Monday, June 4

Side-seat kitten raising

My dad got a puppy shortly after he got engaged to his new wife last summer. The puppy's name is Liam, and he is the most adorable piece of work ever. He's a black lab/husky mix, with the cutest little brown highlights on his eyebrows, paws, and tail. He was born with an abnormal, almost useless front leg that we had to amputate when he was a few months old because it got infected. Before I met Liam, I was a proud cat person. But the more I spent time with him and my dad, the more I learned about dogs. My dad would explain to me the way he trained the dog, and how it was related to the dog’s understanding of the universe. “Liam doesn’t bite me anymore because he knows I’m the alpha dog.” And so on.

Learning to tailor my actions to Liam’s way of thinking made me love him even more. I felt like we understood each other. Who knew that taking care of a pet could be more rewarding than petting some soft fur?

Dogs seem pretty straightforward. They want your attention, and you want them to want it (usually). But some cats can be assholes. I know I want to get a cat in the future, so that makes me nervous. I want to know: What makes some cats so friendly, laid-back and playful while other cats are cold and moody?

“Oh it’s definitely the way you treat them when they’re kittens,” L’s friend Neuroscience Guy said over dinner one night. “I think the cats who get played with too much when they’re babies are indifferent when they grow up, because they’re used to attention. If you ignore them a little, they appreciate you more.”

I thought about this for a second as we all debated the matter. “Maybe you should hold off a few days before getting a kitten,” I suggested to L. “Read a few things about raising them so you know more about what you’re doing.”

“That’s ridiculous,” L said passionately. “I’ve lived around cats my whole life; I don’t need to read anything about them. All I need to do is litter train them and give them lots of love.”

Her response seemed a tad na├»ve to me. “Okay, maybe you don’t need to read up on them. But why wouldn’t you want to know everything you could about your cat?”

L dismissed the matter and we moved on. I chided myself for judging L’s way of raising her pets and decided not to give more unnecessary “advice.” But, of course, my "decisions" are rarely set in anything, let alone stone (See: The ex-Ex). When she got the kitten, she bought all of its toys and litter box in the same trip, and then had to clean its temporary home, the bathroom, when she got home with the cat in its carrier.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” She admitted.

“Yeah, those are all things you should have done beforehand if you were planning on getting a kitten today,” I said with a tight-lipped “I told you so” expression on my face. And then remembered: no more side-seat kitten raising.

Later that night I went downtown with L, Attention Whore, BandGeek, and Art Girl. We hadn’t decided what to do, but it was a Friday night and we had the unmatchable power of a VW station wagon at our fingertips. On our way into the city, L’s cell phone rang. When she got off the phone, she told us that her mom had called because the kitty was knocking things over on her bathroom countertop. L seemed surprised.

“Uh, yeah. It’s a kitten. What did you think would happen?” I asked.

“Well, he was being really good when I was in the room. I probably should have cleaned off the counters…”

“Yeah… I thought this might happen.”

“What?! Why didn’t you say anything?”

And then I felt guilty for not being bossy... or was that just being helpful? Hmmm…


Dropout! said...

Ok, here's an easy way to know what's helpful and what's lecturing: if something already happened and you go "yeah, I knew you shouldn't have done that," that's pointless nagging. If you think that something might happen and you point it out beforehand, that's helpful. Duh. Why didn't you know this, stupidhead?

Scotty said...

You talking about the counter reminded me of something.... I offered to take care of a friends cat for a few weeks since they were going to be away. In any case, the first thing that cat did when I let it out of its little 'ol carrier? It ran out, into the kitchen, jumped on the counter, and peed all over the range. Friggin' cat.

Miss Devylish said...

Every pet is different, every cat and every dog. I think it's sort of a good study in patience and learning to figure them out. Liam sounds adorable. When I got my cat, she was already a yr old - and so skittish she can't even take a tinkling sound of any id tags or bells on a collar. I put one on her the other day and mysteriously she didn't have it on a day later. I still haven't found it.

The Very Reverend Ace Clemmons, Jr. said...

i for one, as a cat owner, know that cats respond *much* better to females in commando mode.

trust me on this.

the very.

The Ambiguous Blob said...

I love dogs so much. They're always on the lookout as to how they're going to get more attention from humans.
Cats seem to be just the opposite. They want food and shelter from humans and would rather be left alone otherwise.
And then you have the cats who think they're dogs. And that's just the cutest thing EVER.

Beatrix Kiddo said...

Umm, I'm a proud turtle owner. He doesn't crap everywhere, just in his tank, and he doesn't jump all over me and slobber. He's a cool pet.

Heather said...

I am a loyal dog lover! I think Liam sounds great and sooo cute, I love labs AND huskies!! Awww, so badly do I miss my dog I don't have "custody" of!

Bittersweet Confusion said...

My parents have one of each and it's so entertaining how much the cat mimicks the dog... I think she even lifts her leg when peeing but that may just have been the drugs I was on at the time... ;-)

kittenpower said...

i love cats! my cat is a hoodlum and I love him!

but I want a dog eventually so I can go running with it. i don't know the first thing a/b raising a dog though.

it is hard to know when to you're overstepping boundaries like that...
i think dropout! has it figured out. that sounds like a good rule of thumb to use.

Anonymous said...

People tend to learn more from experience and natural consequences than from side-seat kitten raising:)

GrizzBabe said...

Side-seat kitten raising. I like that phrase. I must find a way to work it into my everyday conversation.