Several years ago, when 30 seemed like an age that I’d never be, I made a vow to myself: “If you’re still single when you turn 30, self, you need to get a cat.” I love cats, and my family had at least one cat from the time I was born until the summer after my second year of grad school. But since I’ve been living here in Jersey, I have been feline-less.
Well, that’s not entirely true. My first year up here, one of my roommates got a cat, but Bella (cat, not roommate) was only allowed in one tiny little room of the house, due in part to roommates’ allergies, and in part to weird interpersonal dynamics that, shockingly, existed in a house of four female roommates. So, Bella didn’t count as me having a cat.
Then, the next year, Beans the cat briefly lived in the same house. Beans was cute, but definitely was not allowed, and definitely ate my basil plant. Beans also had the misfortune of earning his name due to some kittenhood flatulence. They might be cute, but my word, kittens can be so miserable-smelling. Cuteness is in this case Nature’s defense against predators with, well, olfactory perception.
There were a handful of ferals that one or another of us fed but certainly never touched. The wayward cats were also hardly offended that we shirked from their pale, disease-y eyes and dingy, clumpy hair. There was talk of trapping and having them neutered, or at the very least bathed, but no amount of compassion could convince any of us to follow through with what would surely end up in bloodshed, flying fur, and a round of tetanus shots.
But I don’t want a cat because, woe is me, I feel like I’m never going to get married, and I’m going to end up a spinster, and oh my word, in two years has this blog just come full circle? I want a cat because I get cats. I am a cat person. I like them. And they usually kind of like me, at least as much as a cat likes anyone who isn’t offering them food or pointing a laser toy or dangling a string in front of them. And frankly, coming home to a little furry being that I can talk to without feeling totally weird would be pretty handy some days.
I feel like I’d be a pretty competent caretaker; I know how to clean a litterbox, I’ve successfully broken up a fight between two 20-lb cats, and I’ve got a proven history of successful cat-sitting endeavors. But, aside from the fact that I’m sort of technically not supposed to have a pet in my current apartment either, I’m still not pursuing this endeavor with full force. You know why? Because in less than two weeks, I’ll be 30. And, unlike other ages that seemed somehow weird, this is just verging on impossible.
Plus, there’s always been this one part of cat ownership that I have a very hard time dealing with: the hairballs. And not even the product. The process.
The way that you see the cat start to extend its neck forward like a desperate turtle and wheeze in the most alarming, death-knell way. The atrocious gulping noise. The inevitable time that this happens when the cat is sitting on your lap. The conflicting feelings of “Oh my gosh don’t let the cat puke on me I want it off my lap NOW” and “This animal is already clearly in distress, what will happen if I pick it up?”. The waiting to see what you’re going to have to clean up; what all this hullabaloo is going to bring.
And that, more or less, is how I’m feeling about my upcoming birthday. Fundamentally, I know it’s just another day in another year in which stuff, both good and bad, will happen. But for someone who was mistaken for a 24-year-old last week while one of my best friends has a kid who’s almost a year old, I’m still in the gulping, wheezing stage of acceptance. Sure, I’m grateful to be celebrating another birthday. And sure, this is beyond self-indulgent to be making a big thing about turning 30. But if you think about it, hairballs are a lot of (really gross) fanfare, too. So until the day hits, I’m just going to keep plotting ways to sneakily keep a cat in my apartment and hope that when the time comes, and I turn another year older, someone has a gigantic paper towel ready. Because I just might be sick.