baby steps

For the last, I don’t know how long, I’ve been bugging my roommate to get a new cat.  With the changes in my life, I’ve been spending more time alone.  With our other cats.  Our boring, middle-aged, sleep-all-day sweet girls.  I love them, but they were making me sleep too much when I probably should have been having fun.

There were other reasons, of course.  I just wanted something else to love–that pure, unadulterated love that used to come so easily to me–but doesn’t anymore.

So, after far too much discussion and weeks of waiting–on Sunday, we finally adopted a kitten.  A kitten mostly because one of my cats (Cleo) is as aggressive as they come with other cats and did not do so well when I first introduced her to Fogg.  I figured a little kitten would balance the still often tense power dynamics in the house while bringing a youthful energy into the fold.  I also figured a kitten would probably not try to kill our other fur-friends.

His name is Rilke.  Say hi.

With any cat, I think every new owner goes through a day of not really being sure they did the right thing.  I remember it happened with Cleo when I first got her.  She was extremely sick and slept all day.  I had to hand-feed her and give her medicine several times a day.  I kept her in my Mama’s bedroom since I was in the midst of packing everything up to move.  Fogg, when I first got her, was extremely aggressive in terms of her need to have my non-stop attention–which immediately caused Cleo to hate her.  And then started a six month ordeal I never would have thought would happen.  Cleo had happily lived with a dog prior to Fogg, with no issues at all.

With Rilke, there are some challenges.  Little dude squirms like a madman.  He’s so independent that it’s hard to reign him in.  He will not really be held, unless he’s about to pass out.  Taking his picture is the equivalent of solving the Middle East crisis.  He cries almost non-stop–not loudly, but enough to drive you bonkers when you’re used to an extremely quiet house.  We can’t have his stuff with the other cat stuff, in a convenient part of our apartment, because we’re still afraid the other cats will attack him.  And, well, he’s just so damn playful–I’m terrified he’ll try to jump off the balcony–in pursuit of the many people and dogs that walk by every single moment of the day.  Fogg, surprisingly, did not take to him.  His frenetic, unpredictable energy freaks her out.  She hissed and now uneasily accepts his presence.  Cleo, after a day of hiding under J’s bed, came out of hiding to claim the couch.  She then spent a day under my papasan chair.  J coaxed her out, with much hullabaloo, and then she seemed to mellow.  Last night, she actually slept with me–in her spot–and kept my squirmy little friend at bay–so I slept.  She has not chased him.  She has not started poop wars.  She does not hiss at me (anymore).  And that’s good because I don’t think I could handle the whole household losing their minds.  Rilke’s break-in during my shower this morning–and subsequent leg-climbing in the shower–was enough to make ME lose it.

He’s a handful.  No doubt about it.

But I love him.  Like hardcore, instant love.  He’s exuberant and alive.  He’s sweet and playful.  When he falls asleep in your arms, you can’t help but melt.  The first night, the little dude literally fell asleep massaging my face.  And I almost didn’t mind–in spite of all the jumping, the broken lamp, and interrupted sleep.

My favorite thing? He loves to rub my face and will frequently headbutt me.  It’s more endearing than it sounds.

There’s an innocence in him that I’ve missed in myself, and it’s bringing out that part of me.  Something I think I desperately needed.


My Mama loved animals.  She grew up on a farm.  There are so many stories about her and the various animals she lived with.  I have all the stories locked up in my memory, and one day, I will write them all down.

I love animals, too.  Mostly, I think because my childhood home was overrun with them.  Every kid in our neighborhood would bring us the cats they found or the ones their parents said they couldn’t keep.  And we’d keep them.  Or find better homes.  We once had 23 cats, and I have seen three litters of kittens born to two different kitty Mamas.  I’ve cared for each and every one of those 15 little monkeys.  I taught them all to eat (and then barf up) mashed potatoes and to climb stairs.  I kept five little kittens alive using formula and a heating pad.  And if I hadn’t have been so afraid of blood, I probably would have become a vet.  Instead, I went to school for bio and comm, so I could save bigger animals in exotic places.

I don’t mind being called a cat lady.  I come from a long line of them.  But I will pretend to be outraged if you call me that.

I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve forgotten.  Were the kittens from my youth just perfect angels?  I guess, it’s possible.  Maybe, my Mama was just so good at getting them to behave.  She knew everything about kittens.

I’m finding, with little Rilke, I’m having to relearn a language I’ve forgotten.  That scolding a cat does no good, but loving them changes everything.  And if you ignore them, they’ll eventually stop fussing.

I am reminded, in caring for this kitten, of my old fear about being a mother–that I am not prepared or ready–that I am ill-equipped.  But I’ve taken care of things–animals, people.  I am nurturing.  I’ve proven this to myself.  And yet, when this little kitten has been crying for 2 hours straight, I have to remind myself not to give in and to just pretend he’s not there.

I am learning.  Some more.


Today, I was texting someone, and autocorrect replaced “with” with my Mama’s name.  I haven’t seen her name written out in a long time.  I never write it out, as she was just Mama and that’s how I refer to her.  It made me stop for a minute.  It made me think about what she would do with this squirmy little man, and it made me calm.

It also reminded me that it’s almost December.  And it’s time I changed the story and became her peer.  Not just her daughter.  But the adult she raised me to be.  Not the child who’s still grieving her absence.


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