On Being A Single (Pet) Parent
“I can’t even look at her.”
When I was in graduate school, I had a friend who had just experienced a heartbreaking breakup, and she told me this as she struggled not to cry. These words weren’t spoken about a child, but her dog. I consoled her, reminding her that the dog didn’t know what was happening and loved her and needed her. I remember thinking, this will never be me.
You know they say you should never say “never.”
Unfortunately, I was thrust into my own heartbreaking situation. My friend’s words echoed in my head as I looked at my own dog, Belle. Every time I looked at her, I remembered who I had adopted her with and the hope of co-parenting, and my heart broke. I forced myself each day to remember the advice I had given my friend, and I was able to move forward. In fact, I began to cling to my little girl. At first, she was the connection to that person. Soon, though, she was mine, as she always had been, and she was my reminder and reason to get up every morning and make it through another day.
As I worked through mental health concerns that had finally been brought to light, she became my ever-present emotional support.
While loving her is easy, being a single pet mom is not. Really, it doesn’t matter why you’re single or what “type” of single you are, being solely responsible for other living beings is not easy. With three animals relying on me, I am torn between feeling blessed for their mere existence and affection and incapable of doing enough. I love coming home to my animals—two cats and a dog. I love hearing the cats purr at night and Belle’s deep sigh as she settles down next to my bed for sleep. I love caring for them and loving them. But there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that care and love.
Managing your own time can be difficult, but add the needs of animals into that and it can sometimes feel like you don’t have any time. Belle goes to daycamp Monday through Friday while I work. But what happens when daycamp is closed? This winter, I have had to take her to work twice—once because of a late opening and once because of a full closure. And if I want to make any weekend plans, I either need to be sure I can pick her up before daycamp closes, that someone can “babysit” for me, or that I won’t be gone for more than three hours. Let me tell you, you don’t realize how quickly three hours go until that’s your time limit.
When I’m doing other work at home, I have to be sure to take time to take Belle on walks and potty breaks and give her play time. And cats need love too. That means I have to be conscious about dividing my time between not only Belle and the cats, but also giving each cat attention.
I can’t rely on someone else to give them what they need while I do what I need to do.
The adage “I work hard so my animals can have a better life” is my truth. I go to work every day so I can provide a good life for my three babies.
I put their needs above my own.
My male cat is on veterinarian prescribed food due to health issues, and Belle is on Science Diet at the recommendation of the veterinarian because of previous food concerns. Pet food isn’t cheap to begin with, and when you add in the cost of medically-prescribed food, the cost jumps quite a bit. There have been occasions when I’ve used a bill’s grace period so I could purchase their food.
They’re also the things that test my self control when it comes to purchases. I’m always seeing collars or leashes or accessories I’d love to get for Belle or toys and scratch posts I’d love to get the cats. I have to pause and ask myself if they really need those things. (The answer is usually “no.”)
Being the sole provider for them has taught me that it’s okay to treat them like my family…because they are.
It may seem like I think of these as negatives, but I don’t. In fact, they have taught me some really great lessons. They have reminded me that there are other things that are more important than a constant “hustle” and that slowing down is good for us. They remind me that long sleeps can be beneficial if they leave me feeling refreshed, but that sometimes I need to get out and enjoy nature.
Being a single pet parent can be hard at times, but it has its rewards. You learn so much about your fur kids and responsibility. But you also learn a lot about yourself, and that’s the best lesson our animals can give us.