Photo by: Kaitlin Oki /Nevada Sagebrush
By Stephanie Self
The day that I got my cat, Cleocatra (Cleo for short), I had no intentions of bringing an 8-week-old kitten home with me. I had been toying with the idea of getting a cat because I had recently moved into an apartment alone for the first time. Because I am an unapologetic introvert, I was quite happy to live without roommates, but I also wanted a companion, preferably one that didn’t speak and was cuddly.
Initially, I went to Animal Services with my cousin to drop off an injured pigeon we found the day before. After hearing that the pigeon was beyond saving and would have to be euthanized, my cousin was so distraught that she insisted we go next door to the Nevada Humane Society to “look” at kittens. About two hours later, I was smitten with an adorable and vocal brown tabby with green eyes. I didn’t consider any of the others they had; she was the first one I noticed and was pawing through her kennel as soon as I walked in. I like to say she chose me too.
A couple of months later, however, I wasn’t so sure about my decision. Having not had my own pet before, let alone a kitten, I didn’t have all of the experience needed to raise one. I had naively envisioned a life with Cleo that would have primarily involved her, well, not being insane. Then Cleo revealed herself to be quite a high-maintenance kitty. She meowed constantly and loudly. She wanted to play rough by biting and clawing at my forearm. She liked knocking garbage cans over and pulling posters off the walls. With everything else that I was dealing with outside of my home, the last thing I wanted was to have a mischievous (albeit heartbreakingly cute) kitten.
At one point, I was ready to bring her back to the Humane Society because I didn’t think I was making a very good pet owner. Although, when I tried to, forces beyond my control kept preventing me from doing so. I decided to interpret it as a sign and made changes to my life in order to accommodate the responsibility I had taken on instead of giving up on her. She was just a baby after all.
I started spending more time at home. I built a tower of leftover boxes for her to play in (because I’m too broke to buy her one). I also made it a point to be more patient in general. Since then, I’ve been much happier with Cleo, and we’ve developed a close friendship that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s nice to come home to a cuddle buddy at the end of the day. When I’ve had a rough week, she will patiently lay and nap close to me all day while I decompress. I even sometimes become the crazy cat lady who worries when my cat doesn’t seem to like newcomers. Judge all you want.
Even if you get a typically low-maintenance animal, like a cat, make sure you still have time to give them the attention they deserve. Yes, deserve. It’s not like Cleo strode into my house one day and was like, “Hey, man, is it OK if I crash here and you feed me from now on until the day I die? Cool, bro.” No, I made the decision to care for her and have her become my animal companion. It’s important to be at home for at least some of the day to play with them and make them feel cared for. Their happiness is your responsibility, and in return, they can make you just as happy.
Stephanie Self can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.