A CAUTIONARY TALE

I have a problem. Well, I suppose I have many problems, but the one I am going to discuss here comes from my need to have as many pets as I possibly can. I think I am the victim of the times. Remember when every family had A car? And A bathroom? And, if they were lucky, A television? And A pet?

This all changed somewhere in the mega decade of the seventies, when apparently all Americans got lost in a wave of affluence. Well, not all of us, but enough of us. Suddenly, having one of something was just not enough. Everybody in the family developed a need for their own thing. Dad had his own car. So did Mom. And as soon as Junior turned sixteen, so did he. One television in each room became the norm, because each family member needed to watch his or her own show. There was a special telephone line just for the kids: yes, just for their own calls.

So right along with all of this conspicuous consumption came the need for every family to have its own pack of animals. We needed a dog to keep the dog company. Then that wasn’t enough; we needed another dog or two, so that we could have matching pairs of them. We were gone so much in the multiple cars, you know—having a pack of dogs kept them from being lonely while we were gone. The same thing applied to cats. And birds. Maybe even to ferrets; I am not sure about that.

So somewhere along the line, I began collecting cats. Then I woke up one morning, and there were five of them on the bed, shedding fur all over us and pushing my husband off of his side. There were cat food bowls all over the place, and in the basement, nine cat litter boxes. Gosh.

But here is the thing: in our family, now that our kids are gone, there is only one person who likes pets. That would be me. And having five of them for just me has become overwhelming. Nobody warned me (well, actually, the veterinarian did, but who believes them?) that having multiple cats creates turf wars. So not only do I have two tigers, two Siamese, and one white cat distributing fur all over my furniture and my black pants, but I have five warriors jousting for the position of chieftan.

Some of you may know how cats achieve dominance. But for those of you who don’t, here is how they do it: they spray urine against the baseboards. You thought only dogs do this on hydrants? If only.

The solution is culling the herd. However, I am unable to make that kind of Sophie’s choice. Instead, I use deterrents. A deterrent is something one puts along the baseboard line in the house to give the cats second thoughts about spraying.

Here is a list of the things you will find along my baseboards: forty cotton pads saturated with essential oil of orange, three open jars of Vicks VapoRub, two miles of aluminum foil, one “linen fresh” air fresher plug-in thingy per room, and catnip flakes. The catnip flakes are supposed to make the cats feel happy and not like they have to prove anything.

I am tired, my nasal passages are overstimulated, and though I am gaining just a little on the cat dominance spectrum, I feel that the seventies betrayed me.

So I am getting rid of one of my television sets.

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