My boyfriend has had a cat for the past five years. We started dating about a year after he got her (for the curious, she’s a Maine coon named Arya), and although I grew up with dogs, the cat and I gradually came to a mutual understanding that we are not rivals for his affection. We’ve more or less gotten along ever since, which is about the most you can expect from a cat. Because, well… she’s a CAT.
In fact, Arya and I have gotten along well enough that the BF I decided if we ever moved in together, we’d get a second cat—and lo and behold, this summer we took the plunge and are now cohabiting. And guess what? We did in fact follow through on the cat promise. About a month ago, we took a trip down to our local animal shelter and came home with a beautiful six-month-old rescue cat with the most gorgeous little kitty eyes I’ve ever seen. We named her Nymeria, and I love her to pieces.
Based on how I’ve handled raising her so far, though, I am also convinced that I would be an absolutely terrible mother.
I turned 28 this year, an age at which many start “settling down” and having families; but although I wouldn’t say I’ve made the choice to remain childless, I’ve never had a particularly strong urge to have kids. I’ve witnessed enough bad parenting to know that it is very, VERY easy to screw up, and to be honest, I’ve never been totally convinced that I’d be able to do it successfully myself. What I have determined so far is that if parenting a child is anything like parenting a kitten—which I imagine it is, only a LOT more so—then I would, in fact, be FANTASTICALLY ill-equipped to do it without making a total has of it. Here’s why.
Sometimes she falls asleep like this.
1. I am liable to overfeed.
Generally, I’m pretty good about not overfeeding myself. I am TERRIBLE, however, when it comes to not overfeeding others. Nymeria will eat anything not nailed down, which probably has something to do with the fact that she’s a rescue kitten; she’s not necessarily used to food being a regular occurrence, or not having to fight other animals for food when it’s there. She’s also still a baby, so do with that what you will. Anyway, the point is that BECAUSE she’ll eat anything not nailed down regardless as to whether or not she’s actually hungry, I always worry that we’re not feeding her enough. I mean, we definitely ARE feeding her enough, but that’s not stopping me from worrying anyway. I’m pretty sure this would apply to a human child if I happened to have one, too, which would mostly likely result in a little butterball of a kid. Not so good.
2. I don’t know how to deal with tiny, hyperactive creatures.
No matter how much we play with her during the day, Nym gets really, REALLY hyper between the hours of 9pm and midnight every night. I don’t know why this is; sometimes I think she has the kitty equivalent of ADHD. The least problematic manifestation of this hyperactivity involves her running laps around the apartment. The most problematic one, though? Is when she decides she wants to wrestle with you—and by “wrestle,” I mean “attacks your arm/legs/other limbs repeatedly by hooking her claws and teeth in so tightly that it is impossible to pry them out without pulling chunks of your own flesh with them.” This has long been one of Arya’s favorite ways to play, so the BF and I are kind of used to it… but Nym bites and claws SO. MUCH. HARDER. And it HURTS. And I have NO IDEA HOW TO MAKE HER STOP (see: I am bad at disciplining others). Babies are bigger than cats, so what on earth do you do when one of THEM bites down on your hand and won’t let go—and thinks it’s HILARIOUS while you writhe in agony?
“Whatcha reading?” (‘The Accursed’ by Joyce Carol Oates.)
3. I am bad at disciplining others.
Or perhaps more accurately, I am bad at disciplining others in any situation other than a work-based one. When it comes to work, I run a pretty tight ship; anyone who has worked with me (especially in my other life as a director and stage manager) knows that while I’m generally approachable and like to create a pleasant work atmosphere, I expect my team—and myself, of course—to do the job, and to do it well. If that’s not happening for some reason, I’ll find a way to make it happen. Nicely—but firmly.
For some reason, though, I cannot seem to bring this quality to my everyday life. This means that I am having a HECK of a time teaching Nym what she is and isn’t allowed to do—which, really, is one of the most important elements of parenting, isn’t it? I keep softening up because I don’t want her to get mad at me or associate me only with being yelled at, even though this is exactly what I should NOT be doing as a good Kitty Mum. Not unrelated:
4. I am always afraid I am going to break her.
Cats are not as fragile as I always feel like they are. As my boyfriend keeps telling me, she needs to understand that her humans are the dominant ones, and demonstrating our dominance will not cause her to fall into little bitty kitty pieces. But I still feel like it might! Which brings us to…
Find out on the next page!