People love their pets, but few love them in a manner that is giddily reported on by the British tabloids.
"Barbarella Buchner: Woman celebrates 10-year anniversary after MARRYING her two pet cats" reads a headline that ran last week in the Mirror U.K. -- and which Buchner tells The Huffington Post is mostly accurate.
"They are two tabby brothers, Lugosi and Spider, who are now 15 years old, and they are the loves of my life," she says. "But actually, it's 11 years this January, not 10."
Indeed, on Jan. 9, 2004, Buchner married her two cats.
She'd adopted the pair from a London animal shelter in 2000. Four years later, after a breakup with a long-term human companion, Buchner realized the kitties were her "soul mates." "They're the loves of my life," she told The Mirror.
And with that, Buchner decided to make it official -- or as official as a human/two-cat marriage can be: She ordered a marriage certificate from a website that (tongue-in-cheekly) facilitates interspecies nuptials.
"It it was all done online. No ceremony, no wacky outfits," she says. "I did, however, tell Lugosi and Spider before marrying them, that I was going to do it. Bribed with a tin of tuna, they didn't object."
Now living on the Spanish island of Lanzarote with her furry husbands -- as well as another kitty named Ruby Akasha, "a ginger female whom I am not married to," she says -- the 48-year-old web designer, photographer, musician and self-described "Mad Cat Lady" says she is happy, with her feline family. "I like my life as it is," she says.
The Huffington Post recently caught up with Buchner by email, to find out more about what that surprisingly normal life is like:
The Huffington Post: What does it mean to be married to cats? Do you consider the marriage to be similar to the relationship you'd have with a human spouse?
Barbarella Buchner: I can't really say from experience since I have never been married to a human, even though I lived with one for seven years. But I'm sure its not the same at all.
First of all, the marriage to my cats is for fun only and not legal or recognized in any country in the world. And secondly, something which is rather obvious, they are cats, and hence, for example, they won't engage me in philosophical conversations, or help me with the shopping, clean their own toilet or go to work.
They are my animal companions and not my boyfriends. What most people cannot understand though is that the love I feel for them can be, and is, just as deep as what one can feel for another human.
Is there a sexual component to your marriage with the cats?
No! Even entertaining such a thought is just too disgusting!
In human terms, the word “marriage” implies that there will (usually) be sex involved, but we're not talking human terms here. I always get the “ooh, those cat tongues must feel really good” kind of comments, but that's just too gross to even consider.
We all know that there are people out there in this world who have sex with animals, but seriously, I'm not one of them and even the thought of that makes me ill. There are two major taboos in my view, and that's sex with animals and sex with children.
I am totally and utterly in love with my cats, but it is simply a pure, spiritual, unconditional love, like a love you would have for a young child. In a way, they are my children, my little babies, and not just my companions.
How did you celebrate your anniversary?
Quietly, at home, with tins of tuna for the cats.
Can you tell me what a typical day is like in your household?
Most mornings I get woken up by Lugosi, who demands his breakfast. This can be at 5 a.m. or 7 a.m., or sometimes this cat servant is even permitted to sleep in til 8 a.m.!
Here's a video of him getting me out of bed:
Once I've had my cup of coffee and the cats have had their breakfast, we go outside for a walk. They are indoor-only cats and always have been, but we have supervised outings two or three times a day for about 15 minutes. We live in a very safe pedestrian alley with no traffic and high walls on either side, so they are safe to walk around without a harness or leash.
Ruby, my third cat, is a bit of a bully and always loves to chase the other cats in the alley, whereas Lugosi simply lounges around on the stairs, and Spider enjoys chasing leaves blown about by the wind.
I work from home as a web designer, so once we are back inside, I start work, and the cats tend to go asleep (what a life, eh?!).
When I need a break from work, I tend to do chores, go out shopping, or meet up with a friend for lunch. After that it's back to work, cuddle cats, feed cats, clean their kitty loos -- they have two -- and sometimes I take a catnap myself, if I have the time or feel tired.
Late afternoon we go on another supervised outing, and then one more at about 10 pm –- they are always in their element when it's dark outside!
When I go out to a pub or restaurant or event in the evenings, I leave the cats indoors to their own devices. This is something I like as a cat person. If I had a dog, I would feel guilty every time I went out because dogs need the company of their master as much as possible.
I always feel so sorry for other people's dogs who are left inside the house for hours on end when they go out, and I can hear the poor dog crying and howling the whole time. They are just not meant to be treated like that, and in my view, this borders on animal cruelty.
How is being married to cats different from being a regular old devoted cat owner?
Let's get something straight first. Anybody who has a cat knows that there is no such thing as a “cat owner”! When you share your life with a cat, it's you that's being owned and you are the one that will serve the cat and cater to its every whim.
If you're not happy with that, you need to get a dog!
I know many devoted cat owners who treat their cats exactly the same way as I do mine -- i.e. spoil them rotten -- but they wouldn't go as far as marrying them. I don't think there is much of a difference though; just like most people these days are "living in sin' and are not married, doesn't mean there is much of a difference in their actual relationship and the way they would treat or love each other.
Do you think your cats feel married to you?
Ha ha, no, I'm sure they don't know what it all means. What I am sure about though is that they must feel and know that I love them and I'm the one that feeds them and cleans their kitty loo!
How do your friends and family react to your marriage and the publicity surrounding your marriage?
I am a functioning member of society, someone who is working, has a mortgage, has real-life friendships, and who goes out and does everyday things like shopping, taking walks on the beach, going to bars and restaurants, and doing photography.
Ok, so I am a bit eccentric, but I don't see anything wrong with that! I am not hurting anyone being the way I am. Being different is good, and I think if I ever turned “normal”, I would have to ask someone to put me out of my misery!
In my opinion, the media always portrays things in a slightly (or sometimes totally) different way of what things are really like. The Sun newspaper, for example, wrote in their printed version “Bride Barbarella wore a dress with cats on it and knelt next to her pets as she said her vows” and “the trio celebrated with a honeymoon in Lanzarote.” Even though I found what they wrote very amusing, I never actually said or did any of this, and the Sun Newspaper totally made all of that up.
Stuff like that, sadly, will portray anyone as a total nutcase, when the reality of it is very different.
I certainly am not the stereotypical cat lady, whose house stinks of cat pee, who hoards 20 or more cats, whose hair is disheveled, who wears tatty clothes and has problems relating to people in real life and reality as a whole.
So, to get back to the question: my friends and family already think I'm mad, and marrying my cats simply proved that point to them again.
Have you gotten to know other people who are married to animals?
No, not in real life, but I have read things about other people online who got married to their beloved animals. Total wackos, in my humble opinion. Oops, hang on. I'm one of them! LOL.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about you?
I run the website for our local [cat] charity called “9 Lives Lanzarote.”
They work very hard with few volunteers and never enough funds to try and control the overpopulation of feral cats on our little island. They also set up “cat cafés” -- communal feeding stations -- in many Lanzarote hotels so that holidaymakers are discouraged from feeding the cats, who would, once the tourists have left again, go hungry afterwards.
9 Lives Lanzarote receive no funds from local councils or the Spanish government and rely heavily on private donations, so if you would like to chip in, you can do so at www.9liveslanzarote.com.
Do you have romantic or sexual relationships outside your marriage?
Not currently, and I'm not planning anything. But hey, if the universe has got something in store for me, then I'll find out soon enough!
This interview has been edited for length.
Keep tabs on Barbarella Buchner's family life on her website.
Is there an unconventional pet-lover in your life? Have another animal story to share? Get in touch at email@example.com!