What I've learned about parenting from my ~temperamental~ kitten
Don’t let her cute face fool you – we call her our Rat Monster.
Every morning at around six, I wake to claws in my thighs and teeth in my ass. I reach, eyes still closed, beneath the comforter and yank my kitten away from my body, her claws then digging into my hand instead. I pass her on to her other cat mother, my girlfriend. She is still for a moment, but when our kitten begins to attack her, she whines, Baaaaaaaaabe, and I roll back over, desperate for another hour of sleep.
A little over a month ago, my girlfriend stumbled upon this beautiful kitten. One of her co-worker’s girlfriends came across a box full of kitties, and they were so small that the local shelter wasn’t going to be able to keep them. My girlfriend called me and the words came so quickly I almost didn’t understand what she said. “Can we get a cat?”
We’d been talking about getting a pet for months, but we always decided on a sad, but sure, nah, better not. They were too expensive. Too much work. Did we want a cat, or a dog? A lizard, or a fish? I’d only ever had dogs, and she’d only ever had cats, so we couldn’t come to a consensus. Plus, we’d be driving cross country (again) in a few weeks, and it would be too difficult to figure out how to have a happy pet for a five day drive across mountains, desert, and farmland.
But then we had to pick between letting this poor kitty die or becoming her parents, and the choice was obvious: it was time to become cat moms.
Fastforward, and our new kitten, Dr. Yang (named after our Grey’s Anatomy obsession and the first show we watched as a couple) was more accurately dubbed Rat Monster and was driving us absolutely batty.
On a regular basis, my girlfriend says, “Do you hate her?” I shrug and say no — it’s that I just don’t always like her very much. This was a position I stuck with until we went on a trip to my mom’s house up north and left our fuzzy disaster at her aunt’s house.
I cried when we dropped her off.
I couldn’t believe it. My girlfriend definitely couldn’t believe it. She can be a lot to handle, but she’s our baby. It felt weird to sit in a car without her in my lap, digging into and nipping at my kneecaps. I missed her bizarre smell and horrifying meow (it always sounds like she’s screaming) and desire to constantly sit on our shoulders like a parrot.
After we picked Dr. Yang up from my girlfriend’s aunts house, she threw up in her carrier. I wiped her down and she sat in my lap, purring and licking stray clumps of vomit from her fur. I walked to the bathroom and she followed, humming happily as she stepped into my pants while I peed.
As I peed, I looked down at my disaster cat and thought of all the times I wiped her poop from the walls (she kicked it from her box with glee), dug her out of my girlfriend’s curly hair, and removed her claws from my ass.
I supposed that this was what parenting was all about — not necessarily letting your child sit on the floor in your pants while you pee, but letting them be themselves, no matter how awful that self could be. Teaching them, but also loving them while they learn. Not always liking them, but not hating them, either. Not wanting them to be gone. Wanting them to be close, no matter which limb they decided to make their home for the day. Hoping they would become better with time, but loving them the best you can even if they don’t.
Even if they always kick their poop on the walls.