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Minimalist Pets: Do Animals Fit Into A Simple Life?

by Gip Plaster on March 29th, 2011

You can’t take off around the world in search of true minimalist bliss if you have four cats occupying your home and your attention. Can pets fit into a simple, deliberate life?

Doesn’t everything you add to your life take time and energy away from your focus, your passion and your ultimate bliss?

Clutter, gadgets, machines and paper all suck away little pieces of your life, and you can only stop the loss by eliminating the distractions.

And isn’t everything is a distraction? But don’t some distractions bring value to your life and carry on their backs little pieces of blissfulness that make life worth living?

Pets As Distractions

My household includes two male humans and four female cats.

Healthy cats are expensive. While we don’t take them for regular annual checkups, but we feed them expensive high-quality food — and we have to take them to the vet when necesary.

Recently, our top cat had to be treated twice for an infection in her face. The first time required an overnight stay at the animal hospital for some antibiotics and treatment for a scratched eye. The second required a long course of antibiotics, a teeth cleaning and the extraction of one of her canines. (Yes, cats have canine teeth just as humans do — except they’re a lot longer.)

We can’t travel long distances unless we organize someone to care for the cats while we’re gone, something we haven’t done in years. Unlike dogs and all sorts of other exotic animals, cats do just fine home alone for a couple of days.

We can’t move into the city since most cities limit households to two cats or dogs, although this is rarely enforced unless there are issues with smells, neighbors of other code-compliance nonsense.

And we can’t trade our small home and acre of land for a nice rental since four cats would never be allowed in a rental house or apartment.

Pets As A Grounding Force

Our cats make our house a home, however. And they keep me from doing something I would probably regret: moving.

I’d like to move to a small apartment. Even though our house isn’t much trouble, I have no use for a yard — and I’d really like to live closer to the things I enjoy doing.

Of course, we moved here because the apartment where we had been living raised their rates beyond what we thought was reasonable and we couldn’t find an apartment option that was affordable.

If I didn’t have cats to consider, I would probably have taken the reverse plunge back into the city that I could never afford. And with that would have come the constant temptation to stay out rather than stay in. That was a problem for me and my work-at-home lifestyle when we lived inb town.

Pets As Passions

Part of living a simple, deliberate life is shedding the excess and including only the things that truly make you happy.

Our four cats aren’t my passion, but they’re constant reminders of what my true passion really is: A life without fuss, without junk in any sense of the word and without the kinds of bumps and clangs that scare cats out of a sound sleep.

I resist calling my cats pets because they are strong-willed individuals who had lonely and sad lives before they joined our mob. That’s why they I relate to them so well. They get petted when they want to be — and left alone when that’s what they prefer.

And actually, one of the cats is a passion of mine. I don’t play favorites, but she knows who she is.

What About You?

Do pets fit into your version of a simple, deliberate life?

Is your goldfish your passion? Does having a dog in your life keep you from barking up life’s less desirable trees? Does your boa constrictor remind you that you like a linear life with only necessary bulges?

There’s so much more to life than traveling from city to city, living from a suitcase or trying to find the perfect coffeeshop WiFi connection.

My life include a home. It has fewer trappings than some, but it has its simple pleasures.

Believe it or not, I write professionally! If you need professional writing services from a web content writer, visit Fort Worth Copywriter.

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From → Simpler Living

51 Comments
  1. Robert Wall permalink

    A friend of mine used to have four cats, but all but one looked identical. Since the cats were a bit reclusive when strangers visited, anybody visiting the house was unlikely to see more than one or two – so she just told everybody she had two cats and nobody was the wiser. 😀

    I’d probably have a cat if our apartment complex would allow it.

    I never really found them to be expensive to care for – the cats I used to have actually wouldn’t eat the premium cat food. The fanciest they got was “Meow Mix”.

    When it comes to the routine vet bills, if you watch the local pet stores a lot of times there are low-cost vaccination days and such.

    I might’ve gotten lucky by never having a cat that was seriously sick though.

    Cats definitely aren’t high-maintenance – all you really need is to shovel the litter box every day or two, and make sure they have a gravity-fed food and water bin setup that only needs to be topped off once every week or so.

