A pet is for life…..
I am the very proud and very lucky Mummy of a beautiful five month old boy. My son Lucas is, just as I’m sure any mother would say of her child, the centre of my universe. I am also the proud “Mummy” of six furbabies – my cats.
When I was pregnant, many people would ask me how I was going to manage with six cats and a baby. Fair question. I mean, lets face it, six cats is a lot. Caring for six cats can be time-consuming, and expensive. Newborns also have a reputation for being time consuming and expensive. Add the two together and anyone can see that’s quite a workload.
I am very lucky to have my husband, who is a hands-on Dad and doesn’t mind pulling his weight when it comes to either our kitties or our son. Cats are also notorious for their hatred of change and many people were concerned on my behalf about how my gang were going to react to this huge change.
Then there were the people who just automatically assumed I would be ‘Getting Rid” of the cats now that I was going to be a mother. They would look at me incredulously when I told them I had no such intention. “Aren’t you worried they’ll hurt the baby?” and “Isn’t that a bit unhygienic?”
My son did not ask to be born. He had no choice in the matter. He is just a baby – completely dependent on me. He is reliant on me making decisions for him, and it’s my job as his mother to make the right ones.
It is my responsibility to provide for him – to ensure that his needs are met, that he is clean, dry, warm, fed, safe, loved. I must provide the best nutrition I can, and a clean, safe environment. But there is something else, something which is less advertised, but just as important. I must instill in my son a sense of right and wrong. I must impress on him the importance of compassion, of tolerance, of empathy. I must teach him to have respect for life – both his own, and that of other people, of other sentient beings. I must show him what it is to have responsibilities – be they big or small. All of these things will help him live a happy life, and to be a good person.
My cats are utterly dependent on me. They did not choose to be here – they had no say in the matter. They rely on me making decisions for them. It is my responsibility as their owner to make the right ones. I’m not stupid. The transition has not been easy for the cats – there have been teething problems and I am watching closely – I am willing to do whatever I can to ensure their happiness. I must watch their behaviour around the baby. They are learning to be tolerant of him – to not try to jump up at him or lay on him. Still, I don’t leave them alone with him.
Soon, he will be mobile and I will have to watch his behaviour around them – teach him to be gentle with them, and to be understanding of their need for space. A learning curve for all of us. My son learning valuable skills when he realizes he must behave in a certain way, and my cats learning to adapt to new situations – which will be vital as my son grows up, as we potentially move home, or have another baby.
What message am I sending my son if I “get rid” of my beloved pets because I have chosen to have a baby? That animals are disposable? That it is okay to dismiss and discard a dependent being purely because it easier to do so? That is not the man I want him to become.
When I took on those animals I took on a responsibility to them just as I did to my son when I fell pregnant with him. It is my job to act in their best interests just as it is in his. Is it hard work? Undoubtedly. That is the path I chose when I chose to have animals, and when I chose to have a child. Not necessarily easy all the time, but 100% worth it when I see my child smile, or hear a contented cat purr.
Dealing with two children is much harder than dealing with one. Your time is not your own, and you must deal with sibling rivalry, with jealousy, with regression. So tell me, when your second child is born, will you be getting rid of your first?
© Emily Nunn, 2011
Bio: Emily is a twenty-something mum raising 6 cats and a baby with her husband in South London. A passionate animal rescuer, she is kind, funny, busy and one of my favourite people.