Pets and adoption

I was originally going to write about our cat much earlier on but decided not to because it became too much of a rant.

It was mostly about how our SW having a huge (badly hidden) issue with him (and all cats) She’d had an experience with her baby & the kittens she took on at the same time (?!?!) Not a bad one [experience] I hasten to add, just something that she over-reacted to and it has resulted in a skewed view of the relationship between cats and babies/children from over 30 years ago. Interestingly, our daughters SW’s didn’t have an issue with our cat and, of course, we made it abundantly clear that we wouldn’t do anything to put our LO in danger where our cat was concerned.

Now I’ve covered that aspect, I want to cover something much more important and much more relevant. It’s something that became very clear to us over the first week after or LO moved in and we think it’s really important to make clear how we think that animals should be viewed as a positive, not only for the child but also for the adopters.

Putting it bluntly our wonderful cat has kept us sane. And we failed him for the first few days. Fortunately we picked up on how he was feeling very quickly and put things in place to try and nip it in the bud. We were encouraged (told) to “possibly” shut him downstairs at night, even though he sleeps with us, on our bed, every single night. We didn’t do this, we would never have done this unless it was absolutely necessary (eg if our LO didn’t like her door closed and screamed if we tried!) but it hasn’t been necessary because our daughter sleeps with her door shut and she also doesn’t wake in the night (yet!) so there’s no “risk” of our cat “being shut in there with her”. And anyway, we would check he wasn’t going in and check before we came out. It’s quite simple really, but was made to sound so complicated. Anyway, I digress (again! – I’m good at that!)

We realised after about 3 days that he wasn’t himself. He’s a very calm, placid cat anyway but he’d gone to the extreme and just wasn’t reacting to us normally. He’d become depressed. Even though we were giving him attention he felt like he’d lost his home and his security and it was horrendous to witness. So, we were then on a mission to settle him down and welcome him back in. The irony of this was that we gave him more space.

When our daughter first moved in we encouraged her to say  hello to him quite a lot. We stopped doing that. She’s not scared of him which is lovely so it’s not like we’ve got to get her over any fear (our cat looks like the FC’s cat so that helps!) so we don’t need to encourage her that way. We then created a space for him that he could get in to but she couldn’t. We’re lucky enough to have a conservatory which is his domain anyway (he’s an indoor cat and that’s his “outside”) so we pushed the door closed enough for him to get through (he’d better not put on any weight!) but not enough for LO to squeeze through.

We’d also made the mistake of changing his cat litter so we got some of the stuff we’d been using and put a layer of that on top which helped. We did this because he went to the toilet on the, now aptly named, splat mat and near the front door. This is both territorial and stress/depression related. Think, for a moment: children who can’t verbally communicate cry to let you know something’s wrong. Animals don’t have anything that they can do apart from go to the toilet in the wrong place. You have to read your animals, they have feelings too and feel anxious, stressed and depressed in times of change and this was a big change. We didn’t shout at him or tell him off, we’ve never done that with our pets, there’s no point, it just makes them wary of you. We just felt really bad for him and I cried. We had to do something for him. So we were hoping that these simple changes and a simple plan would help him come to terms with the change in his life.

The other thing we did was give him treats when our daughter was really close. So she would sit on one of our knees and we would call him to get some treats. This has worked, well, like a treat!! It means he’s associating her with nice things, good things. And I can happily tell you that, after just 1 day of these changes, he is the happy cat we knew before. He’s more confident and happy (and mardy, which is a great sign!) and is coming in to the room more and sitting watching our daughter. Still from a distance, but again that’s a good thing.

And finally, as I cuddled him this morning (he still gets his ten minutes all to himself every morning!) I said to my husband that I felt he’d kept us sane through this change in life. He’s been the constant in our lives. He’s the one that greeted us after every day of the intro’s when we didn’t have time to see anyone else. He was the one that woke with us and went to bed with us every day after our daughter moved in. He was the one who sat on the sofa, between us, purring contently after our daughter had gone to bed each night. I’m certain that, if we had shut him out of normality, out of our every day routine and out of our room (where he sleeps like a log every night) he’d have gone mad, he’d have slowly got so depressed and I don’t think any loyal companion deserves that kind of treatment. And we would have been just as depressed. He’s been our rock in the solitariness of intro’s and moving in week, and for that, we have a lot to be thankful for.

Love you Jack! X

Tips for pets and adoption;
* Give your animal a space of their own. Somewhere he/she can get in to but the child definitely can’t
* Give treats while the child is near or sitting on your knee. This will help your animal associate nice things with the child
* Don’t change anything at all. Don’t make the mistake that we did and use a different brand of cat litter. Keep everything, absolutely, as it always has been.
* Remember to play with your cat/dog etc I sat in bed one night and heard my husband playing with our cat who was racing around so fast that I could almost feel the house vibrating. It was a joyous noise! He was happy again.

* Remember to give your animal attention but not over the top. Just keep it normal. If you give too much attention (more than normal) they will think something is wrong.




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