Tuesday, 4 June 2013


(For those much younger than me, the title is a play on Sex and the Single Girl a once controversial and very popular book by Helen Gurley Brown back in the 70's. It was made into a movie I believe. I rather doubt if that will happen to this blog.)

Despite the flippancy of the opening paragraph, this is actually a serious post which uses a personal problem to illustrate a larger issue.

A few months ago I was arguing with a friend (which, as we often have different opinions, is something we've been doing for over forty years) over whether or not I was obsessed with cats and I nearly did a post about it then. However something has just come up where I need to state my position on cats very clearly.

I insisted that cats were not an obsession with me. They did not encompass almost every waking thought and I did not devote my life to cats. Yes, cats are an important part of my life and I'm glad I have the opportunity to rescue and re-home a few being enabled to do this by the many volunteers who help Animal Krackers. But cats and Animal Krackers are only a part of my life. I read a lot, I listen to music, I watch films and tv, I keep up with current affairs, I write articles, reviews, and fiction, I go swimming, I see friends. All these things are important to me and are part of who I am and I'm not prepared to give any of them up to increase the amount of time and effort devoted to cats.

The reason I'm writing this is that I got a call from Susan who, with other people have decided to move some of the kittens and a mother (or, indeed, all of them) to my conservatory from the room above our charity shop and very shortly I'm going to call her and tell her that it is not going to happen.

If that sounds as if I'm being selfish then maybe it is but there is also more to it than just that. You see, like many of the population of this country, I suffer from a mental illness and I take drug to control it. The drug is know as Citalopram and I take,as I have for some time now, a mild dose of 20mg a day. The main use of the drug is to combat major depression but it also has other uses for problems such as anxiety which is the main reason for my taking it.

I've probably suffered from anxiety all my life, something which is obvious in hindsight, but only really came to the fore when, at the age of 50, I found myself in a situation where I was being consistently and deliberate bullied (though that word was never used then but these days it's quite obvious what happened to me) and the stress this caused forced me to see my doctor who, after a couple of months, put me on Citalopram and told me to stay off work. The situation was ultimately resolved (though I've never forgotten nor forgiven those who put me through it) but I continued taking Citalopram (there can side-effects to stopping) which keeps me on an even keel. I got through separating from my wife and setting up a new home without any real problems coping adequately with what seemed to me a very small amount of stress. 

I'm much more self-aware of my emotional states than I used to be and I know the warning signs of an anxiety attack. My situation at present is that I have enough cats to cope with. I currently have three cats of my own in the house, two adult females I'm fostering, plus the mother cat and three kittens. Two of the cats are stressed out by being with strange cats and urinate in places other than the litter trays and this is stressing me out somewhat. This morning I am going to go down on my hands and knees and scrub the kitchen carpet with a mixture of white spirit and biological washing up liquid. Then I'm going to do the living room and after that part of the bedroom. The kittens aren't really any bother, though the scratches on my hand and arm may suggest otherwise (see previous post) and I may end up keeping the mother who is a quiet gentle and affectionate cat. In addition, every day I get at least one phone call, often more, asking if I can take in a cat which I can't. The re-homing centre is full and it's two weeks since we homed one. We have a long waiting list. I always try to offer an alternative suggestion to the caller, usually Catchat.org which has a list of all cat rescues in Tyne & Wear, and I'm always calm and sympathetic. But I hate not being able to help.

But put it all together and I know I'm approaching a stress point. If I go beyond it and accept more kittens and their mothers it will trigger an anxiety attack which will incapacitate me. I simply can't do what is wanted of me. It's a matter of survival.

I'm full of admiration for people who are obsessive about cats, who devote all their efforts to helping stray, abandoned, and unwanted cats (and dogs and every other kind of animal). I admire their strength and dedication and we actually started Animal Krackers to help people like that before we ended up being a rescue. I truly believe they are wonderful and amazing people who utilise their tunnel vision into a positive force for good.

But I can't be one of them.

Post Script.

I rang Susan and told her why I couldn't do what she wanted and why. She accepted this without hesitation because it was clearly a good reason. Then I told her I blogging about it and which point she told me I'd make myself look like a loony. She disagreed when I suggested that people tended to be a little more tolerant and accepting than that. Well, I said, that's their problem.

I've just realised I never satisfactorily explained how this piece would illustrate a larger issue.  It's this.

Some people never know when to say no. They take on more than is good for them and suffer the consequences which may be physical or emotional or both -someone close to me is like that. It isn't always being selfish to say no. It's important to recognise your limits so you can work from strength. I know I can't multi-task so I focus on one thing a time unlike someone else I know who can't multi-task either and doesn't know it. It isn't failure to stop when you've reached your limits, it's survival.

Comment from Barry Spence, 05/06/13

Just to antagonise you with introductory pedantry, the film was not 1970s - t'was 1964; I think the book had been around a few years.

The word "obsession" is grossly abused both in common English and in clinical terminologies. It doesn't necessarily mean a full-time devotion to one area of blinkered interest to the literal exclusion of recognising the rest of whatever goes on around us. On the other extreme, it doesn't begin to even resemble "liking" or "loving" something or someone. As those sentence clearly will hit you as feeling you don't belong, then the conclusion is that you cannot be "obsessed with cats" and (I assume) Ian P. should be a little more tolerant rather than dismissive of your genuine "interest" in them.

OK, so you love cats enough to have a practical interest in caring? That's philanthropic, not obsessive. I just don't see anything contentious about being Krackers about cats within all of the other varied areas of your life. Your term was "part of".

As for Susan and her accomplices, I hope I understand this properly. They made a joint (unanimous?) decision to place some cats in YOUR house (= home) - in your absence and without the courtesy of even consulting you? That sounds to me that you don't have a home; you are merely a live-in caretaker, resident in a property that's been treated like an extended storage facility for feline guests! Whether Susan or anyone else, they have no right to decide such things and putting your foot down FOR THIS REASON ALONE would be quite enough, disregarding your ability to cope or handle possible extras. You do enough for existing cats - but you are not forced to; you CHOSE to. To presume automatic use of your home for AK convenience is downright rude cheek; to expect you to work even more is worse than insensitive. Susan and the others really need to get a grip on practical reality and basic politeness and remember who and what you are - where you live and what you live in!

I don't agree with Susan's cavalier misuse of "loony" and the tolerance/acceptance you mention seem more in line with average standards today - unless you are a Tory, of course! Intersting how the limited vocabularies of supposedly well-educated, silly little Tory schoolboys once used the word "loony" as sneered abuse towards the opposition "lefties" and assorted impertinent dissenters. Now, the next generation of equally dim kids uses that same word for their own party members who dare to express inconvenient diversions from policy! Other than that, the word isn't as commonly used these days.

Looking after cats is a luxury to choose; looking after Number One is a necessity, as is survival.


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