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I’ve Learned a Lot About Good Relationships Still Having Occasional Conflict… from My Cats

·451 words·3 mins

I have two elderly black cats. It’s stressful having old pets because you’ve grown so attached to them, and they have all sorts of health issues. You know your time with them will be limited. And that hurts, that knowledge. Yet it also drives you to savor every last day you have with them.

I’ve taken to calling them brothers colloquially. They’re really best friends — they’re not littermates. But they’ve lived together for about 15 years now. The 20-year-old cat was a stray. The 15-year-old cat was my partner’s ex-girlfriend’s cat. When they broke up, she had him bring both cats with him, because they were inseparable at that point.

Seriously. My cats are thick as thieves. It’s not at all uncommon to see them flopped down together in a sunbeam, sleeping the morning away, paws interlocked.

There’s a deep love and respect between them. It’s pretty darn adorable.

And yet there have been times when one of my cats is standing there and will whap the other with his paw as his brother walks by. Just because he’s in a bad mood. Maybe it’s been a noisy morning because the city workers are fixing something, and they’re both on edge. Or they slept weird times because we did or went out and they waited up for us. Or maybe they didn’t like dinner.

Whatever the reason, they’re pissy. And have a hissyfit.

Sometimes they tussle and play for funsies. Every now and then, one of those play dates will devolve into something I have to break up.

But here’s the thing: They still love each other. They’re best friends.

The Internet Makes It Seem like Everything Has to Be Perfect or Else It’s Worthless

I’ve frankly learned a lot from watching my cats. I think sometimes about what it would be like if they were humans posting to social media about their ups and downs.

It would be so dramatic and one-sided and ridiculous. Superlatives. “HE IS THE BEST!” or “OMG I HATE HIM, HOW DARE HE.” And it would change so fast… like one of those paper flipbooks that animate a scene when you turn the pages.

I can actually imagine people commenting on the negative ones — “that’s unacceptable, what a toxic friendship, you deserve better!” Piling on in the moment and heaping on.

As though conflict automatically signals dysfunction. And as though everything has to be perfect all the time or else it’s worthless.

The reality is that real relationships — whatever kind they are — can be messy sometimes. Yes, even good ones.

People forget that. And I imagine some of them never learn.

But I remember every time I look at my cats.


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