Cat-ching a love for pets

As a rule, you should never agree to marry someone without asking him or her two questions: whether he or she snores, and whether he or she wants pets.

This is the fastest way to find out if your future together will be filled with restful nights and peaceful days.

Toss in a third query for good measure: whether they lie. Because sometimes your spouse-to-be will assure you that he is a perfectly quiet sleeper, but then you end up lying awake at night wondering what to do with your earring collection now that you have to cut off your ears just to get some rest.

Or he might claim that he doesn't like pets, but one day out of nowhere, he comes home with a laptop full of kitten pictures and a puppy-dog look on his face.

"Look at this tiny cutie," my husband - the lying, pet-loving, sleeping drum machine - cooed. "Isn't she adorable with her big eyes and cute little paws?"

"No," I said.

"Ooh, this one is a calico!" he continued, ignoring me. "Wouldn't it be nice to have such a beautiful cat sitting in your lap every day?"

"No," I repeated, more firmly this time.

Not that it mattered - he wasn't listening anyway, too busy chortling over a YouTube video of cats looking guilty after failing in sneaky attempts to destroy their owners' houses.

Conventional wisdom has it that people who like animals make good marriage partners because their affection for helpless furry creatures illustrates their giving minds and soft ways.

I have quite the opposite view: I think these people must have soft minds that are giving way. Household pets may look adorably ineffectual, but don't be fooled: that's all part of their devious plan to worm their way into human homes, where they then can comfortably plot to eat their owners.

To give them credit, these animals have done a very good job of hiding their nefarious schemes. Dog owners happily let their pets lick them all over in ostensible affection, never suspecting that their energetic balls of love are simply testing to see which is the tastiest human being to feast on.

Cat owners are equally oblivious. They think their felines are rubbing against their ankles to show friendliness, but in truth, the cats are just marking the ankles with special scent so they know exactly where to bite in the dark when everyone is asleep.

Even hamsters and mice - those gormless mouthfuls of fur - are training hard for their day of domination. Hence their constant workouts on the exercise wheels in their cages, which would otherwise be completely meaningless.

If it is not obvious enough yet, I am what is widely known as "not a pet person".

As a child, my only pets were two goldfish - which I was disgruntled to find were not smart enough not to overeat to death - and a chicken I was happier to see on my plate than in my backyard.

I've never really understood why people feel the aching need to keep pets. If I wanted something warm and furry on my lap, I would just buy a hot water bottle in the shape of a stuffed toy.

If I wanted something to greet me when I come home from work, I could install one of those automated speakers that activates when you open the door.

If I wanted to find animal poo and pee scattered all over my floor, I would - well, I would pay an expert to check my mental health.

As I see it, the only valid reason to get a pet is to take in an abandoned animal that would otherwise probably die. Which is what, in the end, my husband and I did.

Catering to his newfound infatuation with kittens, we visited several pet shops around Tokyo to gawk at the gambolling furballs (him) and the prices of items needed to maintain said furballs (me).

But we had heard so many awful stories about horrific conditions at pet mills that it seemed cruel - not to mention unreasonably expensive - to buy a pet from a store.

Ultimately, it was a limping, doe-eyed five-year-old tabby that stole our hearts and his way into our home. His front paws had been damaged in a car accident when he was a kitten, but his owner had doted on him until, hospital-bound with cancer, she was forced to give him up.

As I write this column, the kitty is on my lap, purring like an impatient Lamborghini stopped at a red light and making sporadic attempts to eat the corner of my laptop. He has proven pretty toasty on cold evenings, and, so far, has tried to attack my ankles only once.

As it turns out, you don't need to be a pet person to tolerate a pet, or to take care of one, or even - dare I say - to love it. Nor do you really need ready-made pre-marital questions to determine if a person will be a good spouse or a good caregiver.

All you need is a bit of luck and a bit of tolerance - and a willingness to accept people, and animals, as they are.

fiochan@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 6, 2014.