By Julia Williams
When it comes to pets, I believe there are three kinds of people in this world: those who have never had a pet and don’t care to, those who enjoy having pets but don’t form particularly close bonds with them, and those who think of their pet as a family member that they would do just about anything for. I find it interesting that my mother is in the first group, my late father is in the second group, and I am in the third group.
Of further intrigue to me is that my sister shares my deep love for cats, while my brother has a cat but only because his children begged for one. This would seem to indicate that the ability and/or the desire to form close bonds with pets is not hereditary, nor is it shaped by your upbringing.
I honestly don’t know where my love of cats came from, but it’s quite clear it didn’t come from my mother or my childhood. Living on the outskirts of a small rural town, we did have an assortment of animals – a dog, some cats, two Shetland ponies, a few cows and chickens – but I don’t remember being especially fond of any of them. That changed when a cat named Pepper came into my life as an emotionally troubled young girl.
If I had to guess, I’d say my deep attachment to Pepper was an attempt to calm the chaos my life had become. Pepper’s presence grounded me and gave me an outlet for expressing the grief and turmoil that boiled inside. I could tell Pepper my deep dark secrets without fear of being judged or ridiculed. I could give and receive love in a way that I simply didn’t feel safe doing with humans. I trusted Pepper explicitly, because I knew he would never, ever betray me. Pepper’s unconditional love and acceptance of me was exactly what I needed to get me through this incredibly difficult time.
My beloved Pepper is long gone, but the bond we shared will never be forgotten. As an adult, I have been blessed to know and love many other cats, and each one has left indelible paw prints on my heart. My cats make this world a better place in so many ways, that the thought of living without them is inconceivable.
I can see, somewhat, how people could fall into the first group – those who have never wanted to have a pet – because they don’t know what they’re missing. However, I can’t fathom how any human being could share their home and life with a pet and not become emotionally attached to them. It’s simply not something I could ever do, nor would I want to be the kind of person who sees pets as an accessory or a possession.
I think many “non-pet” people have a hard time understanding how others could form such deep attachments to an animal. Regardless, I know I’m hard-wired to have an intense, life-changing bond with my pets, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I’ve come to think of pets as “angels with fur,” because they’ve saved my life on more than one occasion. My life is infinitely richer because of the wonderful pets that have graced me with their presence, and I wouldn’t trade those relationships for anything.
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