The power of guilt

When I was 15, I got a cat. He was a sweet little kitten, only about 2 weeks old. I named him Timid – it fit. He was shy, he was independent, and he did not enjoy a lot of attention and affection. When he wanted those, he would let you know; otherwise, it was best to leave him alone.

As time went on, I got married, and I had my oldest child. As that child grew, I got pregnant with my youngest. And Timid was, by then, 9 years old. He was, after years of patience with a pain-in-the-ass friend of mine, and with a very young child, no longer quite so patient, or sweet. He’d begun to hide under furniture so he could leap out and attack feet. They were no longer playful, fun attacks, but ones intended to actually hurt. I realized, as my pregnancy progressed, that I could no longer keep him.

I tried to find Timid a new home. The thing was, he’d always been an only cat. He’d also always been an indoor cat. And given his lack of patience, he needed a home with no children and adults that wouldn’t tease him too much. Yes, I was fairly restrictive about who could take him, and no one could meet those requirements. I tried the animal shelter, but the woman there was brutally honest with me: given his history and his age, she strongly believed that putting him out with the “general population” at the shelter might be enough to give him a heart attack and kill him. She was willing to try it, but she honestly felt that the best, and kindest, thing would be to put him down.

It wasn’t a decision I could make, not when I was 8 months pregnant. I had to have my mother decide – and she did what was best: she put him down.  That was a decade ago. Since that time, I’ve had a variety of fish, and a dog. But never another cat.

After the dog died in July, my kids really wanted to get a cat. I agreed, but I spent the last couple of months wavering. Part of me wanted to get a cat, because my kids so badly want one and I don’t want to deprive them of such a wonderful experience as having a cat was for me. But another part of me was struggling with guilt: how could I get another cat after Timid? It felt like I’d be betraying the cat who’d been so loyal and loving to me.

This weekend, we got a cat. And my feelings  of guilt have finally disappeared. This cat is nothing like Timid. Where Timid was dark gray and black, this cat is orange and white. Where Timid was standoffish and let you know if he wanted you to give him any attention, this cat cannot get enough. You can pick him up anytime, anyplace, and he will purr and snuggle and totally get into it. He loves to play, where Timid would play only when he wanted.

Timid will always be my first baby, my first cat. But Cuddles, our new 6 month old kitten, has his own place in my heart. I think he may be healing a tiny part of me that I didn’t realize was still broken. Or maybe it’s just the part that was still missing the dog a bit.  Either way, Cuddles makes me smile. He makes the kids happy. And that’s all that really matters, I guess.


(Btw, Ripped Away will be free this Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 18th and 19th. If you haven’t picked it up yet and want to, now’s your chance to get it for free!)