Friday, November 16, 2007

I'm so confused

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for some time – and I’m surprised I haven’t, because it’s really been “dogging” me. The question is: when I have my own place and I’m settled and fabulous, will I get a pet? And if I do, will it be a dog or a cat?

I mean, what's cuter?...


And what's scarier?...


Here’s the thing (or things, really)… I LOVE dogs. Seriously, I can’t get enough of them. When they’re on TV, I automatically get emotional. When I see them in people’s cars, I stare and try to get their attention. When I’m walking past people walking their dogs on the street, I greet the dog. When a dog comes up to me at a park or whatever, I actually consider puppy-snatching, and my brain goes through the likely scenarios (will I make it to my car before the owner can catch up?) (but I never do it – the point is I think about it). Basically, dogs make me smile. No, they make my HEART smile, and it really is as cheesy and sickly sweet as it sounds.

A great many of my best memories from childhood are wrapped up in my dog, Beauregard (wasn't he gorgeous?), who passed away a couple of years ago. He really was the best damn dog that ever walked the Earth, and I know everyone thinks that about their pets, but I’m right about this, so shut up. The idea of having that again (warm fuzzy ears, wet sloppy nose, and destructive whip-lashing tail)… well, I’m not sure how much longer I can wait.

Cats, on the other paw, are very mysterious to me. There are no cat people in my family whatsoever, and I’ve never coexisted with a cat for more than a few days at a time. I think they’re sort of fabulous… not in the same way as dogs, but in ways I can definitely appreciate. I like that they’re independent and relatively self-sufficient. I like that they have attitudes, very distinct likes and dislikes, taste and style. Where dogs are predictable, cats are enigmatic, and that is undeniably appealing to me.

The main difference between the two seems to be encapsulated in the role of their owners. Dogs NEED their owners; cat owners NEED their cats. Or that’s how it seems to me. I think both relationships are probably equally fulfilling, but I have to decide which will be best for me.

If I’m being honest, my first choice would always be a dog, but when I think about what a dog needs besides the basic food, shelter, love, etc., I get a little worried. A dog needs exercise, lots of attention, and most importantly, he needs to do his business outside, which sort of requires supervision. I know a well-trained dog can make it from 8 to 5 without going potty in the house, but anything past that might be unfair (and painful). I’m not sure I want to have to run home right after work everyday to make sure Fido isn’t redecorating the carpets in lovely browns and yellows. I’m aware that plenty of people do leave their dog shut up in the house all day, or at least fenced or chained outside, but I don’t have that option because I plan on having an apartment. It’s my choice to bring a dog into my home, and if I feel like it might be too much for me, I probably shouldn’t do it, right?

Cats don’t seem to require as much attention and time. They do their business whenever they want. You can train them to be perfectly content staying indoors their whole lives. They don’t need or want the physical, energy-draining exercise, and they don’t seem to mind when they’re left alone for long periods of time. In fact, some of them act like they don’t need an owner at all, and wouldn’t be bothered if their owner just… disappeared. That is, until dinner time.

In a way, I think a cat might be the perfect choice for me. It’s companionship with half the responsibility. But I know I will miss the affection and submissiveness that only dogs can provide. My cat-loving co-worker assured me that cats can be - and often are - very affectionate, but when I went over to her apartment to meet her brood (three of them), I didn’t see affection… I saw roommates. I think she may have a different definition of the word affection than I.

As I re-read this, I realize I’ve made cat-keeping sound extraordinarily easy and carefree, which I know it isn’t. Cats have their needs, too. (Just wanted to clear that up.) When I was discussing this conundrum with that same office-worker, I saw her jaw clenching as I confessed some of my completely uninformed biases towards cats. I really thought she was about to scratch my eyes out (appropriately enough). Luckily, instead of attacking me, she educated me about all the joy there is in owning a cat, and I came away from the conversation enlightened – and no blood was shed. However, I still had reservations. My biggest fear is getting a cat and finding out I can’t stand them. What if I don’t bond with him at all? I’m seriously not interested in orphaning an animal, even though I would definitely do everything in my power to place him in a better home.

Here’s where I am now: based on the conversations I’ve had with some cat owners and the lifestyle I plan on adopting when I live alone, a cat seems to be the better choice for companionship. Since I don’t know if I even like cats, is it fair to put a cat through a test run? If I want a guinea pig, shouldn’t I just… get a guinea pig? Do I seem like the kind of person that can handle a cat? Is there any hope that I can be converted into a cat fancier?

So there it is. What should I do? And don’t say, “There’s always goldfish.” Or… do, but understand it will make me cry.

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