I am not a cat person. Not even close.
I’m the avoid-eye-contact, tense up, allergic visitor to a home where a cat immediately recognises my distaste and chooses to rub my nose in its fluffy, sneeze-inducing, outfit-ruining dander. Never in a million years would my various cat-loving flatmates have guessed that I might choose to have one of those demanding little fur tyrants to live in my home.
Nor would I have predicted it. Though now that I do have a fur monarch ruling in my house, I recognise Sidney’s value, if not for me, for the kids.
How Sidney came to be a member of our household is a story about suckers: My oldest daughter, G1, wanted to pet a cat. She loved the idea of petting a cat to point of shouting at and chasing down the neighbourhood felines. As you can imagine, this didn’t go well and I felt a bit sorry for her. I put a call out on Facebook to see if any of my friends had young, easy going, co-operative cats who wouldn’t mind being mauled by a 3YO. One suggestion was a trip to our local SPCA because the cats there are desperate for some love.
The trap may seem obvious to you but I am no bleeding heart. I do not swoon for cute things (babies taught me the danger of this). And while I have tolerated feline flatmates over the years, I have never wanted the responsibility of a pet and I just knew I couldn’t offer a cat the home it deserved, because it’s a living thing; living things deserve respect and love. Neither of which I had for cats.
At the SPCA, Sidney was the second adult cat we came across. He was short haired and friendly and desperate enough to allow G1 some cuddling while not being so desperate to repel me. I kind of despise things that show weakness – it’s a hang up from being a sensitive kid. I looked at Sidney in the small room packed with about 20 other male cats and thought, “Well, I don’t need to love you to offer you a better life than this. We have doors at our house”.
So Sidney came home with us a week later.
Sidney has become an integral part of the household and is certainly teaching the kids a few things about life – for which I am grateful and have the utmost respect. As far as I can tell, Sidney has really offered some practical education about about life where I am only able to offer theory.
5 practical life lessons the cat is teaching the children
1. The whole world won’t bow to you
Cats are the absolute masters of this universal law. No matter how much you use a stern voice with a cat, he will not come unless he wants to. G1’s futile attempts to lure Sidney into her tepee have definitely instilled some humbleness in my daughter, hopefully honing her leadership skills. As you may have gleaned from my other articles, G1 has a little thing about control and bossiness (which she may or may not have learned from her mother). Dictators are not true leaders, I want her to know. The defiance of this cat may prevent the political unravelling of my daughter later in life.
2. Fear does not necessarily mean threat
My stepson had an outrageous and totally ungrounded fear of animals. Unbelievable really – to the point he wouldn’t go into friends’ houses who had pets. Walking to school, I would have to physically hold his arm to prevent him from running across the street away from neighbourhood animals. (Oddly, he has no reasonable fear of cars on the road). Left unchecked for much longer, this was going to develop into a full-blown adult phobia and potentially some serious marital issues for me and my husband. Timid at first, he has now warmed to Sidney and just chilled the eff out about cats in general.
3. Friends don’t have to be the same age, gender or even species
My daughters, G1 and G2, absolutely adore Sidney. He is G1’s most trusted confidante and G2’s most size comparable playmate. It only gets ugly sometimes when they want the same piece of newspaper. If I had known what a distraction a cat could be for young children, I would have adopted one ages ago to take the pressure off me. There could have been so many more quiet ½ cups of tea.
4. Natural consequences
Cats don’t like have their hair pulled or their faces squished. Neither do people. I don’t begrudge Sidney one bit for taking a swipe at G1 after she pulls his tail in an attempt to tie a bow or just exercise the power of torture. One swipe of learning is worth a thousand cautionary words.
G1 knows (now) that Sidney doesn’t like his tail being grabbed which she has, in turn, tried to teach G2 (who at 10 months isn’t quite an engaged learner just yet). The older children both know Sidney loves to play with his fur mouse on an elastic leash. Observation reveals when he wants to go outside or come back in (usually, 30 seconds later much to my exasperation). If nothing else, Sidney offers an opportunity for the kids to reflect on differences of opinion and experience. Sidney doesn’t like ice cream, Mum. Why does Sidney go across the street by himself? What does his food taste like?
And eventually one day, Sidney will certainly teach us about Life and Death.
And then I won’t have to feed him anymore.