    In return for the minimal amount of upkeep, they provide many hours of enjoyment.

    So I’d definitely own a cat if I could!
    Robert Wall recently posted In Control- Make A Great Sandwich

    • I can’t imagine anything easier to care for than a cat. Our next cat-related issue is that that one of our other cats has teeth that look about as dirty as the one who had the problem, so we have to do something about that before it gets to be a major mess.

      In addition to good health, premium foods have another benefit: The litter box doesn’t smell (much). That’s why most people choose them. Since the cat’s body is able to process all of the food instead of rejecting so much of it, there’s less waste.
      Gip

      • Robert Wall permalink

        You’re right – cheap cat food contains a high percentage of corn-based filler.

        We used to get samples of the premium food with some regularity when we were at the pet store, so I’d bring them home for the cat to try.

        I tried to explain to my cat that the premium food was better, but he wasn’t having it. 🙂
        Robert Wall recently posted In Control- Make A Great Sandwich

        • It’s hard to explain anything to a cat.

          We use Iams, by the way. It’s not as expensive as Science Diet or one of the all-natural ones, but it’s a reasonable compromise. I think they also eat less when they eat premium brands because there’s less waste. Fascinating conversation, isn’t it?
          Gip

          • Deb Rolston permalink

            Have you thought of giving your cat some raw meat on the bone? it might clean his teeth. My cats have always had access to the outdoors (keeping them inside is an american thing I think) and they catch small rodents almost every day and eat them. I note they eat the young ones completely, and leave the heads, tails and entrails of the older ones. It might sound a bit yuk (and it is) but i’ve never had to take them to the vet for anything except vaccinations and they have beautiful teeth 🙂 Nows its coming into autumn in NZ, one cat catches mice every couple of hours, so I guess the mice are looking for a place to get in from the cold.

          • That’s a very good point. I’ve heard that canine teeth on indoor cats often get dirty because of not having to tear meat apart.

            In our case, our neighborhood has stray (or at least unconfined) dogs, so it’s not safe to have outdoor animals. You’re right, though. Americans handle cats differently. You can’t adopt a cat from most shelters in the U.S. if you plan to let them outside.

            The average lifespan of an outdoor cat in the U.S. is six years while indoor cats can live to 20, but often live to 16, so it make sense.
            Gip

  2. Are kids considered pets? They’re expensive, add chaos and can’t be left home alone while I travel… 😉

    We don’t currently have any pets, although we used to have a crazy dog.

    If your cats add value to your life and make you happy (it sounds like they do), then I think they absolutely fit into a simple life.
    Jenny @ exconsumer recently posted Decluttering and Making Money

    • I agree with you. My cats really are a stabilizing force in my life.

      And yes, kids seem to involve many of the same obligations as pets. But they don’t have to get ready for school. Of course, pets also don’t usually have grandparents who can take them for the week.

      Gip

  3. Gena permalink

    Hi Gip,
    We love animals and agree that they can be a special part of the minimalist life. We invested a fair amount of money for bringing our beloved beagle over to the islands and felt it was worth every penny and the extra effort. We had ‘rescued’ him and he add so much life to our simple home. We still miss him very much, he pretty much stole our hearts so it will take a very special situation to bring another one home. Since we have housemates though we enjoy their dog very much she just thinks her pack has expanded! 🙂
    Gena recently posted Are You a Dream Builder or Dream Killer

    • I’ve never had a dog, so I don’t know how different it is. I know dogs are often needy, but cats can be demanding too.
      Gip

  4. Nancy permalink

    I currently have two dogs, and am on the list for a new puppy. I used to have horses, and the dogs are definitely more “minimalist” than horses (cheaper, easier, etc.). Since my dogs *are* my focus, passion and bliss, the things I do to simplify my life are in many ways done so that I have more time to spend with my dogs. In the past I’ve competed in agility, obedience and rally with my dogs, we’ve done some tracking, and are now doing musical freestyle. The rewards of competition are great, but the true reward is spending time with my dogs, learning new things together, and trying to understand them better as thinking individuals with very distinct personalities and learning styles. My two dogs that have passed on were my Joy and my Soulmate. My current dogs are my Happiness and my Heart. I think the new puppy will be my Adventure when he comes along. I’m looking forward to it!

