Wife's Cats

Q: I'm taking the back seat to cats in my relationship. We currently have 9 cats inside and 6 semi-feral cats outside, and I am sick of them. My wife treats them like children, and although the indoor cats have destroyed two couches, two rugs, the wall paper and two doors, and the outside cats are ripping up the lawn, she refuses to do anything about it.

Cats are my animal of choice, but I feel we have too many. Not only that, her exaggerated expressions of affection and concern and her absolute forgiveness of their actions fires me up. This is not even close to how she treats me. I would like to adopt some of the indoor cats to nice families and find a farm where the outdoor cats could be helpful controlling vermin. However, my wife absolutely refuses. If I decide to do something about the lack of discipline, she said let her know so she can pack herself and as many cats as she can and leave. I love my wife, however I find this situation becoming more and more frustrating. In my mind, no matter what I do, I am going to either be the bad guy or the door mat. -- Scott, 45

Dr. Susan: Marriage counseling time! It's my belief that your frustration and anger aren't actually as much about the cats as about how you are treated. At least you like cats and care about their welfare. It's not as if you're suggesting they be tossed into a lake. So why does your wife keep accumulating cats against your will and allowing them to rule the roost, so to speak? Could be she's hungering for affection, and the more cats she counts as "her children," the more fulfilled she feels (temporarily at least). It could also be that she's out to spite you for whatever reasons. Perhaps there is some build-up of long-festering resentment. From hearing your side, you seem quite logical and reasonable. I can't think of a situation offhand that screams out more for compromise. While it may seem frivolous to you to spend time and money on marriage counseling over this, a session or two might be helpful in figuring out what's under your wife's seemingly stubborn and thoughtless behavior. Of course other couples have similar issues, where one mate insists that her pets are non-negotiable. Just don't compound the mess by giving ultimatums or doing "something" yourself about the discipline issue. Keep trying to talk calmly about why you're unhappy, how much you value her as your wife, and why you think the issue is worth pursuing until you're both satisfied, not just one of you. The only other thing I will say is that 9 indoor cats usually make for a smelly house. Maybe your wife is choosing this way to avoid more effortful human contact, with you and with anyone else.

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