A Cat Confession

Last week I was ranting to my husband about needing to know the statistics on death by cat tripping at the top of the stairs.

This morning I got fired up again when one of the cats left a poop beside the litter box, because apparently the first of their twice-daily litter box scoopings was a touch too late for their liking.

Fellow pet lovers, rest assured: I still love my cats, care for them, and they are not going anywhere. I certainly don’t hate them, but I have to confess that post-baby, I’m not always feeling the crazy cat lady affection like I used to.

Taking care of a baby is a giant, time-consuming, energy-funneling undertaking. And some days, the cats seem like pushy, needy, messy things on my to-do list, instead of the joyful companions they have always been. I know it sounds horrible. But an outside-the-litter-box poop when you’ve just gotten the baby fed, changed, burped, and down to nap is spirit crushing. A cat incessantly head-butting you when you sit down to shove 5 bites of food in your mouth before the baby’s “mom is trying to eat” radar goes off can feel like an unwelcome interruption of the highest order. When a cat swerves under your feet for the 70th time that day, causing you to stumble and startle the baby you are clutching, I dare you not to feel at least a fleeting moment of rage. And the cat hair. My god, the cat hair! It’s one thing to lint roller yourself 5 times a day, but a whole other thing when you are rolling the baby, blankets, beds, carpets etc.

A quick Google search (and lots of personal anecdotes) suggest that these ugly feelings of post-parental pet annoyance are shockingly common. There are literally dozens of articles with titles like, “I used to love my cat and dog, then I had a baby”, “I had a baby and now my dog is driving me nuts” or, “My Cats Were My World Before I Had Kids, Now I Forget They Exist”. A common thread running  through each one, is some variation on the assertion that – at one time – the author’s pet was their baby. Not even like their baby. Their actual baby.

Lately, I can’t push away the uneasy feeling that maybe this is part of the problem. Pets are an amazing part of the home and of a family, but they are not children – nor, I reckon, should they be. But when we welcome pets into our home years (or decades) before kids enter the picture, we throw ourselves into caring for them, and about them, with a zealous passion. We do this because we can – because we have the time, money, energy and space to do so. In and of itself, it isn’t a problem. If you have the skill and the inclination, knock yourself out knitting your cat booties and cooking for your dog. Hell, set him a place setting at the dining room table. But if and when things need to change – whether because of a human addition to the family, financial hardship, or maybe an illness or injury – it’s okay to take them off the pedestal they probably didn’t need to be on in the first place.

The thing is, it’s going to feel like it’s not okay, because it’s such a downshift in the dynamic. When your pet gets demoted from beloved “fur baby” (honestly, is there a worse term?) to barely tolerated bum, you’re gonna feel guilty – and we all know moms specialize in guilt. A big problem for shelters and animal welfare organizations is that at this point, some people begin to feel like they are better to give up their animal than to provide it with what they perceive as second-rate care. Rescue organizations point out that in most cases, this is misguided and the animal is just fine in its current home. We don’t need to surrender our pets just because we can’t keep them in the (spoiled?) lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. We might if there is an allergy or aggression issue, but that is an entirely different scenario.

Now….I began writing this 2 months ago (so when I said “last night” and “this morning” at the top of the post, it was a bit of a fib). Sidebar: Did you know that Stephen King wrote all 200,000 or so words of The Shining in around 4 weeks? Yes, I feel sufficiently inadequate. WHATEVER, he also did a ton of cocaine at the time. ANYWAYS, the interesting thing is that my attitude has already started to come around. I feel less overwhelmed and irritated by them now and Sloane is starting to enjoy them as well, which totally helps. So if you’re in the thick of this situation now, I’d say give it some time. Like most things with a newborn, it won’t be this crazy forever.

We have to get some perspective and realize that it’s okay to let some things slide without feeling too bad about it. Especially when you have a helpless little human and your own mental health to worry about first and foremost. At the worst of it, our cats were still getting great food, good care, warm shelter, brushing and had treats and toys. They just weren’t getting unlimited attention and their picture uploaded daily to instagram. This is unquestionably better than the life they would have had on the street or in a shelter.

