If subreddits, advice columns and social media are any indication, a disturbing number of people ask or demand their would-be significant others to ditch their cats before their relationships can progress.
But even by the standards of the demanding, heartless boyfriends and girlfriends who insist the cat has to go in a relationship, this one’s a doozy. A woman writes to the Washington Post’s Carolyn Hax for advice on what to do with her boyfriend, who has some very strange ideas about cats:
He jumps when the cat is in the room. And my cat is extremely affectionate, so doesn’t understand why he can’t come sit with us and be friends.
My boyfriend is offended I won’t give up the cat so he can move in. I’ve suggested compromises such as keeping the cat to just one part of the apartment, but he insists he needs the cat out.
I feel the cat was here first so this is an unreasonable ask. My boyfriend feels if I really love him then nothing should take precedence over his moving in, and he now says my hesitance is causing him to question the foundation of the entire relationship.
I cannot imagine rehoming my cat. I also can’t imagine ending my relationship. Am I being unreasonable or is he?
Hax goes beyond the usual “demanding significant others are major red flags” advice and points out that the boyfriend isn’t just placing his own emotional wellbeing above the letter-writer’s, he’s also trying to prune her life of things he doesn’t like or want as a precondition for moving forward in a relationship.
The cat, she points out, “is a hairy decoy, distracting you from the serious mistake you’re poised to make: thinking about your relationship in terms of what you owe the other person. All you owe anyone is to be yourself. … It’s on him to ask his own questions about living with that real you. It’s on him to assume the work of living with his own answers.”
That’s good advice for anyone who finds themselves in that sort of situation, but I do think the red flag aspect reinforces Hax’s good counsel. If the guy lied about being allergic to get his girlfriend to ditch her cat, he’s more manipulative than she may be willing to admit and he’s calculating about it, trying to disguise something he wants as a medical necessity.
But he goes even further than that with the “if you really love me, you’ll do this” emotional ploy, and by claiming his girlfriend’s loyalty to her cat is causing him to “question the foundation of the entire relationship.”
The foundation’s rotten, pal. You’re the reason.
Of course, all the human drama obscures the third individual involved in this mess: the cat. The letter writer has had the little guy for 10 years, which means they’ve long since bonded, he loves her, and he literally can’t imagine living in another place with another person.
Surrendering him to a shelter would be incredibly cruel. It would be a life-shattering betrayal of trust and cause incredible anguish to the poor cat in addition to putting him in real danger of being euthanized. And all for a jerk who fakes an allergy to get his girlfriend to dump the kitty she’s loved for a decade? Hell no.
I hope she finds a guy who loves cats. He’ll most definitely make a better boyfriend than this weirdo.