My roommate bounces my cats the wrong way

OK, so I have a little OCD, but I don't think my wishes should be ignored.

By Cary Tennis

Published July 31, 2007 10:51AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

This problem might sound a bit silly, but it really does bother me. You see, my roommate is fond of babies. She worked in some kind of baby-care capacity before she became a grad student, and she misses interacting with youngsters. I, myself, am not the biggest baby fan. However, I have two cats that are like little family members to me, and I care about them a lot.

The problem is that my roommate doesn't treat my cats like cats; she treats them like babies. When she sees them, she picks them up and turns them upside down. She also plays patty-cake with their paws, and whenever she holds the cats -- which is frequently -- she bounces them up and down ceaselessly.

Now, I'm being treated for obsessive-compulsive disorder, so I know that some of my worries can be a bit unreasonable. But no matter how many times I turn it over in my head, I can't seem to convince myself that my roommate's cat bouncing isn't giving the cats slight, cumulative brain damage. I try to be cool about it, but then, through my mind will flash the study that said that soccer players show signs of brain damage, probably from repeatedly heading the balls; my mom (a therapist for head-injured patients) has told me that riding roller coasters can contribute to cumulative brain injury; and of course I've heard of shaken-baby syndrome. So, if a cat gets bounced around enough, couldn't it get a slight brain injury? I've expressed my worries about this possibility to my roommate, and she thinks I'm being ridiculous.

I suppose that, other things being equal, my roommate ought to respect my wishes for how my cats should be treated. But can I really demand that she respect my wishes if my wishes are ridiculous?

Worried Cat Mom

Dear Worried Cat Mom,

Well, telling your roommate about your fear the cat may get a brain injury might not have helped your case. You have a right, I think, to control how your pets are treated by somebody else. If you just asked her firmly not to shake the cats or bounce the cats, that doesn't seem so unreasonable.

And frankly your problem doesn't sound so much more silly than other problems. We all get stuck on certain things from time to time. We'll get something into our heads and can't get it out. We'll get stuck on something. We won't have a solution to the being stuck part of it. It doesn't matter what it is. It might be a cat. It might be the war in Iraq. But we get stuck. It gets stuck in our heads and we feel paralyzed.

But there is something fairly simple you can do. You can tell your roommate not to do that with your cats. If your roommate tells you you're crazy, you can agree that perhaps you are a little crazy. The fact that you are a little crazy doesn't mean you have no rights. They're your cats. You don't want her to do that. I think she ought to respect your wishes even if your wishes are ridiculous. Who is it who decides that our wishes are ridiculous or not ridiculous, anyway?

Our wishes, after all, are very close to feelings. Like feelings, they are not always rational. But they deserve respect.

They're your cats. You don't want her to do that to your cats. I think you can just tell her that even though she doesn't approve of what you want, you think she should respect your wishes. And you can tell her I think she should respect your wishes, too, not that people pay any more attention to my wishes than they do to yours.

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