Nobody told me cats would prepare me for marriage.
Hear me out. After ten years taking care of my cats, I’ve learned:
Patience when Rubicon vomits up her dinner for no apparent reason, and the patience to walk away and let her eat it again. (Oh yes.)
Patience when Rose yowls for food, or for fun, or right before she vomits stomach juice before breakfast, or her breakfast after breakfast. (I’ve dealt with a lot of feline vomit.)
Patience to walk, not run, to grab the carpet cleaners, of which baby wipes take the cake. Seriously, where have they been all my life?
Patience to carve out time in my busy life – whether in training, in a squadron, or working on my grad school thesis – to buy cat food, make up raw food dishes, scoop kitty litter, play with my cats, and let them snuggle with me at night.
Responsibility for two furry creatures who would otherwise definitely die if left on their own, especially outside.
Responsibility to arrange a cat-sitter during the chunks of time I’m away greater than three days.
Responsibility for bringing my kitties into the vet for at least their annual check-ups, but also for spaying and microchipping them, cat acne (it’s a thing), Ruby’s puncture wounds after a stray bit her butt, dental cleaning, rabies vaccinations and other shots, weight checks, and a prolapsed anus (when the inside of a cat wants to be on the outside).
Responsibility for putting my cats on a strict diet to lose the extra pounds they gained while I was away (it took two years for Big Cat to return to her ideal weight – hence her nickname).
Compromise when my cats want breakfast at 0500 and I want to sleep in until 0900 so I get up at 0700.
Compromise on which rooms they’re allowed in and which are strictly off-limits (“Well, okayyyyy, but don’t scratch the couch.”).
Compromise on who gets to sit on my lap at any given time.
Compromise on who gets fed first, me or my cats. (Most days, my cats, and don’t they know it.)
Love for an animal that depends solely on me and my generosity, no matter my mood, state of mind, lack of sleep, homework load, or flying schedule.
Love for two helpless kittens, one of which would have certainly died on her own had I not rescued her when I did (Little Cat).
Love for my cats who put up with non-standard feeding times, being dragged all over America (TX, FL, CA, VA, DC, NC, PA, NC) and then overseas (UK), and the addition of a dog to their everyday lives (of which they still haven’t forgiven me).
Love for the richness of my life with animals included, even after all the shitty parts are factored in. (The parts with actual shit.)
Who knew all those late nights being awoken by a kay-huck! of a cat vomiting would lead to a stronger relationship with my husband? Who knew feeding, cleaning, caring for, and snuggling with my cats would prove to be a direct benefit for my marriage? Who knew the (nearly) unconditional love I bear for my feline companions would leak over into the love I share for my long-term partner in life? Sure, there are the stains on the carpet from a dingle-berry or a surprise upchuck. Sure, the ear-busting screeches of cats dying from hunger in the morning render me partially deaf each day. And sure, both my cats have, at some point, tried to murder me by wrapping their bodies and/or tail around my legs at the top of the stairs so I trip into the void. But this all makes me a stronger person, and a stronger partner, in my marriage.
Cats aren’t so bad. (Neither is marriage.)