September 13, 2010

forgotten babies

When my husband and I first got married, we started the discussion about expanding our family right away ... With the addition of an animal or two.

After much deliberation (or, probably more accurately, arguments), we decided to add a cat to the mix. We intended to look into the local shelters or online at pet adoption sites, but didn't have to.

Our first kitty found us.

About four months after our wedding, she wandered into the shop where my husband works. At first, another coworker claimed her and took her home, but soon realized that a kitten did not mix with his bachelor lifestyle. Needing someplace else to go, my husband (and I) agreed to give her a permanent home with us.

We named her Circe Nightshade, a name used in the "Goth Talk" skit from Saturday Night Live, but more importantly, the name of a sorceress from Homer's Odyssey (that turned Odysseus's men into pigs).

About a week later, while we were out of town for the weekend to celebrate my husband's birthday, another kitten found us.

This one, which we named Isis after the Egyptian goddess of the dead, was only a couple of weeks old at the time. We often joked that she probably had wandered away from her mother for only a minute when we scooped her up and took her with us.

Obviously, as our adoption story shows, it is impossible to resist a sweet, little kitten.

Even so, as time passed we still loved our furry babies very much ... They were fed table scraps (especially lunch meat) and other cat treats regularly. They got to cuddle up on our laps whenever they felt like it. They spent many hours being entertained by laser pointers and feathery toys powered by my husband and myself. They shared our bed at night. They were the subjects of many photo shoots during my summers off from teaching. They were every bit as important as a real baby.

That is, until our real baby arrived.

As our attention shifted to Malcolm last fall, our cats gradually faded into the background. At first we tried to keep things "the way they used to be." We included the cats in our daily lives like we would have in the past ... They still got treats. They still were given a chance to cuddle up with us a night. But, at some point, they didn't feel like it anymore. Sensing and seeing changes all around them, they started to withdraw and spent more and more time in the basement or under the furniture.

Today, they only resurface and show their furry little faces if the house is quiet and/or it is late at night ... But, by then, we are so tired and ready to just relax for a while, their attempts at closeness are met with sigh and little enthusiasm. It doesn't help that they have always been on the ultra-independent and antisocial side. Often times I think they'd rather be holed up by themselves somewhere ... We are their litter box cleaners and their source of food.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Even so, part of me feels terrible that our cats are just "our cats" and not "our babies" anymore (when just a short time ago they were the center of our lives!). The other part, however, realizes that the shift was inevitable ... Maybe my husband and I aren't the "animal lovers" we always thought ourselves to be. Maybe we unknowingly saw our animals as a "practice run" for the real thing.

I'm pretty sure that our experience and current situation with our cats is not the norm, in fact we're probably in the minority, but I can't sit and beat myself up over the way things have turned out.

Things could always change.

At any rate, Circe and Isis will always have a home with us ... Even if, most days, they prefer to frequent the basement.

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