Last night, Gideon and I were scrolling through Netflix as usual. It seems there’s never anything to watch when you have so much media at your fingertips. We eventually settled on a documentary about animal hoarders, described as a glimpse into the lives of pet owners who open up about their “obsessive love of animals.” I put that in quotations because I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with a good obsession.
It started with a woman named Marlene who has owned up to 40 Persian cats. She didn’t always have that many. She started with only 26 cats, but took on 14 more after her mother died nine years ago. Marlene talks about grooming the kitties for various cat shows, saying she can usually only take her favorite seven or eight cats to those.
As we watched her sit on a couch surrounded by at least 20 cats, I saw fear in Gideon’s eyes. It is his nightmare to have that many animals in one place, and he knows it is my ideal state. For years, I’ve been insisting we need to have approximately six cats.
It’s a great number of cats … enough to always have a friend, but not so many you can’t carry them all around at once. Though I’d prefer a bunch of orange tabbies, I’m willing to compromise on that. See how giving I am? Truly, Gideon couldn’t have found a more understanding partner.
You’d understand why I want so many cats if you ever visited my nana’s house. Nana has two dogs and up to 10 outdoor cats at any given time. They aren’t really her cats. They’re just strays who suckered someone into feeding them, and now they know where to go for food. Nana can’t help it. She loves animals. So does my mom, and so do I. It must run in the family.
As a child, I had at least four cats at a time. There’s a photo of me circa 1997 sitting on a couch wearing cat pajamas with three cats in my lap. The look on my face is euphoric. In that moment, I found what I was supposed to do in life: have more cats than most people could ever want.
Then I found Gideon 13 years later and it turns out he does not want to have that many cats. Some people would ask if he’s a dog person, but he’s not. He’s not really that big on dogs. He just grew up in a home with a bunch of kids and animals and noise, and he doesn’t want to replicate that so exactly as an adult. He tells me he still wants kids and pets, but the proper amount.
What is the proper amount? Is there a hard and fast rule about how many cats you can have in one household? What’s wrong with wanting to live in a home where the animals outnumber the people?
When the documentary ended, I tried to persuade Gideon to get more cats. He reminded me of Marlene’s story and it costs so much to feed 40 cats she’s starting to run out of money.
“That’s fine,” I said. “We’ll just have six cats then.”
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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.