One day when your baby can’t stop giggling at your cat, you just might start to feel it again too, and the cat will have a whole new servant to recruit onto its staff.

PS – Kim, if you’re reading this, I’m not gonna keep posting in time for your morning coffee if you don’t text me gushing compliments every time. Just FYI.

The shit monster who didn’t shit enough

If you woke up this morning thinking, “man, I wish somebody would write extensively about cat’s asses and bowel movements,” boy, are you ever in luck. The squeamish should proceed at their own peril.

Rewind to a morning about 18 months ago when I stumble from bed into a scene from CSI: Felines — the hallway carpets smeared with blood. No weapon or body in sight. At which point I – wife of the year – think to myself, “I really hope my husband is bleeding.” My logic being that of all the bleedable creatures in the house, it’s not a lot of blood for a human but it sure as hell is a lot for a cat. And, you know, I can imagine scenarios in which a human could cut their foot or have a nosebleed in the  night, but I have no frame of reference for spontaneous indoor cat bleeding. This is when Twitchy saunters by and does a slow turn in front of me, revealing his horrifying ass-end. It is at this point that I start sending my boss texts like: I am going to be late today, my cat seems to be bleeding from his butt. Sorry.

I take a warm, wet washcloth and start trying to clean up the area to see what is really going on, and it begins to look less awful. He is oozy, but no longer actively bleeding and the source doesn’t seem to be his actual butthole, but sort of off to the side. Nonetheless, it’s not pretty. I bundle T off to the vet at opening time and find out that his anal glands had become impacted and ultimately ruptured.  This can happen to cats or dogs and isn’t all that uncommon, but it can be dangerous. As gross (and messy) as it is, it’s actually better when they rupture externally rather than internally, as an internal rupture can quickly cause a serious systemic infection that can kill them. He needs surgery to clean out the infection and close up the wound, plus antibiotics and painkillers. A few hours later I have a very stoned, very stumbly cat on my hands with shaved hindquarters, stitches and a soft rubber drainage tube.

Due to his size it took a lot of drugs to knock him out and extra time for him to come to after the surgery. We are given instructions to apply warm compresses a couple times a day to keep the tube clean and draining well. And to keep the little drunken sailor away from stairs for a few hours. Not to be deterred, Twitchy pinballs off the walls and beelines for the top tier of his cat tree where I then have to stand and make sure he doesn’t fall off until he decides to stumble (with help) down. He takes it all like the champ he is, and heals up nicely. The most upsetting part for him seems to be the two car rides to the vet.

All is well and then last Saturday night, Andrew has his diaper party – which is a Newfoundland thing (do they do this anywhere else?) and basically the male equivalent of a baby shower where guys bring the expectant father packages of diapers and then go get drunk. I think the boys may win on this tradition.

Sunday morning, we let Mr T into the bedroom for “special kitty  morning snuggle time” since he has recently been banned from sleeping with us to set the stage for when baby will be in her bassinet in our room and cats won’t be allowed in overnight. Lo and behold, his poor sore butt is at it again. Definitely not as bad as last time, but again – not awesome. Especially on a hungover Sunday when our vet is closed. Luckily, Andrew is in remarkably good shape and able to help me wrangle him into his carrier (no small feat) and get him to the emergency clinic. This time he just needs the wounds flushed out and an antibiotic injection – no surgery or stitches. But it also came with a complimentary lecture on his weight, which is kind of funny because Andrew had, to everyone’s amusement, informed the tech at the desk that T is sensitive about his weight issues. I guess she didn’t note that on his chart.

Now, I know he is overweight – but it’s so tough. He has always been a big cat and when this vet says he weighs twice as much as he should, I think she is delusional and obviously not taking into account his notoriously broad shoulders. I also didn’t mention that at 19 lbs he is actually already down 3 lbs from his weight 18 months ago. He has been on various low-cal diets over the years and owns several dis-used harnesses from my attempts at cat walking. He will actively play with a toy or a wand for a few minutes a day, but then loses interest and takes a nap. His same-litter sister Molly never had weight issues and received the same food and care…is it us, or is it just how he is?

