Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Meow of Change

I’m on an emotional rollercoaster.

We now have a cat. This may not seem like emotional-rollercoaster material to most people, but it’s big to me. See, here’s the thing. I have never been a pet person. I think pets are great for other people. Pets are cute and all, and I understand that they make great companions. I don’t hate animals or anything—I just didn’t want one of my own. If your cat or dog comes to me, I’ll probably talk to it and pet it nicely, then wash my hands when I get home—I’m a bit OCD about animals.

In addition to the OCD thing, I didn’t grow up with pets. My family started adopting cats about the time I went off to college, so I did live with a cat for a couple of summers, but never had much to do with it and I wasn't the person who took care of it. And since reaching adulthood, I simply have never wanted a pet. And when I say “never wanted a pet,” what I mean is I NEVER WANTED A PET (note the all-caps. I’ve learned on the Internet that all-caps are GOOD FOR EMPHASIS). I didn’t want to care for a pet, didn’t feel any lack for not having a dog or cat around, didn’t want the responsibility. We did end up with a couple of pets despite my antipathy—we currently have a frog that my daughter brought home from biology class in high school, and a hermit crab that is very likely undead (the zombie apocalypse starts HERE!). But a cat or dog was completely out of the question. I’d tell my kids they could have all the pets they wanted—after they grew up and were living on their own. Alternatively, I’d say that the day everyone in my house learned to pick up after themselves was the day I’d consider a pet (boy, was I ever safe with that deal).

But my youngest daughter turned out to be a cat lover. In fact, she’s half cat herself, and known to meow in answer to questions. She has lots of stuffed cats. She reads about cats. She loves visiting the cats at the zoo (our nearest zoo has cats to help teach kids how to treat animals). But I was still adamant—I did NOT want a cat. We were NOT getting a cat.

Then my college daughter and her roommate found a stray kitten and took her in. No owner turned up to claim her in response to the “found cat” posters they hung around, nor could they find an indication that someone was seeking her. They took care of the kitten and grew to love her, even though they knew they couldn’t keep her long-term, not in student housing. As time to come home for Thanksgiving neared, they knew they needed to find something to do with her. When they hinted at bringing her home, I was NOT in favor. I did NOT want a cat.

But I was starting to feel bad--bad that there was this cute kitten they’d bonded with who was probably going to end up in the animal shelter. Bad that my youngest daughter would love a cat so much, but I was Anti-Pet.

Cat that needs a home . .  . daughter who wants a cat. Oh, the guilt. And my youngest daughter has been having a hard time with her sisters gone at college. She’s on the tail end of the family after two boys, the same position my youngest sister was in—and my youngest sister was the one with the cats, and she appreciated having them while she was the last child at home. Maybe a cat would help my youngest daughter and be a companion for her. And did I really think I’d be able to hold a hard “no cats!” line for her entire childhood when she loves cats and I was already starting to feel like an ogre for holding out? If we were ever going to get a cat, now was a good time while she was young, so the cat’s lifespan could coincide with my daughter’s time at home. And my college daughters kept assuring me that cats were very low-maintenance pets, etc.

I finally buckled. I knew for a while that I was going to say yes before I could finally get myself to tell this to my college daughter—it was just so daunting to me to come right out and agree. I’ve always been so adamantly anti-pet that this was a BIG change for me.

We’ve had her for a week now, and she seems to like living here. It’s been a bumpy emotional ride for me, though—turns out that my cat-loving youngest daughter is scared of the cat. She loves her in theory, but living with a cat is new to her, and since this cat is still a kitten (6-9 months old, the vet said), she can be very spazzy, which scares the crud out of my daughter, who likes to approach animals (quiet animals) on her own terms. Her fear left me feeling like "Aaaaarrgh, what have I done? We got the cat for YOU—heaven knows, I don’t actually want a cat for ME!" But already my daughter is doing better. She’s still very skittish, but I know it’s just a matter of time before she’s comfortable with the cat. And my younger son adores her, and I've even seen my oldest son pick her up--I have a sneaking suspicion that he likes her too. 

I know it's just a matter of time before I'm comfortable too. I will get used to her, and grow to love her. Of course I hold her, and pet her, and feed her, but it’ll take me some time to really adjust. If you're someone who's comfortable with pets, you're probably wondering how I could possibly be so freaked out over a sweet little cat. It's hard to explain--it's just a huge psychological shift for me. A change. I'm not good with change, but I'll get there eventually. Who knew I would ever agree to a pet? What's next? Taking up skydiving?


  1. We did the same thing a little over a year ago, it still seems weird to me that I have a cat. But everybody loves him. (Yes, a him, to balance out the femaleness of our household!)

  2. Cats are awesome! (I really consider myself more of a dog person, but I like cats fine.)

    They end up being fairly low maintenance. Once she gets used to the routine in your house, it'll calm down. We can recommend the wand-type toy that has a string and a thingamabob on the end (feathers work great) and little stuffed things with catnip.

    Kind of depends on the cat's personality, too. Personable cats will make friends with anyone who will give them attention. Our cats bonded with my wife, so they stick with her, and barely tolerate anyone else. (Me included.)

    Congratulations, it's a big step! I'm so proud of you. =)

    What's her name?

    Jon, roommate of Silvie and Ashli

  3. Congratulations! Female cats are usually friendlier than males so the kitten will calm down. My son sometimes answers with meows too. His room is decorated with cats. He's also scared of our cat sometimes but that's because our cat is old and grumpy. Has your daughter read the Bad Kitty books or The Flying Flea, Callie, and Me?

  4. Don't let my kids read this! I have a similar attitude and background, plus a cat allergy. The koi outside are just fine, but my younger boys think a rodent would be a better companion. Ugh! Never! Or, not for a long time, anyway...

  5. I feel for you. While we've frequently had pets (no cats since I married my husband since he's allergic--and all our kids inherited his allergies). But it does take some getting used to. Hopefully your daughter and the kitteh will get used to each other.

    The thing that bugs me about cats is when they climb on the table and counters. *shudders*

  6. Oh, I love cats. Such sweet companions and so cuddly. Good for you for doing something out of your comfort zone. I'm sure you can use it in a book sometime . . . ;)

  7. Thanks for the comments and insights on cats! Jon, her name is Charlie. Works for either a boy or girl cat, I guess! Janice, my daughter has read one of the Bad Kitty books and loves it--we'll have to look for the others you suggested. T, if I had cat allergies, no way would I have agreed to this! :) And rodents . . . eeek! Donna, I totally agree about the counters and tables--that drives me crazy, and we're working to teach Charlie to stay OFF! Yuck.

  8. Oh my! You are not making me feel better about my adamant stand against pets. I agree with Julie, good for you for doing something out of your comfort zone. However, I think I will hold really tight to the excuse that I'm allergic to cats and my 6 year old gets allergy induced asthma from overexposure to dogs.