Once again, where I live is under an extreme heat advisory. Which is totally awesome.
I learned this when I was checking the weather with my daughter (she’s obsessed) and noticed the little red exclamation point next to my ZIP code. I clicked on it and it told me, among other things, that the most humane thing to do for outdoor pets is to bring them inside, into the air conditioning.
But what if you have, like I do, an outdoor animal who absolutely refuses to come inside no matter how much coaxing and bribing you do? There’s not much, except try to accommodate the animal in every way possible. Provide shade, water, and something to cool her down (we use ice packs, but I’ve also been told that if you fill an ice cream container with water, freeze it and then put it outside, that works). That’s about it. Well that, and hoping the animal’s instincts will kick in and she’ll also find ways to help herself.
It sucks having an outdoor pet who you can’t help more than she will allow. Just like it sucks having people in your life who you can’t help with their finances, no matter how much you know they’re in distress. But if I’ve learned any lessons taking care of this cat that can apply to those people, it’s these:
- Sometimes, they’re just more comfortable in the situation they’re used to. My cat was originally a stray. She spent the first two or so years of her life outside, so regardless of the fact that we allowed her inside, she refused to do it. Because it was new. Just like going from letting your finances run you to you running your finances is new. Getting control of your money is not easy. It takes tons of effort, organization, planning…the list goes on. For someone who’s not used to it, it’s just easier to keep plodding along in financial distress because it’s easier to stay there than working to change their station. There’s also the whole attitude of “well, this is just how it’s always been so this is just how it’ll always be”, which is virtually impossible to change. So you give them options and hope they realize that the uncomfortable option may actually turn out to be the better one in the long run.
- New choices are scary. For a cat that’s never lived in a home, being confined to 4 walls and sleeping in a bed is frightening. Toys are strange. Using a litter box is freaky and bizarre. These are all choices that, upon seeing them for the first time, are overwhelming but eventually the animal will learn what to do (unless you’re my cat. Then you just snub them). Just like having choices with your money. As I learned through paying down my debt, when you start to have money that’s free and available and not designated for debt repayment, you get confused and overwhelmed. You don’t know how to handle having choices with your money. Occasionally, you might go on a spending binge or take a really expensive vacation. After awhile, though, you learn how to apply that money properly and secure your finances for the future.
- It’s easier just to let them be. In the almost two years I’ve had my cat, I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try, she just wants to live outside. So, I’ve stopped forcing the issue. If that’s where she wants to be, then I let her. I provide for her the best I can, spend time with her when I can but other than that, I let her go about her business. It’s the same for people who are bad with money. I have a friend who is terrible with money. She complains and complains about how she never has enough and how she hates to work but she never does anything to improve her financial situation. I don’t even bother talking to her about it anymore because she doesn’t want help. She doesn’t want things to get better. She just wants to complain. So I let her. Because, just like trying to coax my cat inside, my efforts to help her are absolutely futile. Rather than banging my head against a wall and getting frustrated, I just sit back and let her complain and watch her make poor choice after poor choice. Because honestly? I’m convinced that’s what she really wants.
It’s difficult to sit by and watch people you love and care about suck with money. But, as I have to do with my cat, we have to let them make their own choices and live with the consequences. That doesn’t mean we have to stop supporting them or neglect them; it just means we have to recognize that not everyone wants our help. And when you want to help, that’s the most difficult part of the situation.
How do you handle people you want to help but refuse to accept that assistance?