Day #184 Coming back without ever leaving (2)

I first thought it was cheating a little bit to reuse the same photo from yesterday, when I didn’t have time to write out the post that was meant to accompany it, but then I remembered – my blog, my rules!

The Mister snapped this photo yesterday of Darcy perched next to me on the arm of the couch, enjoying scratches. Earlier in the evening, the he actually took the rare step of jumping up on our bed next to me while I was lying there. (I was hiding out from the toddler so I could eat some ice cream in peace, without sharing any. Shhhh… don’t tell him.) I had planned on getting up after I finished the bowl, but the cat joined me and it was such a rare thing that I stayed on the bed, rubbing his head, and his neck and generally enjoying the quiet moment between the two of us.

He’s never really been a demonstrably affectionate lap cat. Early on when we first got him, before the baby came along, he would occasionally condescend to curl up next to me on the couch and we would doze together. I could probably count on one hand the number of times he voluntarily crawled into my lap without any sort of inducement. And even then he could never normally be convinced to stay there once the said inducement was consumed.

He did, however, always like to hover around me.  The agreement between me and the Mister for me to have a cat is “my cat, my responsibility”. It’s a pretty big deal for a non-pet lover to put up with all of the various dramas that go hand in hand with pet ownership, even one that’s relatively low maintenance. So I was happy to agree and therefore aside from certain unavoidable times I have been the primary feeder and cleaner and general cat herder since Darcy first came to us six or seven years ago. So it’s no surprise that he prefers to hang around me. But because of his general stand-offish nature, everyone always finds it somewhat amusing that he shows his love by needing to perch anywhere possible within a five foot radius of me but avoids actually having contact with me.

This of course all changed when Hawkeye came along. I expected it to. A cat is, as far as pets go, blessedly low maintenance. I clean his litter box, I feed him, I take him to the vet when necessary. He’s a strictly-indoor cat so his life mostly consists of sleeping and staring out of windows. I don’t think cats need to be lavished with love and affection and attention in the same way that dogs do, possibly because, unlike dogs, they are by nature solitary creatures and not pack animals.

I remember reading, years ago, a post by a veterinarian blogger known as Dr. V on this issue titled “The long slow descent down the totem pole”:

So when people ask me for advice about acclimating the pet to a new baby, I tend to address it a little differently than other people, because I’m answering for myself and my own experience as someone who felt more than a little totally overwhelmed with a new baby. All of that training advice and counterconditioning and daily jogs and playtime perfectly coordinated with the child’s tummy time to create positive associations and avoidance of placating the pets with food? Solid advice, every bit of it. And not a single bit of it something I was in a place to do at the time.

I say: yes, you’re highly likely to neglect your pet, at least temporarily. Forgive yourself in advance and move on.

~ Dr. V, Pawcurious

I love the Pawcurious blog because Dr. V’s writing often tends to be refreshingly honest, whether it’s about her parenting or about her pets or her career. So I took her advice to heart and forgave myself in advance for withdrawing most of my attention away from my cat. He was fed, he was clean, his litter box was taken care of, and he would get the odd belly rub, but otherwise my interactions with him shrank to the absolute minimum. To be honest, he didn’t seem to mind it too much, because staying away from me also meant he got to stay away from the noisy, squalling, strange addition to the household. And when time passed and I still didn’t recover my sense of equilibrium enough to re-engage with my cat, he was still happy enough to stay away from the noisy, crawling, curious creature that tried to go after him. And having gotten into the habit, he stopped hovering around me. He didn’t seek out the opposite end of the couch whenever I was there, or follow me from room to room at a polite distance. We were strangers living in the same house.

Hawkeye is over two and a half years now. It’s fair to say that it took me a hell of a lot longer than Dr. V to sort things out enough that I could find time for my cat again. Lately, however, I seem to have found the time and energy to show my love again to the giant furball and in return he has reverted to hovering around me once more. It feels wonderful to return to that kind of a relationship with my cat. I’ve missed having the time and energy to lavish additional attention on him and having him once again seek out my company is a soothing balm. It’s like coming home after being away a long, long time. Only I never really left.

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