We were dog people without a dog. Gilda, our beloved international dog of mystery, died almost two years ago. No one and nothing could ever replace what she meant to us. Still, the kids and I knew something was missing. We needed the buffer pets provide in families. The calming influence that soothes difficulties between strong personalities all working toward their own goals while living together.
We started looking at animal rescue sites, but we knew our landlord was not a fan of dogs. He told us cats were OK. I know, I know, provincial laws state that pets are members of our families and cannot be denied. Still. It is his property and his investment and there is no reason to create difficulty or conflict where there is good feeling and trust.
Enter Parsnips. She belonged to a friend of a friend who had another cat. That cat was a great big jerk to Parsnips. Being fair people, after 18 months of trying everything to make peace, they did not seek to find a new home for their jerk of a cat, but for sweet and lovely Parsnips. She has been well-cared for and loved so she generally trusts people.
Not that the transition was easy.
My daughter was very upset when I told her we were getting a cat.
“We’re dog people,” she said. “We don’t know anything about cats. Cats don’t really need people at all.”
Guess who Parsnips chose as her human? Guess whose bed she warms on the cold winter nights? Guess who she follows around the house?
Yes. The reluctant cat companion.
It wasn’t immediate. For the first several days, Parsnips hid under the bathroom shelf, under beds and even in dresser drawers. We were aware, always, that we were being watched. It was strange, but not threatening. Then, gradually, she started exploring my daughter’s room and sitting on her lap, diving under the bed the moment my son or I came near.
And then, after about six weeks, she must have decided she likes us. She joins us for meals, she jumps up on the couch while we watch TV or talk together in the evenings. Sometimes, she even joins in the conversation with her meows and mews. And purring! My goodness, the purring. What an illustration of positive reinforcement of good human behaviour.
It happened at just the right time. A few weeks later, COVID-19 struck. We are, like everyone else, housebound but for walks without social interaction. My teenagers, typical in their ways, have to go without their friends and comforting routines. Needless to say, mothers are no substitute for their friends. Parsnips, on the other hand, can be. She listens. She’s easy to get along with. She doesn’t make demands…except just before I feed her and then sift the litter box every morning. She’s training us, my mother says. It’s a learning curve cats know how to enforce.
We’ve never lived with a cat before. It’s a new and interesting adventure in our house. And Parsnips came into our lives to take us on it just in time. During this era of worry and stress, I hope all of you can identify an adventure in your home to take with your family. If anything, this is the time to learn something new about pets, about living together, about care and about stretching how we describe ourselves. We are, my kids and I have learned, both dog and cat people. It’s been a good lesson to learn.