I’ve never had a real pet. A few goldfish lasted several weeks, but that was as close as I came. My mom and I are allergic to both cats and dogs, so that was one substantial obstacle. Plus, growing up, my family travelled a lot, so having a pet never made much sense. When I was sailing, I always wanted to get a cat to act as a companion on long, lonely passages, but again the allergies (along with customs difficulties) precluded me from ever acting on my desire. (I envisioned getting a sure-footed, stoic cat that would sit still like a Buddha whether we were enduring a squall or lying becalmed, listening passively to my incoherent ramblings as I drifted deeper and deeper into insanity. In my imagination, I named him Donald Crowhurst.)
When I was married in July and Megan moved out to Santa Monica, two diametrically opposing backgrounds converged. She had always had a pet (at times, several) and couldn’t imagine life without a furry companion. I was amenable to the idea of a cat, but needed to find one that wouldn’t upset my allergies. So, after 32 pet-free years, Megan and I adopted a beautiful Siberian kitten on December 29th. My first foray into pet ownership has not been without its challenges. Although we’ve only had our cat for less than a month, I’ve already learned the following valuable lessons:
Cats are nocturnal. Having a kitten is similar to what I would imagine it would be like to have a child. During the first week that our cat spent with us, it would sleep most of the day, then go crazy between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm. It would race around the apartment chasing ghosts, jump aimlessly at the wall, dart under furniture, and just generally act like it was nuts. This would be followed by a down time that provided us enough quiet to go to sleep. After a couple of hours of sleep, we’d often be woken around 2:00 am by the cat licking our faces and trying to climb under the covers to play. At first, we would take the kitten out and play with it until it went back to sleep. Obviously, this was unsustainable, so we kept it out of our bedroom. Unfortunately, the little bugger has already figured out a way to slide through the crack in the doors. The final indignity occurs around sunrise when he again sneaks into the bedroom looking to play. The upside of this experiment is that it is painfully clear that we aren’t ready for kids.
Kittens have boundless energy and always want to play. No matter what the cat is doing, at the sound of a bell it comes racing toward the noisemaker and leaps at the toy without any thought for where it will land. Luckily, the cat seems to be indestructible. Shockingly, the cat can play for hours chasing a stick with a bell and feather attached to the end. Long after I’ve lost interest, he will still be scrambling intently after the cheap toy. I’m hopeful that the cat will grow out of this phase and be as beaten down by life as the rest of us, but it is showing no signs of letting up.
Cats are great climbers. Our cat likes to be up high and it is constantly scanning above for a foothold. Whether the foothold is stable or not, if it leads to a higher place, then it is worth a jump. Even spraying the determine alpinist with water does little to deter its upward intentions. Of course, it doesn’t help that our kitten seems fond of water. We will often come home to see it perched in the sink. If the bathroom door is left ajar, the cat will hop into the wet shower, and the little creature comes rushing to the sound of flowing water. Unfortunately, the cat doesn’t seem aware when it is sopping wet and strolls around the apartment looking like a wet rat.
Cats are curious creatures. The world is a fascinating place when viewed through the eyes of a cat. In the morning, it follows me as I open up the house. It waits patiently while I take a shower, then inspects the bathtub afterwards for clues. It observes me brushing my teeth, never taking its eyes off me. It stares intently as I eat breakfast. It angles for a view as I wash my dishes. No task is too trivial. Every new item brought into the house is a new opportunity for discovery. Every smell requires more research. The curiosity is literally endless. This is cute in the morning and endearing in the evening, but downright annoying in the middle of the night.
In short, having a cat is a great deal of work. Megan carries most of the burden, making sure the thing is fed and doing whatever needs to be done with the litter box. My responsibilities mainly include playing with it and trying to tire it out so that it sleeps through the night, a role that I have not played to much acclaim thus far. Still, despite the challenges of taking care of this attention-craving cat, there are plenty of times when it is completely tuckered out and is just puddy in my hands. During those rare peaceful moments, it will curl up with me and emanate such a sense of contentment that it is impossible not to share the feeling. I can only hope that as the kitten grows older those times will become more common while the crazy moments will become less frequent.