Hey Elderly Aunt, how do I know if I’m really a cat person?

Elderly Aunt:  I just adopted a cat two months ago. She’s a friendly cat. She gets on my lap and she seems to like being around me. But since I brought her home, she’s had a series of health problems requiring two rather pricey vet visits (three trips in all), and she’s scratched up my couch and stuffed chair. I know having pets are a lot of work and being responsible for them costs money, but the last two months have already busted my budget, which was precarious to begin with. Because I adopted this cat, am I morally obligated to keep her even if it means going into debt? Or does doing the best thing for both of us mean accepting that this arrangement isn’t going to work out and finding someone who can better handle her and her medical costs? 

It seems to the Elderly Aunt, dear reader, that your question involves two issues. The first is whether or not you truly are a cat person—as opposed to being someone who liked the idea of adopting a cat. The second is the welfare of the unexpectedly expensive cat you adopted. 

The Elderly Aunt is most definitely a cat person. Over the course of her long life, she’s happily cohabitated with a long series of stellar felines upon whom she’s full-tilt boogie doted—whither she goest, her cats go; whither she lodgest, her cats lodge. Still, she believes strongly that a sure way to invite unhappy cohabitation with a cat—or a human for that matter—is to expect them to read her mind. She sees it as her responsibility to give her both her kitty (and human) cohabitants their best chance to morph into the cohabitants of her dreams by clearly communicating her bottom-line needs and expectations to them.

When it comes to kitty cohabitants, her first step is to decide what is—and isn’t—acceptable cat behavior to her in their shared space. For example, as most of her furniture is older than she is, the Elderly Aunt happily allows her current kitty to have an occasional scratch session on the upholstery. On the other hand, as the Elderly Aunt’s human partner is not a natural cat person and is somewhat finicky about sanitation, her current kitty is not allowed to leap up on food preparation surfaces or share their bed. 

Step Two is communicating these limits to her feline cohabitant in a way kitty will understand. The Elderly Aunt accepts that the nature of any cat is— to paraphrase Washington Nationals bumptiously talented right fielder Juan Soto—to keep doing kitty cat things. In her experience, establishing détente with a live-in cat takes patience and consistency over time. Cat people seem to groove with the process. Non-cat people seem to find it deeply frustrating. 

As to how the Elderly Aunt establishes house rules, whenever her cat—being a cat—breaks one, she quick steps to the spot of the foul, claps her hands smartly together, shouts a single, startling “no,” and,  if necessary, briskly (not angrily) swats kitty away with a firm, but gentle, hand. And again, as cats are cats, she expects to repeat this process periodically as long as her kitty doth live. She’s sees the schooling between human and cat cohabiters as mutual: The human schools the cat to obey rules; the cat schools the human in patience

As to those vet bills, during her own impoverished days, the Elderly Aunt (as a true-blue cat person) was willing to go into debt to pay for her cats’ medical costs. Only you, dear reader, can decide whether or not you truly want to do same. If you do, you’re most definitely a cat person. If you don’t, you’re a perfectly good person of another sort. 

In the World According to the Elderly Aunt, there is absolutely no shame attached to being a non-cat person who mistakenly adopts a kitty. Shame attaches only if you deny your true nature, continue pretending to be a cat person, and keep the cat, thus sentencing a small furry animal to life imprisonment with a grouch.

OK, so what to do if you successfully channel your inner Popeye and discover you are not a cat person, that it was a mistake for you to adopt one, and that you want to seek a no-fault divorce?

First of all the Elderly Aunt vigorously applauds your self-honesty! It amazes her how many people who wouldn’t dream of lying to someone else will lie to themselves, thus dooming themselves to ill-fitting existences.

The Elderly Aunt suggests the best way to ensure both your and kitty’s future peace of mind is to take the time to find kitty a lovely new home—preferably with an experienced cat owner who appreciates a snuggly lap kitty. This will give both you and kitty an excellent chance to live happily ever after. 

But wait! There’s more! Should you, dear reader, decide you are a non-cat person who no longer wants to cohabitate with a cat, the Elderly Aunt is delighted to post a shout-out for a new kitty home on her Facebook page!

The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on every other Monday.  And as a general disclaimer—to quote the elves from The Lord of the Rings — “… advice is a dangerous gift, even given from the wise to the wise.”

Got a question for the Elderly Aunt? Ask her on Facebook or email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions). 

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