — I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to living well, animals have humans beat paws-down.

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A philosophical conversation with my cat

sarcastic cat

Although my cat is a little too self-centered sometimes, he’s nice to have around when I need someone to talk to.

I was sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, when my cat sauntered into the room.

“Hey!” Cat said. “It’s after five! Where are my treats?”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s twenty minutes past five, and you never gave me my treats! What’s the matter with you? I’m starving here!”

“Oh, wow,” I said, looking at my wristwatch. “I didn’t realize it was so late. This entire day has gotten away from me.”

“Yeah, well, your guts will be getting away from you when I disembowel you. How dare you neglect me like a godforsaken alley cat. I’d eat better if I lived on the streets!”

I got up and walked into the kitchen to get the cat’s treats. His wide eyes followed me all the way.

“Do you want chicken or fish treats?” I called.

“Both. And give me a handful of those hairball treats, too. I’ve been choking all day.”

“OK, but you can only have 10. That’s what the package says.”

“I don’t care what the package says. I’ll gouge your eyeballs out, you useless human.”

I returned to the living room and set the treats on the floor. The cat sniffed and them and started nibbling daintily.

As he ate, I returned to the couch and stared at the TV.

The cat looked at me, chewing thoughtfully. Once he swallowed, he asked, “So what’s up with you today?”

“I’m sorry?”

“What’s up with you? You’ve been acting morose all day, and then you almost forgot to feed me. Here I am starving and suffering while you’re just zoned out watching TV. For all the abuse I endure, I ought to go on a Sarah McLachlan commercial.”

“You think you might be exaggerating a tad?” I asked, grabbing the remote and flipping channels. “You’re not exactly abused, you know.”

“Keep it up, and I’ll make shredded cheese out of your face,” Cat said, holding up his glistening claws.  Keep reading…

The catnip candy cane and the unimpressed cat

a cat rolling on floorSo I’m on the phone with my friend, Brenda. And she says, “You have a cat, don’t you? I thought I remembered you saying you have a cat.”

“Yep,” I say, laughing. “I sure do. I am indeed the proud owner of a cat.”

“Hey!”

I look up to see my cat staring at me from across the room. He motions to me with his claw. “Get over here.”

I can’t, I mouth, cupping my hand over the receiver. I’m on the phone.

“Hang up the damn phone and get your ass over here,” my cat says. “Now! I want to talk to you.”

And meanwhile, Brenda’s babbling about some dog she owned in 1986. I think she said its name was Salt, or something.

“Brenda, I’m so sorry,” I say, interrupting her, “but I’ve got to go.”

“Right now?” Brenda asks. “We’re right in the middle of a conversation. I was just telling you about the time that Pepper lifted his leg on Mama’s toupee. She kept smelling doggy pee, and she couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. She thought it might be her armpits, and she kept burying her nose under both her arms to sniff them, but all she could smell was regular old-lady B.O., and not pee. It was driving her crazy!”

“I thought your dog’s name was Salt?” I ask.

“My dog’s name is Salt,” Brenda says.

“But you just said your dog’s name is Pepper?”

“Pepper is the dog I had in 1986,” Brenda says. “You know that. My goodness, it’s like you’re not listening to a word I’m saying.”

“Huh? What’s that?” I ask, looking at my cat and swallowing. His eyes are narrowed, and I can tell my delay is making him livid.

“I said it’s like you’re not listening to a word I’m saying!” Now it’s Brenda who sounds livid.

“Hang up the phone,” my cat says, his voice eerily calm. “Now.”

“Bye, Brenda,” I say, as I hang up the phone. I can her her screaming violent, rage-fueled obscenities as I set down the receiver. That woman does not like to be cut off when she’s talking about her pets.

“Get over here,” my cat says, motioning me over to the couch.

I take a deep, uncertain breath. Then, I stand up and saunter over to the couch.

“Have a seat.”

I sit down on one end of the couch while my cats sits on the other, his tail twitching manically.

“Now,” my cat says, “remind me what you said a moment ago. You know, the part about you being a proud pet owner?”

I swallow again. Suddenly, my throat feels dry.

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” I say, my voice cracking. “I swear. All I said was that I was the proud owner of a cat.”

“And therein lies the problem.” My cat closes his eyes, taking a deep breath. My chest tightens as I await his next syllable. Already, I can feel a line of cold sweat beading across my brow.

