First published on parentsociety,com, 25 February 2013 -- http://www.parentsociety.com/pregnancy/adoption-parenting/how-my-kitten-prepared-me-for-parenting/
Many of us first-time parents try to get a leg up on things and attempt to master some parenting skills before the baby arrives. We utilize observation, classes, books, articles, videos, and in my case, adopting Louie, our handi-capable kitten.
We got Louie three years ago when we were living in Cairo. I literally scooped him up off the streets when he was about eight-weeks-old. I chose him, out of the millions of street cats, because I watched him dragging his rear legs behind him as he crawled under a car and knew I couldn’t leave him like that.
After examinations, x-rays, and visits to multiple vets around Cairo, it was determined that he had no broken bones, but some type of nerve damage and it would probably be permanent. But other than dragging his back legs around, in a GI Joe-like-way, he seemed fine. So, with no hesitation, we introduced him to our two American cats, Chuckles and Ricky, and our family became five.
In hindsight, it was like the universe sent us Louie to help prepare us for parenting. Suddenly having a handi-capable kitten in the house, meant “kitten proofing” things so he wouldn’t get his legs caught up. We had to address food and litterbox issues because the nerve damage caused bouts of spontaneous poopings. After much trial and error, and a lot of OxyClean, we found that mixing pumpkin or overcooked rice in his canned food gave him the fiber he needed to control matters, and keeping a blanket in his favorite sleep spots, helped with clean-up issues.
I did initially wonder whether he’d be able to get up on the couch or the bed, and had visions of kitten-ramps throughout the house. But truly where there’s a will, there’s a way, and his way typically involves a little jump and then climbing the side of the chair/couch/bed like a ladder until he gets to his desired spot. He plays hard and he sleeps hard and we decided early on to not make his injury any big deal. In fact, we’ve become so used to it that when friends come over there’s frequently a pause in the conversation when Louie drags himself through the living room. Sometimes I forget he’s an anomaly, and glance around to see what folks are gaping at, and then I say, “Oh, that’s just Louie.”
Prior to working out the stomach issues, there were some moments of frustration, as in any new parenting situation. The night before the social worker was flying in to Kuwait from Germany to do our home study for our adoption, I discovered that Louie had soiled one of the armchairs and the living room rug, so I scrubbed my little heart out. And another time, I actually found myself on the floor, under the dining table, outfitted with a flashlight and a roll of toilet paper. I was cleverly using the flashlight to cast shadows on wayward turds left behind by a certain Egyptian feline on our dark rug. Yes, I was Mrs. Croft: Turd Hunter.
Fast forward two years, and I’m holding my newborn daughter after her birth mother did all the work. I gazed at this amazing being before me and despite flashes of having no idea how to bathe her, forgetting what a swaddle was, or wondering how soon I’d have to learn a lullaby, I felt like we were going to be okay. Our lessons from Louie had prepped us in the most important ways; patience, flexibility, kindness, and a little more patience. So with those in hand, a case of OxyClean, and my Turd Hunter flashlight at the ready, we knew we could handle this parenting thing. Now we just had to introduce Bean to her little brother Louie and let the lessons continue.