M.S. asks from South Weymouth, MA on January 26, 2008
Should We Keep Our Cats?
I can't believe I'm even considering giving up our family cats, but I think we probably should. We have two cats who are almost 3 years old. We got them when I was pregnant with my daughter who is now 2. Maybe not the best time to get a pet, but I was devastated by the deaths of my 15 year old cats who I just adored and couldn't stand living in a house with no cats. For the first 6 months (while I was pregnant) they got a ton of love and affection. When our daughter was born, they went straight to the back burner despite all of my best intentions. My daughter is now a high maintenance two year old and I'm 6 months pregant with our second baby. I've got zero time or energy for anything except my daughter (including my husband, house, and myself). The cats are pretty much neglected. If they come to me for attention, I'm ashamed to say that I push them away. What's worse, my daughter has started yelling at them and I realized that she's imitating me! My daughter has also started hitting the cats with her teddy bear when they don't listen to her (she DID NOT get that from me!!) and I'm sure they're getting annoyed enough to start biting her. These poor kitties just can't do anything right, and I don't think it's fair to keep them in a house where no one has any time for them. I've always felt that when you adopt an animal, you make a commmittment to love and care for them for the rest of their lives, but what is their quality of life here? Wouldn't they be better off with a family who would give them love and attention? I definitely would give them to another family, not to a shelter.
I thought I'd hold off on making a decision until I give birth to baby number 2 in the Spring so that I'd be 100% sure my decision wasn't based on pregnancy hormones! But now I'm thinking that adding baby number 2 to our household will be enough for my daughter to deal with without adding another big change by getting rid of the cats at the same time. And what if she thinks mommy and daddy will get rid of her to make room for the new baby just like we did with the cats?!
Any input on whether we should keep our cats and/or the timing of letting them go? Thanks, ladies, you're always a huge help!
D.B. answers from Barnstable on January 29, 2008
Hi M.- I am also a mother that had to make the decision to give up her cats. This wasn't the easiest thing for me. We had gotten a kitten for my daugher, who was 2.5 at the time. He was a GREAT cat. I got pregnant with my second child and we decided to get another kitten. My daughter was 5. We had some issues between the two cats, but we worked it all out. The youngest kitten LOVED to sit on my belly as I got bigger and bigger. Once my son was born, everything changed. The older cat started to pee in my laundry, clean or dirty and the kitten started to "spray" on everything. I tried everything to make them both stop, but nothing worked. I didn't have anyone to take them, who would when they pee. I ended up giving them to a shelter and felt HORRIBLE!!! It was very hard on all of us, my daughter included. I don't know if there is a right time to do it. I hope that this helps a little....thought you might like to hear that it isn't just you!
M.R. answers from Springfield on January 29, 2008
Who wrote that letter??? If I were pregnant I would think it was me! You are certainly not alone.
I have a 2 year old daughter who copies my shameful "go away" attitude towards our animals, and it breaks my heart also. It is tough sometimes to be affectionate towards a pet when all of your energies were spent during the day taking care of your child.
Do you have a family set up to take them? You do have a pair, right? They do keep each other company, so I doubt they are as "neglected" as you may feel. They are also independent by nature so are probably happier than you think, too.
If you can hang in there, you may find the pressure may ease itself in a year or two. I have found that having my daughter feed the pets helps to create a bond/respect between her and them.
K.M. answers from Barnstable on January 31, 2008
Hi M. - Sorry to hear that it's been rough-going with the cats and your child. I think you should absolutely keep your cats, absolutely! You made a commitment to them, they are a part of your family. Consider this new challenge of balance pets and children an opportunity for growth. Take this chance to teach your daughter to be kind to animals, lead by example by always being kind to your cats, find a way to devote time to them. Cats are appreciative of any time you give them, if they're being fed and have a warm place to sleep, then anything you give them on top is a bonus. There is much to be learned in your situation right now, see it through and reap the benefits in the end. You can do this.
Hope that helps.