Besides that, it turns out that although Andrew (who coined the shit monster term) would never have guessed it, Mr. T needs more fibre in his diet in the form of Metamucil, Benefibre and/or canned pumpkin. So he can take larger, softer poops that will help his anal glands express themselves and stay clear. It should also help him with weight loss, apparently, which also lowers his chances of another butt gland explosion.

So here we are, sprinking Benefiber on his kibble and warm compressing his butt again. Digging out the wand toys and kibble ball dispensers to coax him into a little extra activity and researching new ways to help him lose a few pounds. Because even though I think he’s perfect just the way he is, I also want him to be healthy for as long as possible. He’s about to be a big brother and I’d really like the little Ranger (this is Perry’s new nickname – reasoning will be revealed at a later date) to have a few years with this very special guy.

Gemma the big ol’ baby

Ours is a two cat household, but one of them is new(ish) on the scene. In the beginning, there was Twitchy and Molly–a brother and sister from the same litter way back in 2002. I met them the day they were born and knew their mommy well. They came to live with me when they were just tiny kitties (as soon as they were old enough to leave mom). As you know, Twitchy is black, white and grey and Molly was a pale ginger. They were besties who loved to snuggle each other.

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Molly & Twitchy, 2011

But in October of 2013, Molly started drinking (and peeing) a ridiculous amount (like, gallons) and I just knew it was diabetes. Unfortunately, I was right. But we learned how to give her twice-daily insulin shots and started her on a grain-free, low-carb wet food diet. She improved for a while, but then even though the diabetes was being well-controlled, one thing after another started to go wrong. She had bouts of pancreatitis, arthritis, and eventually kidney problems. Towards the end, she was becoming so bedraggled, she didn’t even look like herself and she was clearly not enjoying herself either. She started to have trouble jumping up on the couch, she peed in my bed a couple of times and she was living with her head in her water bowl. It was heartbreaking.

In late June, 2014, we booked a Vets To Go appointment to have a vet come to our house and put her to sleep. We made salmon, fettucine alfredo and shrimp cocktail for her last supper. We watched The Aristocats and I slept downstairs on the couch with both cats, because I am crazy and oh my god, this is turning into a long, sad tale. The next day at noon I held her while the vet gave her two shots and she drifted off with Twitchy and Andrew next to her. Okay there, the worst part is over.

I didn’t lose my cool until afterwards when the vet gave us some time alone with her before the “Pet Heaven” person came to take her away. In all seriousness, I count this among my proudest accomplishments. I didn’t want to let her go, but I really didn’t want her in any more pain. And then I read something a vet had written about deciding when it’s time to let go that really hit home, it was something like, “even weeks too early is far better than an hour too late.” I really didn’t want to leave it so long that she’d suffer and I’d be cornered into a panicky decision and horrible final memories…so I made the decision to put her down. I wanted to be there for her when she went…but I knew I couldn’t do that if I was upset and, in turn, making her upset, so I stayed strong for her. And if you stay with me, I promise I’m getting to the point of this post…

It was hard on all of us, including Twitchy who was especially sad and lost without his lifelong buddy. We all needed time to get used to life without Molly, but Twitchy never really seemed to adjust to being a single cat. He sad-meowed us to death and was really insecure. So in March, 2015, we decided to adopt him a new friend. We wanted to give a good home to a slightly older cat who was probably less desirable on the adoption scale, but still young enough to bring some friskiness to the household. We went in to look at a cat who was supposed to be a good match, but ended up not being terribly interested in us, and then they mentioned a new arrival that we could also meet. A little orange girl they called Gems. They had me at orange. She was super sweet and very nicely asked to come home with us.

She was very nervous at first and hid under the couch a lot. She was hesitant to explore her surroundings and there was a bit of hissing and swatting on both parts, but nothing major. Mostly, she was just timid and reserved. She liked attention, but on her own terms, in small doses and with no sudden movements or loud noises. She’d been through the system..and she was jaded.

