Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Cat Outside the House

I'm supposed to write about Alex the kitten.

The kids have been bugging me for weeks. I may let them write an entry of their own if they can get it all together, because they have many experiences with Alex. To me it's just "the kitten," or--more and more as the days go by--"the cat"! Alex is growing fast.

We've had her for about a month now. Some may remember back in the summer we had an intrusion of mice in the house. For several years the neighbor's cat had been prowling the property, and we had gotten used to relying on her. But now she had moved away, and word must have gotten around on Mousebook: "The Janaros are 'available' again!"

This resulted in our determination to get an outdoor cat. After some complicated experiences that I still do not really understand, we finally became the owners of Alexandra, or "Alex" for short. I don't need to tell you that the kids are happy.

Animals and children can have a special bond, if they manage to get over their initial fear of one another. Among children's first toys there are stuffed animals, and children's books are full of smiling, chatty animals. Children love to learn about the habits and behavior of real animals too, and are almost always pleased to watch a nature video, draw a picture, or read a library book about animals.

My kids have always loved animals (although when they were small, they were wildly afraid of real life dogs). As they grew older, their desire for pets increased, but there was always the limitation of Daddy's allergies. An outdoor cat, however, appears to solve this problem, even though the kids have to change clothes if they handle the cat too much.

Alex has a small cat house that the kids built for her outside, where she spends the night. Then they let her loose in the morning. She enjoys spending her free time right on our front stoop, which I don't mind as long as she stays away from me. I think Alex and I have an understanding. I am willing to let my children spoil her and treat her like a queen, provided that she learns to catch mice and stays away from me.

Ha! You know it's more than that. I never had an experience owning a pet (except for goldfish, which hardly count), but I can see how an animal flourishes when it is the object of human affection. And I can see my kids learning about responsibility, about having other creatures that depend on them. I can also see the great life that this little cat lives in my kids' imaginations, a life that spills over into reality as they cuddle her and prod her and tease her and fight with each other over whose turn it is to clean the litter box.

When I see Alex on the stoop in the morning she makes me smile.