A postcard from my guilt trip


I am a major animal lover. I think animals are wonderful and fascinating and, usually, adorable. I love going to the zoo or the aquarium, I can’t watch the National Geographic channel because I can’t stand to see animals being taken down by predators, I won’t watch shows like “Meerkat Manor” because I’m afraid one of the meerkats will die and it will break my heart, and I think animal abusers should be abused in return for what they’ve done. By all rights I should be someone who loves having pets, right?
Imagine my feelings of confusion and guilt when I begun to realize recently that I am no longer interested in having pets — the major problem being that we have two cats right now. I am not rushing them to the Pearly Gates but the fact is, when they are gone, I have no desire to replace them — with anything. Not even a goldfish. Honestly, if I could find the cats a good home I would be willing to give them up. That’s not going to happen, though. Because of being an animal lover my conscience won’t allow me to just give them to whomever will take them. It would have to be someone who would care for them as scrupulously as I do and that’s hard to find. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I were the type of person who could just drive them down to a shelter and drop them off. But, then, I wouldn’t want to be the type of person who could do that and not be bothered. If I did something like that it would, no exaggeration, make me guilt-ridden for years or possibly for the rest of my life.
They are very nice cats. They do have a few behavioral quirks. These things can be inconvenient, at the best of times, but, right now, with me being exhausted and short-fused all the time they are magnified by a hundred. The cats get on my nerves a lot. I’d be perfectly happy if I didn’t have to deal with them — and yet my conscience won’t allow me to do anything about it. If something bad happened to one of them today I would be heartbroken. That doesn’t even make sense, does it?
I’m just tired, that’s all. I’m tired of taking care of animals. I have had animals continuously for at least 17 years now. We slogged through all our years of major traveling having to make arrangements for the pets every single time we went somewhere. Then I’d spend the entire trip worrying that some tragedy would befall them while we were gone. We had thirteen guinea pigs at one time before Madalyn was born. 13 guinea pigs in 11 cages, y’all. Do you have ANY idea how long it takes to clean eleven guinea pig cages? Or even just four or five? And I did it every. single. week. for eight years, from the time we got our first gp till the time the last one passed away at the end of 2005. And do you know how many miles I logged driving them to the vet (a hundred miles away), how much money we spent on them when they were sick, how many hours I devoted to their nursing care? (You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.) I’ve simply had it. I am tired of the work and I’m tired of caring so much. Robert occasionally makes noises about getting the kids a dog when they are older but we are going to have to have a real come-to-Jesus meeting about that because it’s not going to happen. I just can’t do it. I know who would end up doing all the work, all the cleaning up after and all the training, and for what? So I can spend every vacation for years worrying about it and then have my heart ripped out when it dies? No way. It’s not fair to a dog to have its primary caregiver be a person who would really rather not have a pet and it’s definitely not fair to me.
People predicted to me before Madalyn was born that I wouldn’t care so much about my pets once I had kids — as though the pets were a substitute for a child and I’d have no use for them once I had a real baby. Things DID change after I had kids but not in the way the naysayers were postulating. I don’t care less about my pets’ health and well-being, nor do I care less about animals in general. It’s simply that I have so much more to handle now with the kids that taking care of animals seems like all work and no fun at all. THAT is why I am done having pets. It’s not that I have relegated them to some sort of second-class citizenry just because I have something “better” to replace them. My children are expected to respect animals and treat them kindly; the cats have not become “just animals” who are here solely for the kids’ amusement. I am very vigilant in seeing that the kids are being kind to the cats and treating them properly. I have been known to remind Madalyn on more than one occasion: “Those cats were here long before you!” So, while they may cause me some angst, they are definitely not ill-treated or neglected, nor ever will be.
So where does this leave me? Well, complaining in my blog, and that’s about it. As I said, there’s no way I’d ever find another home that I’d deem suitable enough for them, which would be the only option I’d consider for giving them away. Basically we are all stuck with one another. Hopefully once my physical and mental states are both back to normal I will be less aggravated by them and we can all coexist peacefully for as long as we have left together. However, hormones and exhaustion aside, it won’t change the fact that I am ready to be pet-free (whenver that happens, and I’m not rushing it, so I would appreciate not having any nasty surprises from the cosmic universe. I’ve got enough on my plate right now without sick/injured pets).


About msmaryb

I'm a native Californian who lives in Oklahoma. I'm a full-time student, pursuing a Bachelors in Anthropology, following which I hope to attain a Masters in Archaeology. I have three kids, one husband, no pets, and a lot of friends - most of whom live inside my computer. I love to read, write, watch tv (shut up, we can't all be brain surgeons), shop, and travel. I'm trying to set foot in all 50 states before I die. I have 38, so far. I love the Beatles and Maroon 5, and if you think those two things are incongruous, well, they are. But that's me. When I love something, I love it 100%. I don't do anything halfway. I want to know everything there is to know, so I'm trying to cram as much into my brain as I can in the short amount of time I'm allotted in this dimension.

6 responses »

  1. Justin at least has the same feelings you do. I do sometimes..sometimes I think its just too much for me. The dogs aren’t half the problem the cats are. Or at least one of the cats. And the one that is a problem is my baby. I bottle fed her from 4 weeks old. She doesn’t know she is a cat. But I cannot bear to part with her..she is a part of me and will be until she is gone. I do know how you feel. It’s hard!

  2. Oh, me too! I don’t have cats, but I have my two basenjis, and I honestly feel chronically guilty because I feel I don’t pay them enough attention, don’t exercise them enough, put them outside too often. It’s just too too much — the three kids and the two dogs. I love my dogs, but sometimes, sadly, they are just another task, another maintenance issue. And they deserve better than that. (Dogs being dogs, they love me anyway.)

  3. I could have totally written this post. Get out of my brain!
    I may not know whether I’m done having kids, but I am SO DONE with pets.

  4. As you know, I’ve grieved terribly for the dogs I’ve lost (age, sickness, accident) over the past few years. Much as I miss them, I’ve entered a new stage in my life and I want to be able to travel without the worry and concern of finding them adequate care. Someday I think I would like dogs again — just not right now.

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