Can Kids and Pets Mix?

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My daughter Ava and I have started a new tradition: every once in a while, we like to visit the kitties at the Humane Society. My girlfriends think I’m crazy. “Doesn’t it break your heart?” they ask. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it doesn’t. I see the cats lounging in their semi-private studio apartments with wall-to-wall blanketing. Sure, they’re imprisoned, but this is hardly San Quentin. Bleeding hearts ask how I can resist bringing one home. I wonder if maybe I’m a little dead inside, because instead of seeing sad, homeless kitties, I have visions of litter boxes waiting to be scooped and a sofa in need of repair.

My daughter Ava and I have started a new tradition: every once in a while, we like to visit the kitties at the Humane Society. My girlfriends think I’m crazy. “Doesn’t it break your heart?” they ask. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it doesn’t. I see the cats lounging in their semi-private studio apartments with wall-to-wall blanketing. Sure, they’re imprisoned, but this is hardly San Quentin. Bleeding hearts ask how I can resist bringing one home. I wonder if maybe I’m a little dead inside, because instead of seeing sad, homeless kitties, I have visions of litter boxes waiting to be scooped and a sofa in need of repair.

Oshi

Besides, there’s a good chance that our cat Oshi would rip another cat’s head off. She once stood up to a raccoon. She’s 10-for-10 when it comes to dogs. Kitty jail doesn’t look so bad compared to an encounter with an overweight scorned tabby. We found Oshi ten years ago in Washington State. Or she found us. She howled outside our apartment one stormy night. I dried her, fed her tuna and she fell asleep in my arms. My hubby Ray said it was either the cat or him, so I said my goodbyes—to him. He eventually came around, even naming her, and the three of us relocated to Georgia (at which time he informed me that “Oshi” means “stupid” in Japanese). Our little family made five cross-country car trips together. We smuggled her into hotel rooms and hand-fed her McDonalds. I was pregnant the last time we made the trip and Oshi projectile vomited on me after a run-in with a bad nugget. That pretty much set the tone for her relationship with the baby on board.

Oshi and Ava

It’s partially my fault. Before Ava, Oshi was my everything. I tolerated her waking me at 5:30 so she could be fed. I bought her special treats and she had her own Christmas stocking. But six months of sleep deprivation changes a woman. We spray-bottled the early morning feedings away. Now Oshi’s “treat” is her cat food, when I remember to give it to her. Ava loved Oshi from the start. But sometimes petting her head looked more like dribbling a basketball and Oshi would lash out. Ava would look at her as if to say, “Why would you do that?” For the first two years, Oshi eyed our daughter as if she was the other woman. Now, she’s more or less indifferent. Each morning Ava tells her she loves her and kisses her on the head and I swear I see Oshi’s eyes roll.

Love Cat

At the Human Society last week, Ava and I took a litter of kittens into a room reserved for potential adopters to get to know the animals. For most people it’s the room of no return—either leave with a cat or a broken heart. But I had this. They were not, by my standards, cute kittens (Oshi has a beautiful striped coat). They were the color of the dust that collects in my vacuum and their eyes were a little too close together, like rats. Nonetheless, they were playful and sweet until one tried to eat my purse and another hissed every time I took a breath. The third—the dustiest and narrowest-eyed of them all—was contently curled up on Ava. When she tried to stand, the cat clung desperately to her skirt. “This cat really loves me!” she giggled, standing with a cat literally attached to her hip. To the cat’s relief, Ava sat down on a chair. It purred and massaged her with his paws before falling asleep in her arms. Meanwhile, I was shooing the little hisser away and trying to keep my purse from being mauled. “I’m going to name you Love Cat,” Ava declared.

"Best Day Ever"

While Love Cat slept, Ava told me how she was going to grow up to be a “cat petter.” She recounted all the things she knows about cats—how to approach them, carry them, what they like to do on the weekends. Maybe my four-year-old is the cat whisperer, because eventually Hisser and Shredder curled up on her as well. Twenty more minutes went by and I noticed that Ava was slumped uncomfortably in the chair. “You can move, Baby,” I told her. “I don’t want to wake them,” she whispered. And then: “This is the best day ever.” Crap.

Melting Heartstrings

I started to imagine our house with Love Cat in it. How he would snuggle up with our only child, let her dress him in baby clothes and parade him for her friends. They would be besties, Love Cat and Ava. Suddenly, my once-frozen heartstring began to melt. I texted my husband and asked if we could adopt Love Cat. His response: “Hell. To. The. No.” But it was too late. I’d seen the possibilities. Nothing had ever made my child this happy (I know, because she has it all) and I couldn’t turn back. As if on cue, the lady whose nametag read “Adoption Specialist,” came in and offered us the paperwork to get the process rolling. Before I could take it, the Cat Petter said, “I already have a cat.” Huh? In my head, I was thinking how much Oshi sucks. She vomits once a week, tries to sit on my keyboard while I type and backs her kitty sphincter up to my face if I don’t get out of bed to feed her. Ava didn’t know what she’s missing.

I Started to Notice Oshi Again

When we got home, Oshi was sleeping on the couch like she does 80% of the time. I began romanticizing about a life with Love Cat, how she’d entertain and love us. How she’d give back, not just take. While comparing Oshi’s faults to Love Cat’s superiority, I’d become more aware of her than I had for four years. I noticed that she followed me into every room. When I sat down, she jumped on my lap. When I crawled into bed, she snuggled against me. The cat loves me.

The Comparison Trap

It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap. To think that there’s something better out there—a husband who vacuums, a daughter who eats leafy vegetables or a cat that doesn’t vomit. The grass may seem greener, but maybe you have to mow and water it more often. The important thing is that you love the people (or pets) in your life for who they are. Be happy with what you have, because you made a promise to do so. Another lesson, compliments of my four-year-old.

About the Author

Andrea Goto writes The Culinary Coward, a monthly humor column for PaulaDeen.com about her struggle to become a domestic goddess, or more simply, to cook an edible meal. She writes her own Blog, Mom Without Makeup, which discusses the messy art of modern mothering. Andrea lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia, with her 4-year old daughter (who thinks she’s a superhero), her husband (who is a superhero) and one geriatric cat.

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