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My desire for a cat bordered on hysteria.
My boyfriend was lukewarm on the idea of pet ownership in general but he promised to let me have a cat someday. Periodically, I’d ask him if it was time, but he always had some excuse: we rent, or we can’t justify the extra cost. But once we finally bought our own home, I put my foot down. It was definitely cat time.
“If we’re going to get a cat,” he said, “just know it’s going to be your responsibility.”
I nodded feverishly, all my dreams coming true with his acquiescence. He must have seen the gleam in my eyes, like that of a child who doesn’t truly understand responsibility, because he took the time to explain what he meant. Feeding, grooming, vet visits, litter boxes and training were all my responsibilities. I assured him I understood. After all, most of my friends had cats and it looked easy. How hard could it be?
We spent weeks discussing how to pet-ready the house, and days scouring adoption websites for cats we thought would best match our lifestyle. Finally, I fell in love with a tiny tabby at the local rescue that he agreed was probably the best choice for us. We christened her Peanut and brought her home. I was thoroughly confident that I would rock this pet-parenting thing.
We learned a lot in those early days. We didn’t realize cats are tiny, furry alarm clocks that lovingly smack your face to let you know it’s feeding time; we didn’t know they beg to look out the window at all hours of the night and noisily lick condensation off the pane; and we didn’t know that some cats stick their noses up at scratching posts, preferring instead curtains your boyfriend’s mom gave you as a gift. My boyfriend was there at every misstep, shaking his head.
But like a champ, I forged on with my responsibilities. When Peanut had an accident on the floor I was on top of the situation immediately. I started getting up at 5:30 am (even on weekends) because that was her normal feeding routine. I exercised her so she wouldn’t bother my boyfriend as much when he was sleeping. All in all, I felt like I was doing a pretty good job. But then something happened that neither of us was prepared for.
One day Peanut had a spasm in her sleep. The convulsions were so severe she lost control of her bladder. When she woke up she was as concerned as we were. When it happened a second time I consulted with her vet, and after a stressful month, Peanut was diagnosed with a neurological disorder. This disorder caused her to have seizures while she was sleeping. It wasn’t clear if this was a problem she was born with or if it was caused by trauma, but it required medical treatment.
Peanut’s disorder requires medication that is to be administered orally twice a day. It was difficult to adjust to this routine. It has to be done roughly twelve hours apart which ensures that at least one of us must be home during these times. Also, it turns out cats really don’t like to be restrained and have something squirted into their mouths. But we persevered in the hopes of relieving her of the extra electrical activity in her brain.
After about a week we started to notice a difference. She still had a some extra movement while sleeping but she no longer lost control of her bladder.
Though we were happy with the changes we saw in Peanut, the vet said there was a possibility that this disorder could kill her prematurely. After I received the news, my boyfriend asked me how I was doing. I began to cry. I felt like even though I’d tried to do everything right, something still ended up being wrong. When I told him she might not live very long, my boyfriend gave me the perfect reply. “I think we were meant to adopt her,” he said. “Because even if her life is short, she’ll have a good life with us. A happy life.”
I find this to be true. Peanut is an extremely active and affectionate cat and I know she is very happy with us. I am thankful every day that we adopted her. If I had been informed outright about her disorder I am not sure I would have had the self-confidence to take on the responsibility. Now I know that I can care for a special needs cat and will continue to adopt them in the future.
Peanut was in need of someone who had endless caring available. By giving a home to a cat with special needs we became those people. Peanut has showed us that we are the kind of people who can exercise immense patience and attention. I am more self-confident in my abilities as a person, but I also know that I am more patient and kind to myself and others. It is like she opened a world of understanding in us.
It is especially apparent in my boyfriend, who has a hard time expressing his feelings. With Peanut he is able to be silly and affectionate without reservations. She helps us both to see the good in ourselves and the world.
Three months, six vet visits and a ruined curtain later, we have settled into a pretty stable routine. Peanut brought a bevy of problems with her, but she also provides us with more love and kindness than we could have ever imagined. Thanks to her we’ve learned a lot about pets; but also what kind of people we could be.
I had always struggled with responsibility but when I think about Peanut I have the strength to do whatever is needed to ensure that she is well cared for. My boyfriend shows love and affection more easily toward a small cat than he does toward most people. She has truly brought out the best in us both. No matter how long she has with us, I intend to make every day great.