Actual Having a Baby vs. Having a Cat: A Riposte to The Oatmeal

Imagine your grandfather parsing that title.

Anyhoo, Matt Inman, hilarious scribbler of The Oatmeal, has ribbingly touted the virtues of cat-ownership vis-a-vis human reproduction. Inman’s antipathy to babies are known, so this is not suprising. Nor am I going to pretend that it is not funny. But in this day and age, we breeders deserve a shot-back. This will constitute it.

Also, as I have both babies and cats in my house, my comparison stems from first-hand observation, and not mere horror at the diminished freedom of one’s peers to consume ethanol in public houses.

It seems bad form to copypasta the man’s drawings, so I will content myself with reproducing his words in bold, and then replying to them in italic

Argument the First: Babies come shrieking into the world as selfish, amniotic, jam-covered goblins.

Cats come into the world as kittens, which are independent, adorable, and not at all goblin-like.

Riposte: Babies come into your life after nine months of preparation, discomfort, vomiting and doctor visits. You spend nine months in parenting boot camp for this bad boy. You are like a marine graduating from Parris Island, ready to conquer the world. You are making a +1 to the human race, and your whole family celebrates it.

Cats come into your life after a briefly considered emotional decision to acquire something cute. You get them, and you have a few months of being totally in love with them, and then they’re just kind of there, like bad roommates that never contribute anything.

Argument the Second: Babies crap in plastic underwear. Children crap on your dreams. Cats just crap in a box.

Riposte: Babies poop into plastic underwear that is idiotically simple to get rid of. You literally wrap it up onto itself, throw it out, and forget it was ever there.

Also, that’s only for the first few years, until you teach them how to use a toilet. Then they’re in charge of their own poop. Evidence: I have a four-year-old in my house. She goes to the potty all by herself, and even washes her own hands. Her poop is no longer my problem.

Cats poop in a plastic sandbox, which you have to scoop out regularly. The cat we got in the summer of 2004 still does this. If he was a human, I’d be teaching him dirty jokes and introducing him to Tolkien, but he’s a cat, so I’m still using a crusty plastic sieve-spoon to pick his turds and clumps of piss out of his covered sandbox, transferring them into a trash bag, and throwing them out. Everything about cleaning up after a baby is easier and less likely to give me toxoplasmosis.

Also, we haven’t talked about the puking yet. Cats seem to be cleaner and more dignified than dogs, but that’s all presentation. My older cat gets out of the house, eats grass, comes back in the house, and then pukes up grass on the carpet. My younger cat eats ribbons and then barfs them up all over the house for me to step in. I’d rather have a baby spit-up on me all day (and they do) then step in cold cat puke.

Argument the Third: When babies are upset, they produce loud noises. When cats are upset, they slaughter pigeons and take 16-hour naps. They suffer like champions do, quietly, gracefully, and covered in blood.

Riposte: When babies are upset, they do indeed produce loud noises. This makes them like every other creature that’s capable of making noise. Then, when you solve one of the three problems (poop, gas, hunger), they go back to sleep. Because mostly, that’s what babies do. Sleep.

When cats are upset, they scratch things. Like the carpet, and the chairs, and the couch, and each other. They make yowling noises in the middle of the night for no discernible reason. They hiss at you because they happen to feel like it.

Argument the Fourth: If you spoil a baby, they’ll become a terrible child, which will become a terrible adult, which will become THE NEXT HITLER. If you spoil a cat, they lack the physical capacity to grow up and command armies. They can’t ruin anyone’s life, other than your own. So spoil away.

Riposte: If you spoil a baby, he’ll indeed become a bad human, which is far worse than a bad cat. This is because a human is a greater creature than a cat by an order of magnitude. Which is to say, the risk is greater, but so are the rewards. Thus, if you raise a baby at all well, it will become a decent, contributing member of society who can take care of any number of useless cats.

Whereas, if you raise a kitten right, you get something that only pisses in your bed when it has a really good reason, like you forgot to get the other cat spayed and he is not putting up with that.

Argument the Fifth: Babies like to ruin Romantic moments. Cats just like to watch.

Riposte: I cannot dispute the interference that babies can make into your romantic moments. This is an advantage cats enjoy. However, babies have the advantage of waiting at least a decade before having romantic moments of their own, whereas cats need to be sterilized almost immediately before they start turning your neighborhood into a feline third-world country.

Argument the Sixth: Babies have no special powers, other than transforming interesting, hopeful people into bald, sallow, regretful barf-slaves. Cats, on the other hand, can see in the dark, run at incredible speeds, and perform amazing acrobatic feats. A cat is your own private Batman. They are furry cruise missiles of love and horror.

Riposte: Babies have no special powers? You mean other than the human capacity for the acquisition of knowledge and civilization, right? You mean other than the fact that they will learn to become everything you are, and everything you teach them, right? For evidence, here is a brief list of things my four-year-old has learned:

  • The alphabet
  • The names of the Beatles
  • That Medeski, Martin, and Wood is Jazz Music
  • How to impersonate Sadness from Inside Out (she’s hilariously good at this. She’s seen the movie once. It’s uncanny).
  • How to make bubbles in her milk
  • How to dress herself
  • How to draw faces

Whereas, over the past 11 years, our cats have learned:

  • That the best time to sneak out of the house is when someone is going in and out the door.
  • The sound of a tuna can being opened.

Conclusion: They’re demanding enough to fulfill your need to care for a living thing, but not demanding enough to ruin your life.

Riposte: Cats are fine, I guess, if you’re looking for something that’s low-maintenance and easily replaceable. They’re the Lowest Difficulty Setting of Pet-Keeping, somewhere between a plant and a fish (fish being deceptively difficult to keep alive, depending on the species). They’re a creature that will be perfectly fine if you leave the house for a weekend with an extra-large bowl of food and a fresh litter box. And then, when it gets feeble enough to require the amount of care that a baby would, you have the vet kill it and you bury it in the backyard, feel mopey for a week or so, and then go get another one.

Babies require more work. Because you’re not supposed to bury them. They’re going to become full-grown humans, and one day, they will bury you. Acquiring a cat accomplishes a cursory demonstration of a your own adulthood. Making a baby flips an amniotic middle finger at your own mortality.

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