  5. Karen (Scotland) permalink

    I would have to say that, yes, cats (or other animals) can fit into a minimalist lifestyle. They remind you of the simple pleasures – happiness when we eat, relaxed comfort when we are sheltered, and, finally, bliss when we are cuddled into a companion.
    Yes, they add clutter and work to a life but the simple pleasure of stroking a contented moggy more than makes up for that work.
    Karen (Scotland)

    • I completely agree. Thanks for joining the conversation here, Karen. I hope you’ll be commenting more in the future. It’s nice to have you here!
      Gip

      • Karen (Scotland) permalink

        Thanks for the welcome, Gip. I’ve been over a few times but wasn’t sure if I’d commented yet.
        I meant to add that keeping a pets reminds us that giving is as much a part of a simple life as taking. Looking after a non-egg/milk/meat animal gives no visible reward except for the quiet satisfaction of giving someone/thing a comfortable and healthy life and home.
        Karen

  6. coco permalink

    We have 6 dogs. yes, 6. And 3 kids. So yes we are proof that any type of family can be their own kind of minimalist. Having so many people and pets in a very small house makes it almost easy to only have the most minimal posessions. Another thing that probably makes it easier is that all the kids are boys. 4 of the dogs are chihuahas and they don’t eat much at all! LOL the other 2 are smallish mixes. The vet care that we do is rabies shots as required by law, and we have to be on heart worm prevention because we live in the US south. The joy i get from the dogs can’t be measured!

    • With four cats in our house, there’s no reason to buy anything nice because it will get scratch or chewed or something. So you’re right. They do make minimalist possessions the only practical option for us too.

      Thanks for joining the gang here, Coco. I’m a Southerner too — if Texas is considered the South — so I’m glad to have your voice here. I hope you’ll be commenting more in the future.

      Gip

  7. marianney | A Life Set Free permalink

    Hi Gip,
    I love love love my cat! He is my baby and I adore him. I don’t think of him as a hinderance at all. Sure, I get him Iams (more expensive than most food) and he costs me when he gets in fights and I have to get his abcesses treated and his teeth extractions last year cost me a cool $1000, but so what?

    We are planning to move to Costa Rica in about 3 years and I am pretty sure my little buddy will still be with us at that time. I was stressing about what to do with him as he loves to go outside and I was afraid of him going out into the jungle. But I decided that we’ll just have to make him a cat door to a large enclosed/caged outdoor area so he can still go outside and play. It’s not ideal and I’m sure it will take some getting used to, but it’s better than leaving him behind.

    My friend left her 2 cats behind when she moved down there and they went to the pound. It broke my heart (and hers too) but I don’t think I could ever do that to my buddy.

    (p.s. I am almost done w my guest post for you!)
    marianney | A Life Set Free recently posted People Making a Difference Series – Jo Wright &amp Mineseeker Foundation

    • It’s good to hear from another cat lover, Marianne. I know how expensive those extractions can be. I also found that vets have amazingly varying prices. Cleaning and extraction started at over $300 at the fancy vet where my cat had to spend the night for her infection, but my regular small-town vet charges about $90 for the same service, and he has decades more experience.

      Gip

      • marianney | A Life Set Free permalink

        that is really good to know. i guess i just kinda figured it was about the same price anywhere. but at the same time, i do like and trust his current vet and would be wary to go someplace that’s cheap, but not necessarily trustworthy. when animals get work done on their teeth, they have to be put under and that is dangerous for older animals. my cat was 13 when he had his teeth pulled and so i was very worried he might now make it.

        in the end it’s worth it. thank goodness for Care Credit. I was able to borrow that $1000 at 0% interest and it’s now paid off and my kitty is healthy and happy!

        oh and yes i am totally a cat lover Gip! i even have a tattoo of cats going around my arm 😉
        marianney | A Life Set Free recently posted People Making a Difference Series – Jo Wright &amp Mineseeker Foundation

        • It’s funny that I don’t usually like cat artwork or cat figurines, just the real thing.

