My husband and I rarely jump into anything blind, whether it’s buying a new car or getting a throw pillow for the sofa. Months of research and discussion go into any decision we make.
So when we were three years into our marriage and felt ready to start a family, we weren’t just going to throw caution to the wind and let nature take it’s course. No, we were going to plan for this momentous new chapter in our life.
The plan included a cat. Our thinking was that if we could keep a cat alive and happy, we could probably handle a baby.
Because we lived in Manhattan at the time, we decided to adopt a cat from the ASPCA. The woman who conducted our adoption interview took one look at us and said, “We have the perfect cat for you.”
Joe and I fell in love the instant we saw her. She was a four-month-old kitten found wandering the streets of New York City, and she had the sweetest face you could imagine.
We named her Samantha and went predictably crazy over our new addition. Many, many, many people made fun of how over-the-top bananas we went.
Perhaps it was because she had more toys than most children. Or the hour we spent agonizing over the perfect collar and pet tag for her. Or, it could have been our decision to feed her the pricey specialty cat food that could be found only in pet boutiques.
Well we had to do that. The one time Joe had the nerve to pick up a grocery store brand, she picked out each inferior piece and left only the fancy brand in her dish.
Did I forget to mention she was a genius? How could we feed her Tender Vittles when she so clearly was telling us her preference?
My therapist at the time told me that she thought Joe and I would be wonderful parents, but she feared we might be overindulgent with our kids based on how we were with Samantha.
Perhaps we were a tad obsessed.
It didn’t help that poor Samantha had a chronic viral condition that often caused her to get eye and respiratory infections. She had a plethora of prescription drops and antibiotics. We became quite adept at getting her to take each and every one, and the skills have been put to good use with three children.
Nights that previously were spent reading or watching a movie were now spent playing with our cat. Joe would take her out into the hallway of our apartment building and run back and forth with her.
We especially loved it when our neighbor’s three-year-old son would knock on the door and ask to play with Samantha. She may have looked like an ordinary cat, but to us she was our baby.
She was also a great comfort to us at one of the saddest points in our life.
Each of the four times I miscarried, it was Samantha who would sit with me in the dark as I mourned. Holding her and feeling her warm fur helped with the devastation I felt over our losses.
When we left our apartment for a house in Queens, Samantha made the move less traumatic. I could focus on her adjustment to the new house and not think about my own.
Looking back, I crack myself up about just how nuts we went over her. But our sweet cat did what we hoped she would do, she helped us get ready to be parents.
A little more than two years after our first miscarriage Joe and I welcomed our first child into the world. If you thought we went overboard over the cat, you can only guess what a fuss we made over our beautiful newborn son.
In the months before Tom was born, I diligently got Samantha ready for the changes that were coming. What I didn’t anticipate though is that our new son would be extremely allergic to our first baby.
Luckily for us, my father-in-law was only too happy to give Samantha a new home. The two of them became great friends for the next 12 years.
Seven years ago we had to make the agonizing decision to put her to sleep after a very long illness ravaged her little body. After a rough start to life as a stray cat on the streets of New York, Samantha got to live to 15 and was very loved and spoiled.
I cherish the sweet memories of her and am grateful for how she helped us feel like a family and got us ready for the crazy adventure of raising three children.
This is a reworking of the very first first piece the Dishwasher and I ever published on, 11/20/10, under the title, My Four Legged Mentor. A second version was published on the Dishwasher, 11/23/14, under the title, My First Baby had Fur. Thanks for letting me share it with you once again.