L.M. answers from Boston on January 29, 2008
Don't give up the cats. They are resilient and will be fine for a while. They have each other to keep company. When the second baby arrives it will be hectic for a while, but I found that the first child loved and entertained the second child and it was easier as far as entertainment. My cat has been around since my kids were toddlers and he has adjusted through the years just fine.
E.H. answers from Boston on January 30, 2008
Hi, M.-- I hope you will keep your cats, unless they are endangering the babies or a health problem (allergies or toxo-plasmosis from the litter box - I hope you're aware of that danger during pregnancy). I agree with your "lifetime commitment" philosophy and would add dogs and horses to the list for a complete home (but I couldn't have done that when my daughter was very small - she was 5 when we got the first dog in her life, and 13 for the first horse)! Cats, as you know, can be more independent and resilient to lack of attention than dogs (especially if there are two who get along with each other), and might be satisfied with just a short time of petting and cuddling each day -- if they are the cuddly type (I've had some that were and others that weren't -- some want attention only on their own terms)! Can you (and your husband, too, I hope) manage a few minutes to quietly hold your daughter and the kitties, and show her how soothing and comforting it can be to stroke them and to feel them purr (if they'll stay with you)? I'm picturing a little family rest time with mutual benefits for cats, baby belly - and even T.Bear if the cats haven't begun to hate him! Oh, I've had plenty of scratches and rejections, but I'm a firm believer in the benefits of soft fur (not in the mouth and eyes!) on a warm body, and of the soothing rhythm of a pet's breathing and heartbeat! (Cats aren't awfully helpful with typing, however!)
Old Mom E. (I'm 62 -- my daughter is now 31!)
S.E. answers from Boston on January 27, 2008
It certainly sounds like it might be time to part ways if you don't have the time to spend with them. The only advice I would give is that if you know someone who wants to adopt them, great. If not, I hope you consider giving them to a shelter. Having volunteered at a shelter, they are the experts at screening people. It's actually somewhat dangerous for the animals to list them on a site like craigslist etc.
Good luck with your decision!
J.S. answers from Hartford on January 28, 2008
Being a previous pet owner, you went into this knowing it would be a 10-15 year commitment in taking in new cats. The point here is that you impulsively brought these cats into your home, without the intent to stick with it. They're your family members now, and deserve quite a bit more respect than you're giving them. If that means surrendering them to a rescue shelter that's a no-kill shelter, great. You can ask around and see if there's a family willing to take the cats in and give them excellent attention.
We have a 6 momth old kitten. My 7 yr old, 5 yr old, and 3 yr old think the sun rises and sets around that cat. They see how much I adore her and respect her, and they do the same. The cat gets tons of love and attention. It's possible for you too, but if you really don't think now is the time, then in the end, it's completely up to you.
You do sound like you've already made up your mind.
M.C. answers from Boston on January 29, 2008
It does seem overwhelming at times trying to juggle being mom and caring for your pets... I would suggest that you truly reconsider your thoughts on giving your cats up. Everyone seems to be going through an adjustment and sometimes that takes awhile. We have a bichon and a cat. Our cat stays outdoors in the summer( not our preference) and she is in during the winter. When she is in, I talk to her with a real sweet sweet voice ( even if it's just passing by) so that my 3 year old daughter can here and watch me. She will imitate me quite often and has learned to truly love our cat. The quantity of physical time that I spend with our animals is minimal(besides feeding, walking and keeping them healthy) though the quality of time that is spent, far outweighs the other. I also think that cats are so independant already that they only need a little talking to once in a while and a nice petting here and there. Show your children that you just don't give up on love... She will learn this from you and in the long run she will be blessed to have and love the animals in her life!
B.D. answers from Boston on January 29, 2008
Definitely let the cats go NOW! There are many fine no-kill shelters in the Boston area where you can place the cats while they await adoption into a home where the humans have time and attention for them. They deserve happy lives too, and your concern about your young daughter's understanding about their placement further demonstrates the lack of space you have for them -- she'll barely remember them! Contact Ellen M Gifford Sheltering Home for Cats in Brighton, Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Marblehead Friends of Animals or petfinder.com for more information. Let them go now and relieve yourself of the guilt and rationalization; you can always get another cat later if you want.