The sentence above perhaps best sums up my 5 years thus far as a Cat Daddy. It’s a life I never thought I would be living; yet it is also a life I never would want to change.
It all started when my wife, then girlfriend, took the challenge of starting up one of Singapore’s first cat cafés. Prior to this, my only interaction with cats was limited to the community cats and their occasional appearance at a friend’s home.
All of my cats are rescued cats, and the process of adopting them alone was very much a journey in itself. Every single one of my cats comes with their own individual adoption story, and that itself, has brought about a much deeper connection between us.
When the café closed in 2018, we brought all 8 of the cats home to retire and live with us. Having them back home has definitely changed the way I live on a day-to-day basis. It has shaped my character, and even the perspective in life, especially after the death of our beloved Mags from a long battle with kidney disease earlier this year.
MEN, CATS AND THE CONCEPT OF MASCULINITY
A main reason for me writing this is the stereotypes associated between male cat owners and femininity. While instagram accounts like Hot Dudes with Kittens paint perhaps an extreme side of the spectrum, there are also series like Men with Cats by David Williams, and articles like All hail the rise of the cat men, an antidote to toxic masculinity that capture the positive benefits that cats have on the behaviours and overall well-being of men.
So here’s my take on what life as a Cat Daddy in Singapore is like, and how having them can improve the lives of men in many ways.
IT’S LIKE HAVING A KID, ONLY THAT THEY SLEEP REALLY EASILY
Much like babies, cats are known to sleep 16 – 18 hours a day. The only catch being that they sleep extremely peacefully in contrast to newborn children. The remaining 6 – 8 hours involve the basics of feeding, poop clearing, cheering them on when they do absolutely mundane stuff, and providing excuses from meeting your friends because you would rather spend time with your cat.
Like kids, there’s also the quintessential checklist of cat mannerism that can frustrate owners.
Fussy cat who doesn’t want to eat their food? Check
Fight with another cat for absolutely no reason? Check
Play with a plastic bag instead of the $20 toy it came in? Why not!
Then again, cats do have certain advantages…
Need to send to school/daycare? Nope
Able to head to work and leave them unsupervised? Yep
Able to go on holidays as a couple? Yep
Avoid questions on when you are having kids from relatives? Unfortunately no.
PATIENCE AND RESPONSIBILITY
Unless they grow opposable thumbs, learn to order groceries online and be able to file their taxes, cats, as with any other pet, are totally reliant on their owners for their basic needs. Adjustments to work and social life, while not as extreme as having kids, still have to be made. This includes having specific mealtimes, and taking time to ensure that their psychological and physiological needs are met through play, providing attention and vet visits.
Cats will also frustrate you to your limits, particularly in a multi-cat household. Whether it is peeing in unwanted places, destroying furniture, refusing to eat at mealtime, or throwing tantrums when bathing or cleaning them. These are the moments when one’s patience runs thin, and it does take restraint and perspective to keep things going.
Taking care of a cat is also a lifelong responsibility, especially on the financial end, considering that insurance for pets in Singapore is basically non-existent. The issue of pet abandonment is a growing concern, and taking care of 1 cat, let alone 7 of them, really does help one understand the need for patience and responsibility.
BEING MORE UNDERSTANDING
Cats do not necessarily reciprocate love the way that dogs are known to do, but that does not mean that they don’t love you.
Not every cat is going to go all dog-like and greet you enthusiastically at the door. More often than not, there’s always one or two guilt tripping you from coming back late and delaying dinnertime.
In fact, the behaviours of cats probably mirror that of humans a lot more, and I often liken having so many cats to the different people I come across in life. On one hand, you have extroverted cats who want attention and love from you all day long, contrasting to the more introverted ones who prefer stretches of quiet time and space, before coming to you for the occasional head rub. So just like managing different family members, colleagues and friends, it is important to try and understand and set expectations with your feline companions.
BE PRESENT & LIVING IN THE MOMENT
Aside from their primal need for security and food, cats have no concept of the past, nor do they worry about their future. Like other pets, they live and breathe in the present, something that we humans can learn to do, especially at an age (30s) when we’re bogged with issues on career, finances, global warming, social expectations, and so much more.
This is something I’m still very much learning to do. And it’s only when you turn off the TV, switch off your phone, and hug your cat to sleep, that you realise that a lot of worries in life are unfounded, or that it’s important to just take a breath and leave the worries of life aside just for a little while with the ones you love.
Grief comes in many forms, the most pertinent of which being the death a loved one. Earlier this year, my mother-in-law passed away suddenly from cardiac arrest, and it was a hard time for the family to come to terms with it for various reasons, one of which was never having the chance to say goodbye.
For myself, I was undoubtedly sad, and still am today, but during the funeral and the even immediate days after, I couldn’t really cry or feel the same emotions as my wife and in-laws. It has taken me time to admit, but the truth is that I didn’t share the same emotional bond with my mother-in-law as my wife and her siblings.
A lot of this would change however exactly one month later, on 7 April 2019, when our dearest Mags passed away from her battle with kidney failure at the age of only 8 years old. Unlike the way my mum-in-law passed, Mags was with us till the very end, lying on the bed in the arms of my wife and I. This time, both of us got to say goodbye to a loved one.
They say that no parent should ever have to lose a child. In many ways, Mags was very much our child, and the dearest of all our cats. She was the first cat we ever adopted, and had such a connection that can’t be described in words.
In the immediate days surrounding Mags’ death, I experienced emotions of grief I never quite understood. It was a tough time indeed, and I’m still coming to terms with her death alongside my wife each and every day.
Unlike losing a human loved one, the acceptance and understanding of losing a pet is not easily understood by non-pet owners, through no fault of theirs. For days I was probably a wreck at work, lashed out a few times at friends, and even had trouble communicating with my wife.
Grief is an unwanted but also necessary part of life. In many ways, it helps you to take a step back and prioritise what is truly important. It has also opened my eyes to emotions and the need for communication, and has also equipped me with the ability to reach out and help others who are coping with grief as well.
Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learnt from having cats is the feeling of unconditional love, love that is always there for you without any judgment and regrets.
In their own ways, my cats have always been there in my time of need. Whether it is sitting beside or on my lap when I’m feeling down, or forgiving me so easily whenever I lash out at them, they have taught me how it’s important to slow down and cherish the ones your love. No regrets, no animosity.
THE CAT LIFE FUR-EVER
As I sit writing this, my cats are “busy” taking their afternoon nap. Like a proud Cat Daddy, there are times when I catch them sleeping and am reminded of how our lives have come together, and how I would always do my best for them for as long as they are with me.