Family comes in many forms. I have one human son. In reality, I really have two children.
When my husband and I first began our “serious relationship”, our first major stepping stone together as a couple, aside from co-habitation, was adopting our cat. I originally wanted a cat, and saw a mother and two kittens lingering around the fire escape. Logically, I couldn’t just rescue one; it needed it’s sibling. And they couldn’t be without Mum. Luckily for Ryan, a neighbor took them in during this conversation in which I was trying to convince him that we needed them more than they needed us. He wanted absolutely no pets – so he compromised and we got Dimitri.
I searched Craigslist for local rescues and found the cutest Russian Blue – a phone call and short trip to PetSmart and an hour later, we brought our little “fur baby” home. He was rescued by a couple in Jacksonville (Florida) who not only take in animals, but perform “Native American Weddings and Paranormal Investigations.” (I thought it an odd mix, but I don’t ask questions) They adopted Dimitri the day before he would have been put down at the animal shelter, being there too long. They put the animals, mostly cats, back online to find forever homes. We donated a bag of kitten food in exchange for our kitty, and as much as I really wanted ALL of the other kittens in the crate he was hanging out with, I knew Ryan wouldn’t allow it. It literally took weeks to convince him of one, after three already didn’t work, so best not to push my luck.
Since the first night at home, Dima (his shorter name) has slept in our bed, forcing one of us to share a pillow. Yes, he needs a pillow for his head. He also requires the milk from your cereal, his cat-nip stuffed sea turtle must be object of a game at least once a night, and he ‘helps’ you in the bathroom by keeping one company while you’re…doing whatever in there. He has his own ways and personality. Ryan and I have both commented on how fitting it was that we ended up with him, and how he filled our home with so much more love.
Then when I became pregnant, we excitedly told Dima he was going to be a “big brother” and made promises to always give him enough attention. “Nothing will be any different.” I even joked that a day would come that I would find myself holding either the fur or human child as my husband held the other, and we would have to “switch off”, so they didn’t grow jealous. I wasn’t prepared for the cynicism towards my beloved cat that soon followed. Too many times I heard, “You gotta get rid of that cat. They’re bad for pregnant women. They’re bad for babies.”
The thing is: you wouldn’t “get rid” of your first child, for absolutely no reason, when you’re expecting another. Why would you do the same to a pet? Especially one you raised since a baby (er..kitten)! Your animals depend on you for everything: love, security, sustenance, connection…why would you just abandon them? Sometimes, in unfortunate circumstances, pets need to be rehomed, but for just no reason other than, “Well, you’re going to have a real baby now…”the whole notion just strikes me as absurd.
is very real, and can lead to a lot of harmful complications with the developing fetus, including blindness. BUT, as my midwife put it, “You don’t have to get rid of your cat. Just don’t play with it’s poop.” I avoided the litterbox and either my husband or Mom cleaned it. Other than that, Dimitri posed no risk to my growing baby, and I didn’t have to give him away.
I eventually came to the conclusion that some people are just that heartless – they could adopt a pet and love it, and give it a good life. And then just turn their back, at the drop of a hat. Sure, most will make sure they find it a good home, but that doesn’t mean the poor animal is going to adjust easily or forget quickly. If you aren’t willing to make a lifelong commitment to an animal, then don’t adopt. Because they don’t deserve to have the only home they know taken away, for no other reason than disinterest. Especially when they pose no real threat that can’t be contained.
When we adopted Dima, we made that promise-that we would be there for his entire life. Dima is no different than my other child. I’m his Mom-and he needs me. Writing this has reminded of the Disney movie ‘Lilo & Stitch’ and it’s true… “Ohana means family”. No one is left behind or forgotten. Your pets are family too. He’s now two (human) years old, and absolutely loves his “little brother”…most of the time. We are working on not chasing our kitty around the house.
|The real Dimitri Hewitt