          I was really surprised about the difference in prices, especially considering both were well respected and experienced vets. One, however, was in an upscale neighborhood in the city and the other in a small town even closer to home. I’m sure that made the difference.
          Gip

  8. jesinalbuquerque permalink

    As several have noted, my cats (two now, lost one last year) are a grounding force in my life. They have to be taken care of every day, no matter what. I live alone but never feel I’m coming home or waking up to an empty house. I cherish them. I also use them as an excuse. I no longer like to travel (used to love it) and now that my cats are aging, “I can’t leave the cats for that long.”

    • Good excuse! While I used to like short trips by car, I don’t really like to travel anymore. Since I do most of the driving, it seems like a regular day. I need a vacation from driving. I don’t like planes much either.

      I keep meaning to try the train to San Antonio… but, of course, you have no way of getting around once you’re there. And two of my cats are around 11 or 12, so they need me now too.
      Gip

      • Linda Sand permalink

        You might want to see if Enterprise Car Rental will pick you up at the depot. We used them when we lived and traveled in a small RV and they always came to our campground to get us. On one of our train trips they couldn’t pick us up so they had us take a taxi to their office then reimbursed us for that. Be aware, though, that San Antonio doesn’t have baggage check so their depot may just be a bus shelter type shed–check that out before you go.

  9. I can’t personally imagine life without a cat. Mine have brought me many smiles and much joy throughout the years. I desperately love the little rascal I currently have.

    On the other hand, we have a fish tank that I would gladly give to anyone who would take it away. The amount of work to maintain our fish is a lot less than a cat, but so is the amount of enjoyment I get out of having them.

    • I’ve never had a fish. It doesn’t sound like much fun.

      Thanks for commenting, Amy. I’m glad you’re here.
      Gip

      • Karen (Scotland) permalink

        lol! I never “get” fish either. My husband is desperate for some fish but in this busy household, I’m not willing to take on something that won’t make a noise when it’s hungry…
        Karen (Scotland)

  10. Alex permalink

    Gip,

    There’s so much more to life than traveling from city to city, living from a suitcase or trying to find the perfect coffeeshop WiFi connection. Being a minimalist or living a simple deliberate life, does not mean you have to turn into the modern nomad.

    If cats enhance your take on living simply/minimalist etc, then they belong there, but they should be part of your life not just another piece of property …sadly you see the latter in the cities too much.

    • You’re right on both points. There’s a reason this blog is called So Much More Life.

      I think animals — dogs, in particular — are status symbols for some people. If you run along a jogging trail in the evenings, you have to have the appropriate type of dog to run alongside you.

      Gip

    • Deb Rolston permalink

      Really good points,Alex. Nomad minimalists are only one type. After all there is NOTHING sustainable about air travel and some of us really appreciate our homes and our pets:)

  11. Deb life beyond stuff permalink

    I lived with animals all my life until this year when we moved to Australia and I’m enjoying the break. All the animals from my previous life now reside with other members of the family. Animals are higher maintenance in australia. They generally don’t like the heat and they enjoy ticks and snake bites even less. Last time I lived here I paid big bucks to save a precious cat from a snake bite.

    • Outdoor animals in Texas have many of the same problems that you mention in Australia. Cats are better with heat than dogs, but many dogs are almost immune to rattlesnake bites, so it balances out here, I suppose.

      I’m glad you were able to keep your animals in the family. I don’t really understand people who take animals that they once loved to a shelter. Unless someone dies or becomes too ill to care for an animal, a shelter is never the answer. Shelters would be much less crowded if they were reserved for true strays.

      Gip

  12. Jo H. permalink

    Another cat lover here. The food and litter and vet bills add up, but we all get such enjoyment from their company, it’s worth it.

    • I’m pleased that Aldi has cat litter. That’s saved us a lot of money, and it’s better than the Sam’s Club cat litter we had been getting. It also isn’t as dusty, which is a major improvement in my opinion. Our cat’s aren’t interested in any of the expensive pine ones, and it’s just as well, I suppose.
      Gip

  13. Deb Rolston permalink

    A timely post for me as I was wondering the same thing lately. I have two cats and a labrador. I live in the country, with land around us and the cats live alongside going in and out as they please. As a Brit living in NZ I’ve never heard of keeping cats inside all the time with a litter box,and I found it shocking when I first heard. Our cats eat low cost cat food and the mice they catch (which they eat most of) and I’ve never taken a cat to the vet except for vaccinations. So while I don’t find them costly I got them when I really wanted a dog all along, and while I don’t want to get rid of the cats, I don’t think I’ll be replacing them when they go.

