Sep 292006
 

It’s not often you’ll find me posting with complaints about being a Father. My son has been a blessing in almost every way imaginable, and I thank the universe every day that I get to spend with him. There are, however, a few things that occasionally infuriate me about being a parent. I’m gonna talk about one of those things now.

I’m going to talk about pets.

We’re all familiar with the old cliche when it comes to families and pets. The kids beg and beg for a pet, and promise that they will take care of it. The parents extract all kinds of promises about the care of said pets, namely revolving around the fact that the kids are the ones that need to take care of it. Oaths and sacred promises are sworn, and the parents (usually against their better judgement) relent and allow the pet to come into the home.

At first, all is well – The children lavish their net pet with love and affection, making absolutely sure to take the best possible care of it. The novelty eventually wears off, though, and what was once shiny and new just becomes another chore.

And kids, believe it or not, really suck at doing chores.

We have three cats in our household. Two of them, Angel and Peepers, belong to A. The other one, Grey, belongs to J. Cats, on the whole, are relatively easy to care for. You clean their boxes twice a day, and you make sure they have plenty of food and water. If you’re feeling particularly enterprising, you can brush their coats or trim their nails, but for the most part they don’t require much maintenance. You don’t have to walk them, they bathe themselves, and as long as you don’t let them roam free outside you can pretty much get away with minimal vet visits.

So you’d think that two boys would be able to adequately care for their cats, right?

Hardly.

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t have to remind them to clean the litter boxes. If I don’t, it will inevitably get to the point where their bedrooms literally smell like amonia. J. let his cat get out of the house a few months ago, and was told that until he came up with the funds to get her checked for feline leukemia she was to remain isolated from the other cats. Has this happened yet? Of course not. New video games have been purchased since then, but Grey continues to be a possible carrier of a highly infectious, and fatal, feline disease. Trim their nails? Please. Neither one of them has ever even asked to be shown how to do it. Brush them? Why, don’t you realize that would require work?

I put my foot down a long time ago and pretty much stopped doing all of this. Unfortunately, this didn’t make it happen any more frequently. It just meant that instead of me doing it I got the pleasure of having to, every day, remind them of one MORE chore they have to take care of. When I don’t, my house ends up smelling like cat piss. I used to enjoy having Peepers sleep in the bedroom with us at night, but because her cat box has gone so many times without being adequately cleaned she started to use our room as a place to relieve herself. Once a cat has done that, the spot in question is no longer considered to be taboo and instead of holding it when the need arises she will go there. So, no more Peepers in my room at night. Same thing happened with our bathroom. Cat box went uncleaned, so the cats started using the rug in our bathroom. Now we can’t leave our bathroom door open at all. The minute a cat gets in there, they will piss on it – Even if it’s a brand new rug that has never been peed on before.

Our furniture? Don’t make me laugh. Almost all of it is destroyed. The only items that can be salvaged are the ones in our room – and that’s because we’ve forbidden cats to go in there. Grey even destroyed the plastic covering on the back porch chairs. Do the boys care about this? No, it really doesn’t seem like they do. It’s not their furniture, so why should it bother them? Yeah, they might say something if they catch the cats actually doing it, but will they trim nails? Nooooo.

So then the question comes up – What do I, as a parent, do about it?

Sure, I could get the cats declawed. Several problems there, though, the most dominant being that it’s quite painful for the animal who isn’t doing anything other than being what it is and can’t really be held at fault. I can trim their nails, or I can spend money to get them caps or have them professionally trimmed. Money which, to be frank, I don’t have. Feeding the cats and keeping them in clean cat litter is expensive enough as it is, not to mention the occasional trips to the vet. So really, the grooming option is one that, if I want to see happen, I have to do it myself – unless I want torn up furniture and cat hair everywhere.

When faced with all of this, the obvious answer springs up – Get rid of the cats.

Oh, but the drama that would erupt from THAT.

It’s easy enough to say, but let’s be realistic here folks. You honestly expect that I’d take a pet that one of our kids has a strong emotional bond with and just get rid of it? Maybe I’m a big wimp and it’s what I really should do, but I can’t seem to bring myself to be that mean.

K. wants a dog. I’d love to have a dog. Dogs are great pets, and despite the fact that they are more work they have a much better rate of return in the realm of affection and can also add some peace of mind in the way of home security. We’re hesitant to get a dog, though. Why? Because we already have a hard enough time keeping our house in order with 2 kids and 3 cats, not to mention the fact that integrating a dog into a situation where we already have 3 cats that will NOT get along just sounds like a nightmare (yes, almost 2 years after being introduced to each other Grey still refuses to get along with the other two cats and vice versa…they fight whenever they get next to each other).

I really don’t know what to do about it, and to be honest it makes me very angry. I hate the fact that my house is in disarray because the boys don’t take care of their animals. I hate the fact that the animals aren’t being properly cared for. I hate the fact that because they are improperly cared for I cannot enjoy having them around. More than anything, though, I hate the fact that every time I bring these things up and threaten to actually remove the pets from the house I am made to feel like a monster because I even dared to consider the possibility.

I don’t regret having kids. It’s one of the few things in life I’m pretty confident I’m good at. I just wish sometimes that emotional, manipulative headgames weren’t part of the equation.

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