Trivial "problem" filter: Significant other and I had a fight over how he treats his cat.
posted by ferngully to Human Relations (72 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
TL, DR at the end.
Background: I'm a late 20s female, he's an early 30s male. We've been together a couple months shy of a year. Things escalated to a very intense emotional pitch in our relationship very quickly. He has 3 roommates, and a cat.
We disagreed rather vehemently the other night over how he takes care of this cat.
The cat is very overweight, and whenever she meows, he just feeds her. The fight started because I said the cat might want other things, like to play, or go outside, or be pet. He said, basically, that he knew his cat and that his cat was hungry. Indeed, the cat did start eating. HOWEVER, the cat lives in one small upstairs bedroom and never leaves that room. Two of his roommates have dogs that the cat is afraid of.
While we were having this discussion, which would eventually escalate into me (sort of) calmly leaving his house after I'd planned to stay over, the cat scratched me, hard. (I was just petting her and it was like a jekyll/hyde thing.)
And after the cat scratched me, my boyfriend kept petting her and saying, "See? She's just a nasty creature," or something like that.
That was confusing/upsetting to me, because I don't believe some animals are "just bad;" I believe that animals are taught what's acceptable (with some exceptions, I'm not a hardliner.) So, I was upset because I thought he should not have positively reinforced the cat scratching me.
I was also upset because I think the cat is legitimately neglected. Now I guess is a good time to mention that she has worms. Lots and lots of worms. I told him he needed to take her to the vet to get them cleared up. He disagreed, saying he didn't have enough money to take her to the vet.
This is sort of true. He is a freelance writer and doesn't make a lot of money. But he has money for other things. For example, a few weeks ago he spent 30 dollars on tea. On the other hand, he goes without a lot of stuff that he wants, owed a lot in taxes, doesn't have a car, etc. He isn't completely irresponsible. But I feel like he should either take better care of the cat or give her to someone with the means to take care of her. He points out that if he just takes her to the pound or something, she may be euthanized. So I'm not for that option.
Although he disagrees and seems to be attached to her, her life seems to me to be below the standards of acceptable petdom. And beyond that: I didn't say this, but I think the worms all over his carpet are really gross and it really makes me depressed to visit him because I have to see them. It also makes me worry that he neglects the relationships around him/will one day take me for granted. Also that he wouldn't be the best nurturer should we decide to have kids.
I like this guy a lot otherwise, even love him. But this bugs me and I don't know what to do.
So my questions are:
1. What should I do about this? My mom said that if it bothers me so much, I should just take the cat to the vet myself. However, I don't think that's my place. Maybe it will set a precedent of me taking on too many of my boyfriend's responsibilities.
2. I've only ever had indoor-outdoor cats, so I'm open to the possibility that this is a clash of cat-cultures. For indoor cat people, how do you take care of your cats? Is one room enough? Do you exercise your cats? When you go out of town, do you just sort of put a big pile of food out for your cat and leave?
3. Do you consider this to be a red flag, personality- or compatibility- wise? Or am I blowing this out of proportion, and it's none of my business to begin with? Or both?
4. I have a history of ending relationships with people I really love over kind of trivial things. My therapist suggested that it's a way of assuaging my insecurity: if my SO always takes me back then he must *really* love me. But it puts a lot of stress on my relationships and if they do end, I grieve and grieve and grieve for months after that person has moved on. Is this one of those trivial things? This is not my first relationship after I realized that I do this, but I'm on guard about it because I don't want to break up.
TL, DR: My boyfriend's standard of petcare is much, much lower than mine, and it bothers me. Discussion ended badly. History of intimacy problems (mine). What now?
Thank you for your time, askmefi.