    The dog (a brown labrador) is another issue. She lives with not alongside us. I worry about her well being when I go to work and its a major issue to go away without her. But I’d never be without a dog. Nothing reminds me so clearly how life should be lived….how to enjoy your food, your body, your people. Everything about her is a tonic. And if anyone wants to look after her for a week at easter, let me know 🙂

  14. jesinalbuquerque permalink

    Can I slip in one last comment? Nobody ever asks if children fit into a minimalist lifestyle, yet they are many times more expensive and troublesome than any pet you can name. Just sayin’

    jesinalbuquerque

    • There’s always room for one more comment, Jes. And that’s a great point! Thanks for making it.
      Gip

  15. Caragh permalink

    I have two adopted dogs. What they do for my life is bring me back to the basics. Nothing calms me down more than a walk with my dogs. There is nothing simpler than putting on my walking shoes and heading out the front door with my dogs. To me, walking is the ultimate minimalist activity. It is costs me nothing, it is good for my health (mentally and physically), and it makes me happy. Since I adopted my dogs, I have not missed one day of walking– no matter the weather, my health, etc.. I love the consistency it has brought to my life.

    • Walking is my favorite form of exercise, too, because of the meditative and minimalist aspects of it. I don’t walk my cats, for reasons that are probably obvious, but I do walk three or four days a week now. It’s helped my weight, my back, my brain…
      Gip

  16. Deb Wilson permalink

    Hi,

    Animals have always been a huge part of my life. I have had numerous animal companions ever since I was a very small child. My parents taught me at an early age that you are forever responsible for what you have tamed. Pets are a lifelong (theirs) commitment and can teach us so many wonderful traits. At the moment I have 3 dogs. All 3 were cast off as garbage by their original owners. 2 of them were shelter rescues and I found a litter of puppies in some woods near my work and found homes for all of them save one. She was mostly starved and it tooks months of hand feeding her to save her from choking while she ate. Patience is a blessing.

    I am a recent empty nester so I love coming home to such adoration and love. 😉

    • Cats are great to come home to also. They don’t lap at your ankles like dogs, but they certainly notice when you arrive. Seeing one looking out the window when you pull up is amazingly welcoming too.

      Thanks for the great comment.
      Gip

      • Deb Wilson permalink

        I had a great cat and had to put him to sleep due to congestive heart failure. I adore cats also. Just haven’t been at a place in my heart to replace my uppy cat.

  17. Patti permalink

    Just found your blog today. I had a landlord scare recently and it reminded me that my 3 cats are really the ONLY “things” in life I could not and would not give up; they are my only real family or friends after all.

    But to answer your question, my fur-babies DO definitely fit into the simple life I currently work towards. All I REALLY need from life is a place to wash off the stresses of the day (bathroom), a place to lay my head for sleep (pillow/blankets/pallet on the floor), and my three cats who are there for me and love me when the rest of the world ignores me. I don’t even need much food anymore; fresh water alone and some daily protein is about it

    Everything else in my rental apartment can be easily replaced or lived without entirely

    • Thanks for commenting, Patti. I agree with you. The cats and people in my lives are the only things that I can’t replace. I’d still like to have much more stuff than I do.
      Gip

  18. Jenny Smythe permalink

    Hi Gip

    I have two adopted dogs and I treat them like children. The relationship that I have with them is very valuable to me. And so I don’t think they cramp my ‘minimalist lifestyle’ at all since I believe that relationships are a valuable part of the lifestyle.

    • Good to hear from you, Jenny! Sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I took a couple of days off from maintaining the blog to catch up on some other things.

      I hope you’ll be able to comment more in the future.
      Gip

  19. Jon Shoop permalink

    I can’t live without my long haired hamsters. They are family to me and is one of the best decision I’ve made. They bring me so much fun and happiness that they’re one of my biggest passions in life. They keep my grounded at home. They also help me with dealing with my Cerebral palsy better and they don’t judge me because of my disability.

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