I just realized that yesterday was National Pet Day, and I forgot to get you a present! Instead, let me tell you story…
Five years ago, Beef and I brought home our first baby, Phillip from Kay’s Animal Shelter. Actually, I brought him home in a cardboard box with holes poked in the side after he’d a had a seizure-like episode on the counter while I was paying my 60 bucks ($40 I had in my wallet, $20 I had to borrow from my dad) and the guy said, “I’d pick a different one if I was you.”
From the get-go, we had a special bond. Like, he has his own Facebook page. And I dressed him in clothes. And he minded none of this. His favorite food is Goldfish (the crackers, not the fish) and his favorite place to sleep is in the hammock-nook my legs make every night, as I sleep with them in a number-4 configuration.
Every night ‘round bedtime, he’d get nuts and bite us. So we decided we needed another cat– should the day ever come that we had a baby, Phillip needed someone else to take his aggression out on. That’s when we got Eleanor, the scrappy street stray. There were rumors she’d had a litter already. She was basically tough and hated us, and that just made us want her more.
They got along great. We were one big happy family. And then, when we found out a new kitten was on the way, we had to move to a bigger place.
I was so worried. Phillip has a nervous bladder. And tush. Basically, if the litter temperature is not just right, he lets loose where ever. But they both handled the re-location like champs– in fact very obviously favoring our new environs to the old. Longer hallways to run down; higher window sills to jump up on.
But it was time to prepare for Baby, and that meant Phillip couldn’t sleep in the bed with us. They had their own room– yes, we moved to a place where our CATS WHO DON’T PAY RENT could have their OWN ROOM. I started practicing with them. I am so serious here. I would put them in the room, sit on the couch in said room, and read What to Expect When You’re Expecting until both cats fell asleep, and then I’d sneak out. They both learned to be ok. I still have not learned that skill. I tell myself this was preparing myself for motherhood, but let’s be honest. This is just crazy cat-lady stuff.
When Posey arrived six weeks early, all of our coming-home drills went out the window. Although I was now officially a Stay-At-Home Mom, I was gone every single day for three long weeks from 8 am to 8pm, spending my time at the NICU with the baby.
And that’s when the pooping started.
I’d come home to find it right by the front door, Phillip’s very special “Welcome home, F-You!” He knew something was different. And when Posey did come home, Beef and I both expected the worse. We were pretty sure he would bite her. We were already fighting about it basically while I was in labor. In my head, we were getting a divorce over the fact that he was making me choose between him and the cat. Because naturally, a mother chooses her baby. Also, I had protected the crib with one of these, so we were safe.
But then… they both just sniffed her. A perfunctory sniff, at best. No biggie. We’d brought home a few hospital blankets with her scent on them to try to prepare them, but who knows if that did anything. There was only one scary moment where I thought Po was a a goner, and it was this one right here:
The worst part of the whole experience turned out to be Phillip unlearning his “sleep in his own room” training, and I was yet to be experienced in the Cry It Out Method. When we’d get up every two or three hours to feed her, the cat would hear us up and think it was morning and time to come out– prompting him to scream like someone was chopping his tail off with a rusty butter knife. It was either get rid of the baby, or drug the cat.
Now I spend a few minutes every couple weeks cutting up regular, human Prozac into uneven, crumbly little morsels. Phillip’s a lot happier, but I think that’s mostly due to the fact that he’s been allowed back into the figure-4 formation in my bed. And while Eleanor still has yet to give Posey more than a couple glances, I can tell that Phillip is really trying. He comes around. He didn’t even mind the couple of time she’s grabbed his tail.
They do both love her stuff— Eleanor can usually be found relaxing either on the changing table or the Boppy Newborn Lounger, and Phillip enjoys riding shotgun in the undercarriage of our Bob Revolution. It’s like a sidecar:
So, if you are getting ready to bring home a baby and are worried about the cat(s) in your life not adjusting well, my three best pieces of advice (plus one moral guideline) are:
- If you are able, make sure your cat has a companion that he or she already likes to hang out with since you’re about to be a lot less available. If that’s not doable, make it a priority to spend time with your cat after the baby comes home (if that’s what they’re used to).
- Don’t ever leave your cat alone with the baby until you are 100% sure in the core of your soul’s very being that nothing awful will come of it.
- Read the ASPCA’s actually-useful information here. This was the #1 most helpful thing on the web I could find when I was searching.
- Don’t be that jerk who gets rid of their pet because they got a baby instead.