The American art of obsessing over your pets

But it was a very American thing to witness my parents become cat people. Americans spend billions of dollars on their pets annually and have earned a reputation abroad for being obsessed with them. Pets often join their owners on airplane rides, enroll in doggy daycares, and have their own spas. This life of leisure that many American pets enjoy has garnered derision from many people foreign to the coddled culture, including from my immigrant parents. And I pointed this accusation at them every time that they ebulliently greeted the cat upon arriving home, or when my mother would harangue me for insisting that the creature indeed wasn’t bilingual after spending a year with them, or when my father would teach me how to pick her up properly because I was “doing it wrong, and that’s why she always tries to bite you.”

They’re one step closer to cat spas and tufted cat mattresses. They’re already buying gourmet cat food…

The type of care extended to these creatures in rural Syria, where domestic pets that are confined to the home are not as common, could be witnessed in their interactions with our American cat. She is feral at heart, like a Syrian cat, embedded in the social organ of civil life, permitted to wander freely. I grew up believing that pet ownership, to the degree that Americans exercised it, was an exclusive phenomenon that required a worldview detached from the role of animals in rurality. But in treating her like a member of our household, essential to the family unit for no utilitarian purpose but merely as a recipient of the generous spirit of my parents, was, to me, an American thing to witness.

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