My child was always fascinated by cats.
My cats were only fascinated by my child when he was an immobile source of warmth. The minute he developed enough motor control to grab their fur, the cats were out.
Bat Cat and Commando Cat had been my pampered bachelorette cats. They grudgingly adapted to both husband and rescue dogs. But small fingers pulling fur? Hell no. They hid up in their scratching posts or heated cat bed.
Baby D had a boy-loving rescue dog who would have happily played chase or keep away with him for hours. But Baby D was contrary. He scorned the in-your-face, I-love-you-so-much creatures. He wanted the ones that were hard to get.
“This,” I told my husband, “does not bode well for his future dating life.”
Baby D hated tummy time. He refused to crawl. He insisted on grabbing his parents’ hands and walking, or cruising from one piece of furniture to another. One day, as 9-month-old Baby D protested the requisite tummy time while I used the bathroom, he got quiet. Too quiet. I hurried out of the bathroom.
Baby D wasn’t where I left him. Luckily, our house was tiny. It only took me five seconds to find him—sitting on top of the poor cats and cackling with glee as they yowled in protest.
Baby D had only learned to crawl to catch the cats.
Unlike the rest of the family, my Chinese-American husband was not fascinated with cats. He tolerated them. That was all. When I was pregnant, he cleaned their litter box –after ostentatiously donning a damned RESPIRATOR to show how offensive he found the smell. When they got various geriatric illnesses, he shrugged, mumbled a vague “sorry,” and sighed over the vet bills.
I was on my own when it came to vet visits and hairballs. And death.
Commando Cat, unable to produce any more blood cells, had to be put down first. After Baby D said good-bye, I left my two-year-old with a babysitter and took Commando Cat to the vet, where he purred his way out of this world.
Ten days later, while my husband and son were visiting my in-laws in Hawaii, I had to put Bat Cat down as well. My friend JM, who had been my roommate when I first adopted Bat Cat, was nice enough to come with me and hand me tissues.
Andy, on the other hand, barely said “sorry” over the phone before launching into a tirade about how difficult it was to parent our child solo. Alone, I packed up the litter box, the cat food bowls, and the cat toys. Alone, I cried over cleaning up the last hairballs. (Well, what I thought were the last hairballs. I found more hidden under beds and in boxes under beds months later. I cried over those, too.)
I was still sniffly when Andy and Baby D returned home. Andy was still unsympathetic.
“They were old, honey. They had good lives. What’s there to be upset about?”
Weepiness turned to rage. “Listen to me, you unempathetic monster,” I hissed. “Someday, SOMEDAY, when we have to put down our dogs, you will understand how much it hurts not to have your beloved buddy run to greet you when you walk in the door. And fucking Niagra Falls will be pouring down your face, and I will remind you of what an asshole you were right now. And then, maybe you will apologize for being such a jerk.”
Baby D was more upset about not having cats than Andy. He talked about both Commando Cat and Bat Cat being dead and begged repeatedly to get another cat.
Andy was adamant. “No more cats. The dogs are enough.”
Baby D scowled at Andy and made friends with cats in the neighborhood. He remained ambivalent about the dogs, expressing an interest in Woofie’s tail only when he could pretend it was a fire hose or a machine gun. Woofie was far more forbearing than any cat would have been.
I wanted a cat again, too, but caring for two big dogs and a preschooler was more than enough. It was at least a year before I mentioned the possibility of rescuing a cat.
Baby D was all over that. “Yes! Kitty!”
Andy was not. “No! No cats!”
Baby D said, “But Mommy and I both want one! That’s two against one! We win! We get a cat!”
I shook my head and explained, “That’s not how it works with pets, sweetie. Everyone has to agree to get a pet. If Daddy doesn’t want a cat, he won’t be nice to it or love it and that’s not fair to the cat, is it?”
Baby D glared at his father. “You don’t like cats? I don’t like YOU!”
Andy merely laughed.
Not long after I crawled in bed that night, Andy gave me a kiss. And then a little nudge. You know the nudge. It’s the nookie nudge.
I smiled at him and said, “Oh, did you want something?”
Andy grinned hopefully.
I said, “Well, you know what? I want something, too. I want a cat. Let me know when we can make a deal.”
And I went to sleep.