8 months later, she’s gone totally soft. Constant head-butts, climbing all over us, glued to my side, flopping onto her back demanding unending belly rubs. Sometimes she flops so hard you can hear it: floomp, LOVE ME! And in the last couple of months especially, it’s been absolutely unreal what a big sucky baby she has turned into.

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Love me.

I wonder if it’s just that she’s finally totally comfortable and secure in her new forever home, or if the pregnancy hormones have anything to do with it. Maybe all that extra estrogen is permeating our whole home ? Lucky Andrew.

After all, the shit monsters’ behaviour was actually one of the reasons I peed on a stick in the first place. Twitchy, in particular, became infatuated with my belly very early on. I hope they’ll forgive me for saying this, but it wouldn’t have surprised me from a dog, but I wasn’t sure cats would sense anything. Yet, there was Mr. T, lying horizontally across my stomach and kneading…and licking…and kneading…and rubbing his face on it like I was filled with catnip. Gemma wasn’t quite as enthusiastic early on, but now I wonder…has she realized she’s about to be a middle child and is milking her last days as the baby of the house for all they’re worth?

Advent Calendar: December 6 & 7

The intention was to photograph the products on my white bathroom tile in one of the only rooms in the house with decent lighting at night. Hundred-year-old houses were not built with overhead wiring, so mine has the shittiest lighting in the world. But as I was lying on the floor I noticed Mr. T looking awfully dapper in the hallway. The camera kept wanting to focus on him instead of the product labels and I had to make a choice…in-focus products or a sharp looking cat? Who am I to fight what the camera loves?

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What you’re sort of seeing is an Inika certified organic eyeliner in Black Caviar and the Paul Mitchell Ultimate Color Repair Triple Rescue thermal protection/shine/conditioning spray with, I shit you not, “Quinoa Color Repair” because apparently there is nothing quinoa isn’t good for. Superfood, indeed.

The first name ain’t baby. It’s Perry. MISS Perry if you’re nasty.

It’s a girl!

I have no explanation for the fact that I’ve had Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” stuck on a loop in my head for 3 days, but so it has been. Perhaps little baby girl fetus (or the “shetus” – credit to Nicole G.) was trying to tell me that boys drool and girls rule, as the ancient wisdom holds.

The ultrasound was a ton of fun this time around. Baby is much more interesting at this stage (19 weeks), to be sure, but our ultrasound technician made a big difference as well. This one was really friendly and excited about stuff, which made me excited too. She was pointing out body parts and explaining things and providing colour commentary that just made it way more fun and interesting.

The shetus was moving around like crazy – kicking, punching, opening and closing her hands, giving two thumbs-up, pointing with her index finger and somersaulting around. When she took a break to “rest”, she would raise one arm straight up in the air (which is also a really bizarre thing I often do in my sleep, incidentally).

It was cool to make the connection between the physical sensations (which could have been gas bubbles for all I know) and her movements on-screen. Today, the movements have been much more noticeable and I’m not sure if she’s just getting stronger by the day or if it’s that I now know what I’m feeling for that’s made such a big difference overnight. Maybe both. It feels less like flutters/vibrations and more like I’ve swallowed a live (and rather large) goldfish that is vigorously flipping around in a rather small bowl. She seems to like food and is really active after I eat something, and the cats on my belly make her go crazy too. I can’t wait until the kitties can feel her kick/punch them back!

It turns out that I have an anterior (front) positioned placenta, which sort of acts as a buffer between me and the shetus. This can cushion her movements somewhat and explain why the sensations had been so subtle. The way she was going at it in there, I think this could be a good thing for me.

We do have our favourite name picked out (I think?!) but I have been forbidden from discussing it with anyone. Andrew is pretty much the meanest.

With that said, I now present the first baby butt photo. She was mid somersault here – and as a former gymnast, I’d like to see a little more toe-point happening, but we can work on that.

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Other random stats I can remember…heart rate was 144. Foot is 3cm long. She weighs 0.7 lb.

