Last night, Matt and I made our way back to our apartment from my parents’ place in Northern Virginia. Upon stopping for gas, Matt noticed an injured cat in the parking lot; we spent the next half hour trying to contact a local animal hospital, humane society, or animal control to come pick him up. Even though he was injured, it was clear he had figured out how to maneuver himself away from potential predators, and Matt and I were unable to catch the poor creature.
Matt has never had a pet before our cat, Radar, but he still has an animal lover’s heart. Neither of us was willing to ignore the stray cat despite the fact that we had no prior emotional connection to him. We’re both very empathetic people in general; given this feature mixed with our social awkwardness and observational nature, we’re unlikely to accidentally cut you off while walking on the sidewalk or block your car into a parallel parking spot by getting too close. If we did, it would keep us up at night.
I’m not an animal lover to the extent that some people are; I place human life in higher regard. But I’ve noticed some unsettling behavior from friends and acquaintances since adopting my cat: people feel free to insult your pets in ways they would never insult other things in your life.
Let me elaborate. How many times have you said the following to a good friend?
“Oh…I didn’t know you had kids. Yeah I guess it’s cute. It’s nothing personal, I’m just not a baby person.”
“Wow, you have popcorn ceilings and wood paneling? Guess I’m never staying over at your house!”
“Man your haircut is super ugly, I can’t believe you would choose that style.”
For some reason, all these things are socially unacceptable, but replace any of the complaints with a cat/dog/ferret/snake/whatever and we’re supposed to accept that. People with allergies or phobias aside, I don’t understand the number of people I’ve met who feel free to come into my home and tell me “Oh, you have a cat? I hate cats” as Radar rubs affectionately on them. Or friends who have met my dog, Duke, and said “Oh, I don’t like dogs.” Or complete strangers that will ignore my greeting of “Hello!” and give my dogs a look of disgust when I’m walking them around the neighborhood (this happened twice just this past week).
What gives? How is this ok?
As I’ve gotten older and my tolerance for intolerance decreases, I’m much less likely to laugh it off out of politeness when an acquaintance I’ve invited over for game night spends the entire evening talking about how much he dislikes cats (this actually happened). If you comment offhandedly that my house must be dirty because I have an animal, I’ll be happy to point out that you have done a sufficient job maintaining a dirty home without an animal present.
Politeness shouldn’t be ignored when an animal is involved, especially since most people consider their pets to be part of their family.