I cashed in all my proverbial chips for my 50th birthday. I don’t usually ask for much but knew that for the big 5-0 my request had to be monumental. I needed to ask for the one thing hubby had not wanted to give me: an animal.
We’d had a dog for most of our marriage and, in fact, when we took our vows agreed that we’d have a dog at a time when we weren’t sure if we wanted kids. We had 13 years with Bailey, our beagle, and he was an integral part of us, yet not all of our time with him had been pleasant. Although he’d been sweet, loving, fun, and adorable, he’d also been stubborn, willful, and sometimes downright stupid. He’d been the source of much love and pleasure and, especially toward the end of his life, anger and sorrow. My husband’s relationship with the dog had been like that of Elliot and E.T. – they were in sync. When the dog finally died, my husband grieved deeply.
I’d wanted another dog almost immediately. My spouse did not. Our son was 6 at the time and my daughter was one. We were busy with kids. At the end of the dog’s life, I’d spent much of my time not only changing Diva’s diapers, but changing Bailey’s as well. Diva was, and still is, an active child. A dog would be an afterthought, a stressor we did not need. And with my son’s schedule becoming more complicated, I sadly agreed that a dog would not be smart to have in our immediate future.
Still, I love having animals around. We had a hamster and she was sweet, but not as interactive as something bigger. She didn’t get in your face with a greeting when you came home. You really couldn’t hold her and stroke her for an extended period of time. The animal that fit the bill was a cat.
I was not a feline fan. At the cat shows we’d attended (my mother-in-law is a huge cat person) the people showing the animals were cold, aloof, suspicious. I understood that were protective of their show animals, but the people at the dog shows we’d attended had been warm and welcoming. Plus there’s the stereotype of cat people: obsessively anthromorphic individuals who treated cats like babies (of course, there are plenty of dog people like that, too). I didn’t want to become one of those. But I NEEDED an animal, so I began to research.
I learned that cats require much less care than dogs. You don’t have to take them out (duh!), they don’t need as much veterinary care, and you can actually leave them for a day or two without anyone looking in on them. I researched different breeds, not that it was going to make a difference because I knew I’d be getting one from a shelter. I did a cost-analysis of approximately how much per year it would cost us to keep a cat. Then I started visiting shelters, warning their staff that I was NOT getting an animal that day. The shelter employees were wonderful with that because an informed person is less likely to return an animal than an impulse adopter. I spoke with the people at the shelters about the individual kittens and about cats in general. I fell in love with a few kittens, but knew that the ultimate decision had to be a family one.
When I finally took the whole family down to St. Hubert’s in Madison, I’d already been there four times. I had a few kitten candidates in mind and the children had their favorites as well. Hubby looked cautiously around the “Cattery” and questioned the volunteer workers. He stretched his hand out to pet a few contenders. I’d had my heart set on getting an orange kitten because I’d heard they were gentler but in one of St. Hubert’s brilliant promotions (October was Halloween Month – black, orange, or black and orange kittens were half price), the orange babies had already been adopted. We opened the cage of a cute black kitten named Feisty and were surprised when it jumped on top of my son’s head. She was cute, but more active than we liked. Then her roommate, Petunia, came to the edge of the cage and licked my hand. A kitten who licked like a dog?! A cat who was affectionate like a dog…hmmm. Could anything be more perfect?
Petunia was renamed Cossette and at 10 months old, she’s very affectionate and sweet. She’s become the fifth member of the family, keeping me company as I write, playing with the kids, playfully nipping my husband’s toes, and being the perfect combination of dog and cat (dat or cog?). She reduces the stress level in our lives merely with her existence. Asking for her for my birthday has been the savviest thing I’ve done in a long time. Plus, she’ll be with me long after the kids are in college; the cat will fill my empty nest. She was definitely worth every chip I had to cash in to get her.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by MomsCrayon, a New Jersey mom.
Photo credit given to The Humane Society.