Owning a pet in an urban environment is a complicated proposition, fraught with peril. The problem of caring for a dog in a city is well-documented. Where will you take it for walks? If it defecates on the sidewalk, are you going to pick it up or flaunt the law (and common decency) and leave it for someone else to grapple with? If you have a small apartment, will the dog start to encroach on your personal space? Many cosmopolitan folks choose to forgo the canine conundrum and look to cats for animal companionship.
The benefit of owning a cat is that they tend to be relatively self-sufficient creatures. They don’t require hours of stimulation, they don’t bark, you don’t have to walk them and their relatively small stature prevents them from subsuming your existence into theirs. As my fellow Los Angelenos like to say, cats are just ‘chill.’ The one caveat is that cats also have to expel waste much like a dog does. They just do it inside… in a box that you have to look at on a regular basis.
Having a litter box in your apartment is akin to having an open compost container in full view at all times. At any given moment, you can be comfortable in exclaiming, “hey, there’s poop” within your own home and it not be complete nonsense. Also, the smell permeates the vast majority of your domicile. The makers of kitty litter can try all they want, but eventually the ‘fresh pine scent’ of their litter begins to be associated in your mind with whatever sinful material exits your cat’s rear end.
The holy grail of cat ownership is potty training. Everyone I know who owns a feline yearns for the day when they can successfully dupe their precious pet into relieving themselves into a toilet made for a human being. People, being the lords and masters of the earthly domain, have figured out a complicated, but effective method for disposing of their own waste products. You place it comfortably into a giant porcelain bowl of water connected to a vast network of tubes dump out into a cesspool of chemical tragedy we call a sewer. Out of sight, out of mind, and out of the range of your olfactory sense. Organic detritus might as well be the genocide in Darfur, for how much American middle class city dwellers care about it. It’s gone in the flick of a switch, someone else’s problem.
We can suss out how to handle our own waste, but hardly anyone has mastered a stress-free method for disposing of the junk that comes from our four-legged buddies. It’s as though we all have to add unnecessary complications to our relatively pleasant lives. “I want for nothing, buy expensive groceries at Whole Foods Market and consume hours of mediocre TV on demand on Netflix, but what my life is really missing is picking up a dumb animal’s poop.”
Fortunately for my fellow bourgeois urbanites, there are a myriad of products on the market to alleviate this quandary that we can throw our considerable disposable income at. A particular product, called the ‘CityKitty,’ is a multi-step, weeks-long program intended to teach a cat how to make use of a toilet. For your money, you are given an instruction manual and what is in essence a litter box that sits on top of your toilet bowl. As the cat becomes more and more used to doing its business on the latrine, you poke sections out of the box until the cat is indoctrinated to ‘make it happen’ into your toilet without litter. There’s even an attachment that automatically flushes your toilet once a day, in case you take a vacation.
What this method requires is a significant amount of consistent effort and patience. Plus, what if you only have one toilet in your home, like I do? You still have a litter box in your apartment for months, and now it’s sitting much closer to your line of sight. Let’s not even explore the subject of how you explain this to your houseguests.
Really, there’s no way to have companionship without complication. Owning a pet is no less difficult than having a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s lovely when they cuddle with you at night, get excited when you come home from work or eat your leftovers. It’s not so great when they metaphorically or literally defecate in your house. People, just like animals, are needy. They require work and understanding. I love every woman I’ve ever slept with, whether or not they know or believe it. They also all drive me crazy with their particular neuroses and foibles. I know for a fact that I do the same to them. I stink up their house with my problems because I don’t know how to flush them down the toilet — just like a cat.
Pets are certainly less vital to a person’s general well-being, but we all put it with far worse from an animal than we ever would from a loved one. We’re constantly trading partners, dumping people, cheating on them, and generally being intolerant of each other. Maybe the key to any relationship, be it feline or human, is to just get used to the smell, and love unconditionally.