Please Stop Shaming Me For How Many Pets I Have

As someone who's grown up with pets in her home her entire life, I always knew as an adult I'd have a few of my own. Now, five years after college, I have a black lab named Yogi and five cats. Somehow, my fiancé and I manage to live in an 800-foot city apartment quite comfortably — litter boxes and all. And, yes, I love it. Do I have a lot of heartbeats living in a small space? Yup. Is my cleaning schedule absolutely outrageous? Completely. But we make it work.

I love all my pets and ensure I give them enough care and attention, but it's super interesting to watch people react when I tell them exactly how many pets I have living with us. Although I don't mind answering well-meaning questions, when I'm low on patience the shocked gasps and eye rolls are a little hard to ignore. Even among our good friends, our situation has become a bit of a running joke. Then come the questions. Why don't you just give some away? Does your house reek of cat pee? They've definitely ruined your furniture, right?

I don't even mind the term "cat lady." I mean, if the shoe fits, right? My biggest gripe is the judgment — and, well, the assumptions — that come with having more than two cats or one dog. My house doesn't completely stink of animals because I picked an apartment with a layout that keeps the litter boxes away from the main living space. And thanks to my trusty washing machine, I don't go to sleep at night in a bed covered in fur despite the cat-lady stereotypes.

"Although I get having this many furry friends under one roof isn't for everyone, it works for our family."

Ever since I found my oldest cat Big Momma in college — an orange tabby I initially thought was male — and her kittens barely clinging to life in a shed, I did everything I could to help them. Fast-forward a few weeks, and the whole family was flea- and worm-free and finally healthy. The only issue? Every single no-kill shelter in the area was at capacity. And while I was confident people would clamor to adopt the kittens, I wasn't so sure about Big Momma, who was apparently already 3. It's well known in the pet rescue community that the chances of getting an adult cat adopted plummets to 60 percent once they hit 18 months old. And believe it or not, black cats have even less of a chance of finding a forever home because of the superstition that they're bad luck.

That's when I decided that after spending upwards of a thousand dollars — yes, literally — they were a package deal and I'd just keep them. After all, my parents loved cats and I had a job lined up after graduation at a local paper. So why not, right? Throw the dog my fiancé adopted before we met and two 9-month-old cats I found on the side of the road into the mix, and it's definitely a party.

Although I get having this many furry friends under one roof isn't for everyone, it works for our family. With that being said, I'm not going to be offended if any of my non-pet-loving friends don't want to eat dinner at my house. That's why restaurants exist. Allergic? No problem! I won't force you to come watch a movie at my place.

The only thing I ask is that you respect my lifestyle. Because although my Roomba is circulating my apartment at all hours of the day ,and cleaning the hair off my couch is a daily chore, I wouldn't have it any other way. Hell, I love those little fur balls no matter what wee hour of the night they wake me up for food. Long story, short: we have everything under control.