Feline Parenting Lessons

After a relentless campaign by the kids over the Summer, we adopted two kittens from PAWS Cat City. Now our home is once again filled with the sounds, smells, and detritus of young feline chaos.

One aspect of pet ownership the kids were excited to experience, in their words, was “being a mom and dad to kitties”. Little did they know how accurate that turned out for them.

How It Begins

Straight away the kids experienced the non-glamorous responsibilities of kitten parenting. I made sure they honored their agreement to feed them, and scoop the box on a daily basis. Their responses to having screen and play time interrupted at random intervals by these responsibilities began to sound familiar.

“Oh no! They pooped again! It STINKS!”

“Why are you still hungry? I just fed you!”

During those early days the kids were awakened earlier than they wanted to be by two furry alarm clocks demanding food and playtime. Getting the kids going on school mornings became a lot easier for me because the kittens were doing the wake-up work. I tried not to take it personally when the kids sometimes seemed happy to be awakened by them. They don’t greet me with a smile first thing on those mornings.

Before long the kids were experiencing a perpetual cycle of sleep loss, feeding, poop patrol, emergency trips to the store for more food. It’s like the kittens were running a parenting boot camp. This continued as the tiny kittens grew into slightly larger kittens. “Dad, they’re fighting all the time! How come they fight so much and then nap together?”, my son wondered.

“Be thankful they nap at the same time…” I muttered. Comments like this always draw quizzical reactions from the kids until they realize what I mean.

Whispering Words of Kitty Wisdom

As the kittens grow larger the differences in their personalities have begun to show. One kitten is the explorer, climbing up to every surface and following you through every open door. The other is The Huntress, hiding in the shadows ready to pounce on everything that can be considered a toy. So, when it came time for bed there was a marked difference in where each kitten wanted to be for the night. My daughter’s kitten likes to be on her bed in a box she made for him, spending most of the night right next to her pillow. My son’s kitten? A much different story. “Dad,”, the boy spoke sadly, “Venice doesn’t want to sleep with me in the box I made for her.” Here comes another feline parenting lesson.

“Well, sometimes your kitty isn’t going to do what you want her to do,” I replied. “Your challenge now is to figure out the ways she likes to be with you and just let her be. What I discovered is Venice likes to sneak under the covers all the way down to the foot of my bed and spend the night there. Let’s see if she will do that for you.”

I brought the sleepy, slightly annoyed kitten into the kids’ bedroom and my son lifted up his comforter. Immediately the coal black kitty dove under the comforter and skulked all the way to the foot of the bed. We could hear her purr through the thick blanket. “See? She likes being with you, Just let her do it the way she wants.”

My son was appropriately mollified, happy to have a new furry, purring foot warmer. It may not be the way he would like it, but the kitten is with him now and that’s all he really wants.

Parents Interrupted

There came a moment recently when our parenting lives matched in a surprising fashion. I was already in bed, nearly asleep, when my daughter came in.

“Dad, have you seen Simba? I can’t find him and I’m worried.”

I murmured in the dark “Well, don’t worry. I’m sure he’ll show up when he’s ready.”

“Ok…” and off she went back to bed.

A few minutes went by, I was nearly asleep and then she visited me again, holding her kitten. “I found him! I’m taking him to bed now. C’mon, Simba. It’s time for bed…” I rolled over and finally drifted off, only to be awakened once again.

“Dad. Simba keeps jumping around on my bed and wanting to play when I’m trying to get to sleep.”

I remained motionless with a pillow over my head. “So, you’re saying you can’t get to sleep because your kid keeps coming in to your room and waking you up?”

Dad!

It was clear both kitten and kid wanted attention. When my daughter visits me to complain about not being able to get to sleep, it usually means something is on her mind. So while the kitten ran about the house looking for fun, the kid and I sat on my bed together. I told her stories of the many times she woke me up. The crying jags, the thousands of laps through the house carrying her on my shoulder while humming a song. I told her of all of those moments where she found playing with our fingers and looking at picture books preferable to sleeping.

“Sometimes, they just don’t want to sleep.”

Soon she started to yawn and it was time for all of us, felines included, to finally call it a night. We waited in silence for a moment, listening for the sound of kittens. Nothing. Then my daughter said the most parent-like thing a parent says.

“I think he is asleep now but I want to go check on him anyway.”

Welcome to parenting.

October 25, 2019 at 2:00 pm 1 comment

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