Friday, February 04, 2005

Feline Friday 17: On the couch 

Earlier this week, "psycho-therapists" Sigmund, Carl and Alfred addressed what they see as the psychopathology of pet blogs. Starting with the premise that "animals do not blog," they went on to describe those of us who blog about our pets as... well, see for yourselves:

Posting picture of your pet is another revealing aspect of your sorry ass selves.

Now hear this: cats, dogs, fish, etc., are like Volkswagons [sic] (and babies)- if you've seen one, you've seen them all. That's right. Digital images of your pet, so lovingy [sic] posted on your blog or website, are like posting images of rocks. There are only so many angles from which a rock is fascinating. While the rock may hold a certain fascination for you, it does not hold that same fascination for the rest of us.

In extremely broad strokes, their "analysis" painted us as using our pets to meet neurotic needs, and pet blogging as providing a window into the perverse and unrealistic expectations and beliefs that we have regarding our relationships with our pets.

I don't take offense easily, but this stung. I know - because I've done my time on the couch - that emotional reactions are worth examining. So, I'll hop on the figurative couch now, and free associate for awhile about my cat blogging.

"Well, docs, for the past week I've been -- Oh, you want me to start at the beginning? Look, I really don't want to talk about my childhood today, but I'll talk about when I first started cat blogging.

" My husband Paul and I write this blog, Paul vs. the Squamous Monster, about Paul's diagnosis last January with oral cancer, his subsequent surgery, and the ongoing process of his recovery. Yes, I know I've talked about this before, but I feel like you aren't really paying attention to me. Where was I? Oh, yes, the first time that I ever wrote about the cats... Not quite a year ago, I was having a really difficult day dealing with medical insurance and second opinions, but there was a moment when Sasha made me laugh out loud. Simple laughter, uncomplicated by sarcasm or fear -- have I told you what a rare thing that was in our house then? It was so blissfully normal to be amused by the antics of my cat, so I wrote a post about it. I figured all the folks who stopped by every day to see how we were doing might enjoy something light and a little funny.

"Paul'’s surgery was at the end of February -- it's been almost a year now. He was in the hospital for 12 days. The cats were not used to being alone so much; when I was home, they were all over me. After Paul came home, I was busy taking care of him, and writing about how he was doing, so I didn't write about the cats until Lyra went missing. Paul and I were really upset; we didn't feel like we could handle more loss. We were so relieved when we found her.

"In August, I started this blog. I wanted a place of my own, a blog that didn't focus on Paul's illness. It needed a name, and I thought about this quotation from Albert Schweitzer, about music and cats and life's miseries. It's right over there near the top. What? -- Yes, maybe it is sort of a depressing sentiment. I was depressed. Paul was even more depressed, but at that point I hadn't been able to convince him to see a therapist. I was afraid that my office was going to close, and I didn't feel like I could bear to look for a new job. Our cats and my music really were two of the most comforting things in my life.

"See, docs, our cats really don't care about many of the things that we humans worry about, and that's one of the reasons I love them. They don't care whether I'm depressed or happy, whether I've just lost my job or gotten a promotion. While Paul is sensitive about the effects of his surgery, the cats don't care that he has a scar from ear to chin, or that his speech is sometimes thick. These things are of no consequence to them. They want simple things: food and water, a clean litter box, a warm place to sleep, and toys to hunt. They like to be cuddled and brushed and petted; I think that indicates some sort of "mother issues" about bathing and grooming, but you're the expert on those thing. They like the sounds of our voices, probably because they associate our voices with getting all those other things they like.

"Oh, right, I was going to talk about why I post photos of and write about our cats, not why I love them. You remember I said that I was depressed? And that being able to laugh at Sasha's antics felt normal when so much of my life did not? Well, I really wanted this new blog to be about the normal, everyday things in my life. Not that I felt like my life was back to normal... not by a long shot. But our cats, they're such beautiful, healthy animals. So I posted some photos of them. Was it a way of presenting my life as more normal than in fact it was? Perhaps so. Then one of my readers commented, 'Not enough cat photos. How about cat photos once a week?' I wasn't sure about once a week, but after a while I decided, well, why not? That's when I started Feline Fri--

"Oh, we're almost out of time? OK, before we stop, I just want say this..." (click to continue)