The cat in my flat won't go back (my ex left her pussy in my lap!)

Her kitty is one more problem she has thrust on me -- and I don't know how to get rid of it.

By Cary Tennis

Published January 13, 2005 8:00PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

My ex-girlfriend, a student, learned that she would not be able to keep her cat when she moved into the dorms. We were together at the time, and she was planning on living with me for the summer. Because the plans she had made for giving away "Fluffy" fell through, I agreed that she could bring him to my house for a few weeks until she could make alternate arrangements. A few weeks passed. I found a family that was interested in taking him, but after a couple of days, my girlfriend insisted that Fluffy couldn't be happy at their house (too rural) and took him back. The summer passed, and I didn't see many signs of her looking for housing for him. She promised it would be easier for her to do once she had resumed classes and her friends were back in town. She went back to school (four hours away), I kept the cat. She told me she had sent off e-mails but hadn't found anyone who would take him.

Four months have passed since she went back to school. We have broken up. I still have the cat.

I work long hours at a job and don't have the time that I feel a pet requires. He was used to being an outdoor cat, and now he is cooped up in my apartment. He keeps me up all night and I can't remember the last time I got more than five hours of sleep. It's not that I dislike animals -- I love them. But I had decided long ago that my living situation was not one that could accommodate pets, and I now deeply resent having one forced on me. In fact, I think that part of what led to me needing to break up was feeling like my ex had just thrust her problems on me.

When I talk to my ex about my lack of sleep, my annoyance, etc., she makes jokes like "I know, he's such a bad cat -- let's just make a stew out of him!" I recently told her that I couldn't continue with these conditions and told her I was going to place an ad in the paper to find a new home for Fluffy, assuring her that I would only place him with a family who had a yard and lots of space, and who really wanted a cat. She insisted that she could never give him to strangers. I don't want to go against her wishes, as I still love her very, very much. But I'm absolutely at my wits' end. What should I do?

Cat Crazy (literally)

Dear Cat Crazy,

I think you have to thrust your ex-girlfriend's problem back on her doorstep. You have to force her to take responsibility for her cat. I would tell her that you're delivering the cat to her in two weeks, in one of those cardboard cat boxes. If she hasn't found a place for the cat by then, she'll have to take care of the cat herself. Having to hide the cat in her dorm room will surely motivate her to find the cat a suitable new home.

Sometimes you have to think of people not so much as people but as cats. Cats are fairly simple people. They are self-interested economic actors with fur. As long as things are going well for them, they'll take whatever they can get -- just like your ex-girlfriend. They're not really interested in your inconveniences, as long as your inconveniences are a four-hour drive away. If you inconvenience them, however, then they become interested.

It's not that your ex-girlfriend is such a bad kitty. But she doesn't think about stuff unless it's falling on her head. Right now, in her microeconomy, things are going well. Nothing is falling on her head. She has an ex-boyfriend performing animal-care services for free, so she can think about other things, like exams and social life. Things are also going well for her cat. Her cat probably likes staying with you. It's probably quieter in your apartment than in you ex's dorm room. Who knows, you may even be a bit neater and easier to manage. Perhaps your ex-girlfriend even told the cat how to get you to do what she wants.

Don't feel badly about making things go badly. As long as things go well, nothing changes. You have to make things go badly to make things change. You have to become the problem for the problem to be solved. Tell her no ifs, ands or buts. It's going to happen: You're coming in two weeks with the cat no matter what. Your girlfriend might hiss at you or even scratch your face. But that's life in the jungle.

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