A new wave of animal testing

It’s 3 a.m. and I awake to sounds of water splashing. I am groggy, and somehow the sounds filter into my dream.

I’m on a boat and the waves are just lapping against the side as I drift aimlessly into the sunset. And then suddenly, I am yanked from the dream by a wet set of paws landing on the side of my head - my cat Harvey propels from my body. I bolt up and hear some skittering, and then the splashing starts again.

“Oh God,” I think. “The f-ing ceiling is leaking in the bathroom.” I walk into the bathroom expecting to see a mess on the floor, my face still wet from the attack.

I flip on the light to find Harvey, propped on the side of the toilet, ass in the air, splashing and swirling the toilet water with his front paws. I run to the sink and wash my face, while Harvey wraps himself around my ankles biting and kicking. My other cat, Eloise, begins to yowl because she, too, wants some attention.

I open a can of tuna and pour the juice into their bowls to distract them as I crawl back into bed. Jimi rolls over and puts his arms around me and whispers, “If we can do this, we’ll be totally fine when we have kids.”

Then, I question, in my sleepy state, the accuracy of his statement. This seems to be the predominant attitude of 20 somethings (gay and straight) who want a taste of what it is like to be responsible for another living thing, but aren’t quite ready for the leap into parenthood. I can’t go a day without a Twitter or Facebook update about so-and-so’s new pet.

Whereas I used to scroll tirelessly through Facebook pictures taken at frat parties and dive bars, I’m suddenly looking at my old friend’s new cat in a tiara. As we grow older, and perhaps a little wiser, we open our homes and hearts to fuzzy companions to test the waters for what’s to come.

In these instances, it seems that the biggest risk we are facing is beginning to treat these little place holders as though they are real living, breathing humans. We risk the possibility of turning into those people who dress their dogs to match themselves and set a place at the dinner table for their cat.

I have friends whose dogs have designer car seats. I have a friend who is training her cat to use the toilet. My mother keeps her “empty nest syndrome” at bay by cooking our family dog (who has been in therapy for social anxiety disorder) healthy dinners of rice and veggies. I knew a girl once who never wanted her dog to be “naked,” so she made her sleep in pajamas.

Once at a party, her brother took the dog’s party dress off as a joke, and the girl threw a full bottle of salsa at his head. I no longer associate with this girl for obvious reasons.

The trick is finding the right balance between a pet lover, and a pet-crazed lunatic. The trick is giving love, and enjoying your animals, without being someone who throws puppy parties and wears t-shirts boasting your favorite breed. We need to learn to hone in our love, to create relationships with our furry friends that are based in reality.

After all, if this is a practice run, and we’re dressing our dogs in fairy costumes for a trip to the grocery store, our poor kids to come are in some pretty serious trouble.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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