I like to draw lines that serve as an unbiased indicator that I am on a spiral toward a sad, hoarders-esque life. It’s helpful for someone like myself to draw those lines early, before the behavior really starts, because I’m a classic over-justifier. If I haven’t stated that something is crazy before I start spiraling that direction, I’ll go from secretly liking One Direction, to blasting One Direction from my car, to ultimately wearing an autographed One Direction t-shirt to bed every night, not wanting to wash it for fear of ridding it of Essence of One Direction. It gets bad fast.
I have come to call the first behavior that crosses the pre-emptive line that I draw “the third cat.”
I think we can all universally agree that people who own too many cats are crazy. It’s like a thing. But they didn’t always own too many cats, right? They started with just one cat and built from there, and no one jumped in to call them out on their incremental craziness.
I’m here to jump in: three cats are crazy. One cat is normal. Two cats can be justified - perhaps the first cat needs a friend, or the first cat is not going to be around for that much longer - no problem with a feline back up. It’s that third cat, though, that all of a sudden has you buying cat food in bulk on weird websites, and just saving piles of the empty cans, “because the cats like the smell.”
We all have our third cat potential. And that third cat will sneak up on you if you don’t draw your line early.
If you’re curious how the third cat might infiltrate itself into your life, here are some examples that might just hit a little too close to home:
Getting a dog: normal. Talking to the dog: this borders on suspect behavior, but really who doesn’t tell her dog that he is her special little man first thing in the morning, and that she loves him every night? Having full conversations with your dog in which you assume dog actions imply words? (“Do you like this dress on mommy?” “…” “Oh thank you, Mister, yes it’s DVF!” “…” “Well I got it on sale so it wasn’t that much of a budget breaker.” “…” “You’re right, I should pair it with heels so my calves don’t look stubby. Thank you, Mister. Here’s a treat.”) Yeah. Third Cat. (And only partially taken from the transcripts of my life.)
Going to the release of a children’s/tween movie release at midnight as an adult: we’ll call it normal (Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games - whatever - you’ve all seen them). Going alone OR wearing a costume: It’s a pretty big second cat, but we’ll let it slide because maybe there was alcohol involved. Going alone AND wearing a costume: hey nut job, it looks like you and your third cat should be on some sort of registry.
Periodically “checking in” (silently) on an ex-significant other on Facebook: common. Scoping out his current wife’s/girlfriend’s photos to confirm that you are hotter/thinner: we’ve all needed that second cat at some point. Starting a secret account so you can start an online friendship with their current wife/girlfriend (pretending you remember her from summer camp) to subtly plant break up fodder, Inception style: You and your third cat are going to die very, very lonely.
Meeting on the internet: necessary evil in today’s urban dating landscape. Using photos of you from 5 years ago/10 pounds ago: That second cat will be quickly discovered on the first in-person date, but second cat at your own risk. Hiring a professional photographer/make up artist/air brush expert/profile writer for the sole purpose of your online profile: Oh honey. You and your third cat are the stigma associated with online dating.
Beeping at a car that cut you off: just don’t do it in my neighborhood, it scares my dog/conversation partner. Proceeding to cut the offending car off at the next light: um RUDE, but eye for an eye? Chasing this car for more than a block: Is that a third cat I see in your road raging passenger seat? You’re actually going to kill someone.
Dressing your cat/dog up for Halloween: normal and, if done correctly, hilarious. Dressing that pet up for other holidays: Errr….I suppose PetSmart does sell some cute Christmas t-shirts, and there is something insanely adorable about Hanukkah sweaters for dogs. Dressing your pet up for the glamour shots that you have commissioned to hang over the mantle? Even if you only have one: that’s your third cat.
So draw the line. Identify the third cat. Be afraid of it. Avoid the third cat at all costs.