The six pound gorilla in the room

What weighs six pounds, is covered with white fur and has horrible halitosis?

That would be my cat O’Connor, whom I believe may be 19 years old, but I am not totally sure.

I have always had a cat in my life. When I was six, my brother brought home a tiger-striped kitten he found while playing war down at the wooded stream near our house. Tiger (such an original name) was absolutely an outdoor cat. He had the war wounds to prove it, and would drag himself home from a rather nasty night of what I can only imagine was vying for the paw of some much sought after female. He lived a long life, but his ears were ragged and he sported a collection of battle scars. A no nonsense guy who did not like a lot of coddling. Just as well, since those decades ago we didn’t treat our pets like children. They lived outdoors, and trips to the vet were few and saved for dire medical emergencies only.

Today my cats are kept indoors. I had learned the hard way that letting them roam in suburban neighborhoods with a prevalence of cars and coyotes was a bad idea.

According to statistics, Americans spent more than $60 billion on their pets in 2015. A lot of this was on food, but a significant chunk was toward vet bills, grooming and designer doggy purses. We are truly kookoo over our furry friends. Just look at the prevalence of pet spas, heated beds and silly outfits on Pinterest. We humanize our animals for sure, which perhaps the petless cannot truly understand. We do it so much it has earned a fancy clinical term:anthropomorphism.

Yes, I talk to my cats and believe they understand me.  (As much as a cat wants to. They’re so stuck up! Like the snotty, pretty-girl clique in high school.)

But let’s look beyond our regular pets at the four-legged heroes – cats that sit with dying nursing home patients; military and police dogs that risk their lives to protect humans. They are truly remarkable, and only ask that we keep them fed and loved.

My friends tease me because I am so soft-hearted about pets that it’s put me off Sarah McLaughlin forever. Meanwhile, give me a juicy episode of “The Walking Dead” and I’ll watch unflichingly as the heads roll. It does not make sense I know, except I just feel that animals are so much more defenseless than people. They provide such comfort that it makes putting up with a roommate with bad breath who doesn’t allow you to wear black outside the house well worth the small sacrifices.

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