My daughter’s first word was ‘cat’, and almost every conversation she’s initiated since has involved that self same word, usually preceded by ‘Can we have a’ or ‘When we get a’ or sometimes even ‘But WHY can’t we have a’. When she could write, she wrote ‘Kittens’ in the (thick) dust on our bedside lamp. Lists started to spring up everywhere, of ‘Things you need to have a Cat’ or ‘Names for Cats’ , and there always seemed to be a tab open on the computer for Youtube’s funny cat videos.
Eventually I embraced the inevitable, and we went in the car to collect a pair of stray littermate kittens from Hounslow Animal Welfare Society. We’d already had a home visit from one of their lovely volunteers, and a brilliant, informative chat about how best to look after our new charges, even discussing how and where to set up cat beds, food, water. It was very thorough and comforting. Even so, I was so nervous and felt the responsibility deeply, especially as I signed forms promising to be a good owner. I had no real idea what that meant, not in practice, despite all my late night googling on cat happiness and cat toys and cat psychology, but we drove home as carefully as with our newborns, waving nervously goodbye to the friendly (and expert!) cat fosterers from HAWS from the window.
I’ve never had a pet, but I expected that the kittens would take over my life, at least for a while. I was ready for that. After all, I’m the one at home all the time. I never expected to actually truly like having them! I certainly never expected to love them. And I never thought I would feel so honoured when they seek out my company as I paint. They sit at my feet and chew pencils, or drape themselves on the studio windowsill in the sun. It’s lovely, although I must admit that getting paint off a kitten’s paw is quite trying, and they are hopeless models.
And my daughter? At first – it was all quite a lot to process. But she, and those lively kittens, settled into each other. She now spends the evening with a cat on her bed, and she’s happy at last.
****If you’re thinking of adopting a cat or even a rabbit, do check out the brilliant Hounslow Animal Welfare Society:
*This post is for my lovely friend Emma, who coached me well on having actual kittens, and who has listened to me having the other sort of kittens about all kinds of impending doom, from supposed dodgy cookers, to floods, to total and random house collapse, for year upon patient year. Thank you Emma, for everything!