So let's make it clear right in the beginning: she is cute, but she is not a fury friend, not a niche of something in my life, especially not a child! She is a pet. Not less, not more.
Not that I was planning to have a pet..
One day my friend, Liz called me if I would accommodate a stray cat.
"She is hiding under the van, and seems so scared" she said. "I have seen her around for a while. Someone must throw her out. What do you say?"
What should I say? I am going to be a mom soon. I mean, not tomorrow or not in this month, but still, soon. Thus we are on the baby project for 2 month (already? Shit! Clock is ticking so fast), this phase of our life is still some way off.
Since our first date with my fiancé, Andrew, I consciously pay attention to match the image I have of a good mother (if not a perfect one!) as accurately as possible. I am definitely on the right track, 'cause I already Googled the phrase "perfect mother" - and sure not alone with that, right? (Guilty as charged!) As I have learned from my research, it would not be that big deal to do motherhood perfectly. I mean, it has some simple guidelines and I just have to follow them to succeed. Guidelines, like:
Set clear boundaries and rules so that they know what to expect, and be consistent with these rules: like no co-sleeping or no touching on mom's stuff!
Let them explore their own world and capabilities, but still keep a close eye on them to know about each and every step of them.
Treat them a mature and respectful way.
I really can embrace to that rule, because I think it is utmost the worst (besides the defloration of this), when someone starts babbling at the sight of a small child - or worse, a pet. Why can't you just handle that poor thing in a normal way, not as a mentally handicapped buddy? Ughh...I am sure that I never ever going to do that!
I will be perfect as a mother one day, I know it.
But this is not the day. So until then, why not to start practicing how it is like to be a family with parenting a cat? Just for experimental reasons, of course! The guidelines are just the same for a pet as with a child, aren't they?
So I said yes to the cat.
Liz arrived carrying a pet carrier under her arms just 5 minutes after I finished to prepare for their visit minutely: Googled what to know about raising the first cat and bought everything necessary from the pet shop nearby. I was on the edge of my seat to meet my future roommate, but as soon as the carrier's door swung open, a lean, black cat just sallied out towards the bedroom, then racing to the bathroom, then to the kitchen, ending the whole sprint under the sofa.
"Gotta go. Call me if you need any help" Liz said on her way out.
I just dawdled in the room like an idiot, not quite certain what to do. This is definitely not something from the hundreds of cat owner scenarios I prepared for....
Not having a better idea, I went to the kitchen and poured some milk into the bowl, and brought it back to her.
- Come out little kitty, here kitty, it is ooookay babyyyy - I tried to clear the air, when I just got to my senses. What the hell am I doing? Babbling, really? She is here for 2 minutes and I have already lost my mind? Am I really that abashed that I cannot come up with even one straight solution?
I left the milk in front of the hiding place and sat down on the floor with a book a few inches away, letting her loosen up and pretending that I was not watching, just reading. A couple minutes later the scared fluff ball came out from the hideout and started to drink. After finishing, she eyed me fixedly, then rubbed against me. With bated breath, I pated her back - and she seemed to have no objection.
- A name wouldn't hurt you - I said. - No Kitty, Kiki or any of those lame, babbler names. I think Isabelle would fit you. It sounds really mature and respectful.
I was relieved, I must confess, that the first day went smoothly onwards and we seemed to be on the right track, taking things nice and slow, step by step. Leaving Isabelle in her cat bed, I let out my breath in a long sigh and fall fast asleep.
When the morning came, I found Isabelle in the very same bed with me and Andrew. I thought it would be just first night jitters, and we can just go back to the clear boundaries and rules ... but that was not what Isabelle wanted. Let's face it -it's hard to make wise decisions and follow the rules at 2 A.M or midnight - or, honestly, at any time after bedtime, no matter how clear the rule "no co-sleeping " is. So after 3 nights of hopeless wrangling, we came to a decision with Andrew that it would be a best for all of us to bend this particular rule and let her sleep with us. Definitely not because we would wanted to give up on the endless fight or have our beauty sleep back, but because a recent study has found that the purring of cats has a calming effect on the nerves. Therefore, this step was much more my and Andrew's interest than hers.
Beyond that, things were working out between us and we could keep life running smoothly with Isabelle. We sticked to our clear rules.... okay, sticked to them mostly. Who knew, that these rules should have had so much exceptions, to fit in our values and believes?
Like no touching mommy's stuff. Indeed, this is the rule to follow, but supporting her curiosity to explore their own world and capabilities is also a rule. Which one to choose?
At 3PM, like clockwork every day, Isabelle looks in the mirror and goes absolutely bananas for no apparent reason whatsoever.
Just the same happened that dreadful day. I was working from home and had really tight schedule on a report - but of course I checked on her from the corner of my eyes to know about each and every step, just as the rule says. However, the more I was diving into my work, the less I was paying attention to her, and by the time I finished my work, I haven't took a look for 40 minutes or so. Sending it over to my boss for approval, I felt on the top of the world how effective I am. It lasted for a minute only. The tingle I had felt when I could not see her became a cold rush of fear as I could not find her anywhere in the house. I was looking for her in her favorite places like the sunny windowsill or the kitchen table, in hiding places like under the sheets in the bedroom or behind the curtains, in ordinary and out of ordinary places in the whole apartment, but there was no sign of her. I was keep looking more and more furious, without results.
I called Andrew in panic.
- Our sweetie kitty is gone! I need you home - I gasped to the phone.
- Will be there in 10 - he answered. It went without questions or objections.
As I was enumerating what may have left out, I noticed a barely cracked window in the kitchen. My blood run cold in realization, that she may have gone out the window and can be anywhere out of doors. I fling open the wardrobe door to grab a jacket and run after her... but what I saw was just beyond belief: Isabelle was sleeping peacefully on the top of my freshly washed and packed pile of clothes in the goofiest and convoluted pose I have ever seen.
- Izzy-mizzy, you fluffy mischief! You scared mama so much! Do not do this again, you cuuuuuute little kitty, you are the apple of mama's heart - I bursted out babbling, while happy tears were washing my face.
So that was it. The moment, when even the last tower of the reluctance was gone and had to face that she is much more than "just a pet". The moment, when I had to drop all my strict rules and guidelines, all the prudence that I built up from the smart animal care books and Google, all the confidence in my strictly appointed life.
Nothing has left, just flexibility. Flexibility, to develop my own rules, but be able to bend it depending on the circumstances. Flexibility to conform any situation that may come in the future - and even enjoy and live it up a bit. Flexibility, to face that there is no universal guideline fitting - whether in raising children, in raising a kitten or in living your own life.