August is Senior Pet Month, and today is Throw Back Thursday, so I thought this would be a great time to reflect on growing up with cats. Here I go, looking back on a life with my own senior cats!
As you may know my 18 year old cats, Crash and Muffin, came to me at 8 weeks old. There were three at the time, Crash, Muffin and Sam. Sam passed away very suddenly and very unexpectedly in 2009. I was 11 years old when I got the cats (as I give away my age to anyone interested in doing the math!). Like most children I longed for a kitten for years before my guys came to me. I was told I had to wait till my parent’s cat Twinkie passed on, which I remember being ok with. I loved Twinkie and we discovered she didn’t like any young whippersnappers running around the house, bothering her. I was so excited when I first laid eyes on my babies. I instantly fell in love with all three of them, and I knew they were meant to be mine. I didn’t know how much they would change my life.
There is so much to be said for growing up with cats. They taught me responsibility and unconditional love. There was a bit of time management as well–I can get up early enough to make sure I care for the cats and get dressed, but beyond that good luck. Growing up with cats, you have to make time to feed them, play with them, and clean their litter boxes. You have to make sure there is enough food in their bowls and in the cabinet, not to mention enough litter to fill the boxes. You learn to clean your room so the cats don’t steal your toys or pull the heads off your Barbies. And you learn not to cry when they do pull the heads off your Barbies because you didn’t put them away. (True story. We came home to find a Barbie head sitting in the living room one day. Thanks Sam.) I had to teach my friends what was and was not acceptable for how to handle and treat the cats.
For the most part these were great responsibilities that made me feel special and grown up. There were of course times when it was annoying to have to care for cats; but for the most part it was wonderful to know that there were three little kitties looking to me for everything they wanted. As I grew and faced the challenges of teenage years and starting to take my first steps into finding myself, it was wonderful to know that at the end of the day I could come home to three cats who loved me unconditionally. Making new friends, losing old friends, failing a test, going to a concert, ups and downs the cats were there for me through it all in the way that many friends weren’t and my parents couldn’t be. As I started to realize I was battling Depression the cats were my reason to get up in the morning. I have no doubt that my cats helped get me through the most difficult times in my life.
Adult life with cats has been a little more tricky. Since my cats are seniors, there are more financial challenges for me. I have to be more careful with my budget, unlike many of my peers I have several hundred dollars each month that must go to my cats in the form of food and medical care. So while many of my friends were spending their money on the latest gadgets or going out at night, I had to be more careful about my money, making sure there was enough to pay for vet bills and buy cat food for the week. Another challenge has been housing. Many of my friends were finding apartments straight out of college or after landing their first job, but I had to make sure that anything I did find allowed pets. For me a roommate has been out of the question, as I wouldn’t trust just anyone to live with my cats!
As the cats have aged, I have grown to appreciate the shortness and frailty of life. When Sam died my heart broke so deeply I didn’t think I would survive. I healed though. In part from the love of Crash and Muffin and from knowing they still depended on me. I learned to let go a little. They have taught me how quickly life changes, but how much it stays the same even when it does change. Sure Crash is old and frail but he still loves a good plate of food and some good snuggles, just like he always has. And Muffin, well she might be a cranky old lady, but when it comes to boxes she is still just a kitten at heart. Crash has been deathly ill more times than I can keep track of, but he keeps rallying back. There is something to be said for fighting on.
Yes, there have been things I have been held back from; I would love to travel, I would love to actually have money left over from my paycheck or to have an apartment of my own. I would love to be able to go out after work and not worry about the cats getting their medicine or their food. But with that, I have learned just what is important in life. I have learned that you make sacrifices for those you love. I have learned to prioritize what is important in life, and it certainly isn’t material objects.
I would not be the person I am today if it were not for Crash, Sam and Muffin. They taught me love in ways humans could not. They taught me responsibility and joy and the benefits of a good cat nap. I have learned that life is challenging and throws you obstacles- like a cat who is constantly hungry but doesn’t actually know what food he likes to eat–but you find a way around them. And Patience. Oh have I learned patience with these cats. Between all the illnesses, the bad behavior, the picky eating and refusal to take our medicines, I have learned patience. And of course I learned empathy and how to love another being unconditionally.
Over the past 18 years there have been countless challenges and sacrifices. Probably more sacrifices than I will ever realize. There has also been love, joy, learning, healing, and growing. I wouldn’t trade those for the world. So, thank you Crash, Muffin and Sam for the wonderful life lessons. And thank you Mom and Dad for allowing me the three best teachers in the world.