Every year for the last three years, about a month or two before their birthday, Delaney starts asking for a cat. At first I said no. I was just getting used to being a single mom. I didn’t want to add another thing to the mix. Then I said we could get a cat if I could name her or him Crookshanks. Delaney did not like that. She argued. It was going to be their cat, she and Dixon should be able to name it. I said I was going to be paying for the cat, buying all of the things cats need and feeding it regularly. I should get naming rights.
This works for sports stadiums. It does not work for 6-year-olds.
And, of course, I was counting on that.
But this year, as she and her sister approach their eighth birthday, she’s a bit more mature. And, apparently, incredibly focused and resourceful. She can read and write. So—to my horror—she can surf the web. She Googled cats, which led her to Petsmart, which has an entire area devoted to animal shelter partners with cats to adopt. She spent the morning looking through a variety of felines, narrowing the parameters (“Long or short hair, mom?”) and taking notes on the ones she liked best. Then she started looking at cat accoutrements, eventually handing me a list of 16 items that cats need—and their cost—assuring me that she looked through all the different cat bowls and chose the cheapest one.
Methinks we’re getting a cat.
This actually started the weekend before at their other mom’s. My ex loves cats, though it just occurred to me that she is curiously catless right now. Trying to dissuade her, Connie talked to Delaney about the time and effort needed to take care of a cat. Delaney just took this as good information to know for when the cat arrives. Then Connie gave me a warning call and said unequivocally that she didn’t want her 8-year-old daughters cleaning the litter pan—too much toxic stuff. If I was going to give in to the irresistible force that is my second born child, I would have to promise to do the dirty work myself. She wanted to know if I was up for that.
This was not an idle question. About 15 years ago, my step-daughter’s cat had a litter. The kittens were half Siamese. They were adorable. And I am a total sap. We kept two: Miska and Malcha. My first twins. Malcha was a beautiful smoky gray cat who was tremendously easy going and would sit on peoples laps for hours. Miska was striped gray with ADD. She was relentless. And possessive. And she decided that I was HER person. She followed me everywhere. She did not want anything like relaxation. She needed constant attention. At night, she would jump in my bed and wake me up to play. When I put her outside my door, she scratched and clawed and mewed until I relented. The cat drove me crazy.
So when my then 12-year-old cousin came to visit, and Miska left me alone for a little bit and started playing with him, I jumped at the opportunity to offer him a cat. Or two. His parents are way more easy going than I was. My uncle informs me that while Malcha had to be put down a year ago, Miska is still alive and kicking. I think she’s possessed.
But at the same time we had Miska and Malcha, Connie had a white Persian cat named Dashiell. Dashiell was great, if a little creepy at times. He didn’t purr so much as rasp. He sort of sounded like an asthmatic Darth Vader. When Connie and I first got together, when we would kiss or make out or…whatever, Dashiell would bump his head against our heads and rasp away. At first I thought it was Connie, and I began to have second thoughts about the budding relationship. It was a great relief to realize it was the cat.
But Dashiell had to be put down just before we had kids. And the experience of having kids was far more challenging than anything a cat could throw at me. Now, I figure if I could survive the first three months with twins, I can survive anything, including cleaning a litter pan. And I’m way more easy going these days. So I said yes, I would do the dirty work to allow Delaney to have a cat. Connie, in turn, said she would do the work of finding the right cat, one less high strung and needy, one that meshed with Delaney and my personalities (which I’m sorry to say are a bit too much alike) and would fit in with Dixon, who, while a bit wiser and even tempered, has a clear no-nonsense streak.
In preparation for this, Connie decided that what Delaney needed most was information. She started sending her e-mails about bringing home a kitten, about purring as communication, about cats vs. kittens, even about cat stress. Delaney, always intent on taking the hardest road possible, decided that the best way to really learn this stuff was not to print it out and read it, but to write it down. Word for word.
Did I mention that her personality is somewhat familiar to me?
None of this dissuaded her. She thought this was great information and had long phone conversations with Connie about the decisions she should make. She also gave me a presentation of all she learned. I realized in the midst of it that there was no going back. The kid is getting a cat.
This led us, the weekend before Thanksgiving, to the Heartland Animal Shelter in Northbrook, IL. I’m giving them a plug here because they seemed really cool and Connie, after doing her research, decided that they were incredibly humane and wonderful to their animals. It’s a no-kill shelter. Volunteers are always hanging around to play with cats and, presumably, dogs. And they apparently come checking that the cat has a good home once it’s left their premises. Connie had taken the girls the day before and they dragged me back when I came to pick them up. They had found two possible, both “teenagers”—however that is defined in cat years. We first went to the kitty room, where my heart did an “aww” at how cute and little they were. Then we went to the teenage room and met the two the girls liked. They were sweet. And beautiful. They each sat on my lap in turn and one of them sat on Delaney’s lap for a while.
And here’s the kicker; this is the thing for me. At some point, the one Delaney was favoring decided that she had had enough, got up and hid under a cart. I realized then and there that this was our cat: one that liked to be held, didn’t bite or get pissed off when she was stressed, liked to be left alone sometimes, and had the grace to do what she needed with no fuss. She actually kind of reminded me of Dixon.
I’m now told the cat will arrive mid-December.