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What my cat taught me about love and life |

Pet Life

What my cat taught me about love and life

ADVICE FOR THE YOUNG AT HEART - Armi Millare - The Philippine Star

It was my ex’s idea to get a cat. Sure, they’d always looked cute to me and nothing short of entertaining when I heard them say “meow” (albeit that’s all they can say), but I don’t think I was actually ready to have one for good. I’ve had dogs but shared them with the family and had a rabbit once or twice, a hamster here and there — and the last one who met his death when the help gave the poor tiny rodent a bath while I was away traveling with my dad. Loss? Nobody likes loss. It was just terrible and I just wasn’t ready.

Browsing through the papers that wet afternoon in 2006, I was greeted by a small simple box that said “Exotic Shorthair kittens for sale.” I didn’t know what they meant by “Exotic” and “Shorthair” because I only knew of one kind of cat and it was the proverbial street cat you “adopt” against their will and into your home to teach social graces or lure them in by leaving food periodically where you secretly expect them to love you unconditionally as soon as you find a proper name to call them by.

The ex looked at me with gleaming eyes saying it would be good for us if we had a pet together (along with other lies he’s told me, in hindsight). Of course, out of our “love,” though it had its foot in the door of the ICU, I decided to get a pet with him because I was hopeful it might save the dying relationship. 

Weeks down the road, I realized what it meant to get a pet together — this meant that there would be shared responsibilities, attachment on both ends, visitation rights if we ever broke up (which I was seriously considering as soon as I withdrew the money from my ATM). It reminded me about couples breaking up and fighting about where the “kids” would stay should the separation take place. So I manipulated him into letting me pay for the cat, full price — when I wasn’t even sure I truly wanted one at that time — but I was more certain it wasn’t going to work out, so I proceeded with my evil plans. Why? He made a terrible cat dad. He didn’t like to clean the poo, he complained about the smell of the kitty litter and, best of all, he only liked to play with Meowmits (my cat) when he felt like it. 

Cat woman: Armi’s second cat Sylvian

True enough, that relationship ended and I had full custody of the cat, as projected. What I didn’t know was that it would teach me many things about myself and relationships and keeping them, or how to deal with matters in a situation where one would have limits, such as communicating with a cat when all they can do is meow, right? Right. 

Having a cat had a strong impact on my independence. I was okay being alone because I was never alone anyway, having my furry friend to share my apartment with. It was a reminder to me of my financial capacity outside of my personal needs (he only eats dry cat food); he even had a hand in how long I could be away on trips. Meowmits has met everyone, including the people I’ve dated, and even demonstrated repulsion towards those who weren’t worth it right from the beginning. He’s been to all nine apartments I’ve moved into over the last 10 years and has met all my friends and is loved by my (asthmatic) family and has made me reevaluate my relationships with certain people who can’t stand cats. 

It is unimaginable for me to spend the rest of my adult life through without him. Safe to say, being in my 30s and still having Meowmits has taught me why I should first learn how to master being a cat mom, and perhaps learn how to keep a plant from dying, before giving birth myself. When I hear of cats dying of old age, I instantly tear up. I remember promising little Meowmits that I was going to move out and take him with me so that my mother would stop complaining about her difficulty taking full breaths with his fur flying around. My cat has managed to shape my life without me truly knowing. There was a brand of magic that had transpired between two creatures, a special bond that will never be understood unless one has a pet who has stuck with them through the years. 

Many nights and days, he has kept me company. Sometimes he’s the only one witness to my deepest darkest moments. Meowmits is my longest one-on-one relationship: nine years of togetherness, fighting and making up and cleaning after him. Among the regrets I have in relation to having a cat, I regret being a little negligent during the times I was busy thinking about my own welfare. Looking back, you really learn what it’s like to put others before yourself, especially when you realize that you’re all they’ve got and that their whole life practically depends on how fast you shape up. If you can’t keep an animal as independent as a cat, you’re bound to start at one point so perhaps it’s good to think about it hard and then get one. I totally do not regret having him to myself though it wasn’t easy, but I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today, one who’s improved greatly in the department that is caring for another person besides myself — all this and more, I learned from my cat.  

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