Baby brain freeze

My husband likes to remind me that baby brain is not a scientifically proven fact. He does so as he blows out candles and turns off burners I’ve forgotten about, reminds me of appointments and gently corrects my ass-backwards logic on simple topics. He is right though, there is not enough evidence to conclusively say baby brain is a real thing – and yet so many of us preggos report a variety of problems, particularly forgetfulness.

Some research has shown that pregnancy and motherhood have no negative cognitive impacts. Other studies have shown the presence of impaired memory during pregnancy and shortly afterward. Is it down to hormones? Sleep deprivation? Stress? A newish study suggested that during pregnancy, women use the right side of their brain more as they prepare to bond with, and care for, their newborn babies. But if there is no “real” cause, a likely explanation seems to be that baby-related shit just occupies an inordinate amount of brain-space and basically, something’s gotta give.

And give it did. Yesterday, I reached a new low. Actually, it was weeks in the making but shit finally got real. Let me put it this way: a lot of things happened in the first trimester, but paying my gas bill was not one of them. So with an overdue account of $212, I came home to a bright pink disconnection notice on my door. Here we huddle, bundled under the duvet in flannel pajamas with two cold, judgmental cats and only the white-hot heat of my embarrassment to keep us warm until morning.

Andrew was super cool about this whole debacle. No pun intended. I know I would not have cut him as much slack if this was his fuck-up. His understanding knows no bounds. Of course, while I was on the phone with the gas company arranging for reconnection, he casually mentioned that he dropped a four-digit sum at a charity auction the night before on a pair* of signed Muhammed Ali boxing gloves. Stings like a bee that one. Well played, sir.

*I stand corrected, it was A SINGLE GLOVE.

Nemo & Neglect

The other day Andrew said something like, “I’m kind of impressed that you haven’t been crazier than you have. You know, mentally.”

Instead of being offended I was like, I know, right? Because I’m well aware that I lean towards crazy at the best of times, and I too figured that a hormonal hurricane wouldn’t do me any favours.

Yet, for the most part, the ol’ mental keel has been pretty even.

But…there have been a couple of things that make me think I may not be 100% together. You know, mentally. Like, I can’t watch heartwarming animal rescue videos at work any more because we have an open concept office – which is just a fancy way of saying everybody sees you when you ugly cry at your desk. If my husband were reading this over my shoulder he’d urge me to talk about the lizard meltdown. But you know what? I won’t. Because that lizard was adorable and I didn’t mean to step on it, and I would sob over that any old time. ANY. TIME. That little guy had a family that loved him, you know?

I’m losing focus. What I want to talk about is Nemo. Gemma (our girly cat) loooves these two stuffed toys – Nemo and Bunny – and she brings them to us every night, because she loves us. Are you getting this? She wants so badly to make us happy that she hunts her favourite stuffies and delivers them to the foot of our bed, meowing to wake the dead. She’s so proud. It’s become a bit of a routine, hiding Nemo and Bunny somewhere downstairs and waiting for her to bring them up, so I can gush and praise her. But Andrew never reacts. Never praises. He just lays there, reading Sports Illustrated online or listening to a podcast.

Why does this matter? It doesn’t. I know that some people don’t believe in the vital importance of stroking their cat’s ego. I also know that this doesn’t necessarily mean he will ignore Perry’s efforts to please us. But in the twisted funhouse that is my brain, I can’t help but picture him slouched in an armchair, smoking a cigar, reading the paper and ignoring our daughter as she tugs on the sleeve of his sports jacket trying to show him her report card. Because it’s also 1952 in the brain funhouse.

Unable to get his attention and praise, her self-esteem chips away until junior high blow jobs lead to dropping out of high school, which leads to a stripper pole and smoking meth in a dingy basement apartment with her abusive welder boyfriend, Blade.

I’m not overreacting; this is just how life works. It’s like, science. Have you ever known a hot mess who didn’t have daddy issues? Exactly. Really Andrew, would it be so hard to just give our poor kitty the fatherly approval she desperately craves from you?

Sometimes I feel really sorry for my husband.