“Let’s get something straight,” my cat says. “Right here and right now. And I’m only going to tell you once, so you listen good. You don’t own me. You understand? I own you. You got that, you miserable bag of puke? I own you!”

“I’m sorry,” I try to say, stammering. “I didn’t mean–”

“Shut up!” my cat says, raising his paw. “I’m not through with you. You’re nothing. You’re the rancid scum that pools at the bottom of my milk dish when it’s left sitting out for too long. You’re the flimsy guts of a disemboweled mouse that I left sitting on the back porch. You’re more useless than that cheap-ass catnip candy cane you bought me for Christmas from the $1 store. And what a joke that was, by the way. What kind of a tightwad, scumbag bastard buys Christmas gifts from the $1 store?”

“Cat, please,” I say, my voice taking on a higher pitch. My body’s trembling, and my throat constricts as I talk, which cuts off my words. Either I’m really getting worked up, or my cat allergies are kicking in.

I’m not sure why I have a cat when I’m allergic to him, but he’s never appreciated any of the sacrifices I’ve made. I made a special trip to buy him that catnip candy cane, and it pains me to learn that he hated it.

“Let’s get one thing straight,” my cat says. “Don’t you ever go around telling people you own me. You got it? You will never own me. I would never condescend to call you my owner, or even my friend. You’re nothing to me. You’re just the sniveling coward who fills my food dish and cleans out the litter box. You’re nothing to me but a manservant. All you’re good for is fluffing my pillows and maybe running a comb through my fur when I’m starting to shed. But beyond that, you’re a withered, pathetic excuse for a man.”

“Cat, I’m sorry!” I say, tears springing to my eyes. It hurts to hear him speak so callously. I thought our relationship was stronger than this.

“Silence!” my cat says. “I ought to drag you outside right now and break your stupid kneecaps with a tire iron, you miserable pipsqueak. Or maybe I’ll just slice you up with my claws so that you look like shredded cheese. You’ll look like you’ve been dropped through a helicopter rotor by the time I’m finished with you, you classless bum.”

“I’m so sorry, Cat,” I say, wiping snot on the back on my sleeve. Whether it’s emotions or allergies, my nose is gushing. “I didn’t mean to insinuate that I owned you, or that you’re somehow beneath me. Sometimes I just blurt things without thinking.”

“Damn right you weren’t thinking, you gutless turd! And you’ll never make the same mistake again, will you?”

“I promise,” I say, sniffing. “You’re the most important feline in my life, Cat. I don’t want us to fight.”

“Quit sniveling,” my cat says, glaring. “You’re making me sick. It’s despicable.”

“Cat,” I say, “can I ask you a question?”

“Must you?”

“You’re always so mad at me lately. You hiss at me for even the slightest perceived offense.”

My cat’s eyes widen. “That’s because you deserve it, you wretched fool!”

I swallow. “I know I’ve apologized for this before, but Cat … will you ever forgive me for having you neutered?”

My cat sucks in a quick breath. “I said I never want to discuss it,” he says, his eyes burning like branding irons into the depths of my soul.

“I know,” I say. “But clearly, you’re still very resentful. I just wondered–”

My cat holds up a paw, with his blood-stained claws protruding like Wolverine’s terrifying blades. “Not another word, you imbecile, or I’ll slice you up into human confetti. Your guts will be raining upon guests at a New Year’s Eve party when I get through with you.”

“OK. All right.” I rise from the couch and take a cautious step backward. “I’m so sorry, Cat. I swear. I’ll get you some milk now. Does kitty want some milk?”

“You’re goddamn right kitty wants some milk, you insufferable dumb ass! And bring me a handful of those crunchy treats while you’re at it. They help me fight tartar and bad breath.”

“You got it.” Though I’m still shaken, I cross the room to the kitchen to retrieve the milk and treats.

As I leave him alone in the living room, my cat stares blankly at the wall. Ever so slowly, the rage recedes from his eyes, and a dull, glassy stare takes its place.

Although he thinks he’s alone, he’s not aware that I’m watching him. Even through all of our trials and escalated conversations, I have nothing but fondness for him in my heart.

And as he extends his hind leg to lick it, a remorseful pang of guilt surges through me … because as he licks he gently nuzzles that place near the base of his tail — that now-vacant spot where his family jewels used to be.