Growing up, our home always had animals. Specifically, my mom was and continues to be a cat person. We’d give a dog a try every once in a while and it wouldn’t last long before my mom would realize the responsibility and patience required far exceeded her capabilities. So, we primarily stuck to cats.
I knew that after I graduated from university, I wanted to have an animal in my home again. Unlike my mom, I already realized a dog would be too much work right off the bat so instead, I adopted an 11-year old tabby who I promptly named, Norman Bates.
I knew owning a pet was not to be taken lightly, however, I don’t think you’re ever fully prepared for the responsibility even if you have been raised with pets. I don’t consider myself a commitment phobic person, but the first day I brought Norman home even I was filled with anxiety and nervousness behind the commitment I had just made.
That being said, what Norman has given me far outweighs the bad:
1. He’s taught me the importance of taking time for myself.
Having a pet is a good way to have a mirror on how much time you’re spending at home. They’ll make it pretty clear when they’re not receiving the utmost care. As I learn more about my pet, I learn when he’s bored (and thus, acting out by being more aggressive), when he needs more attention, or when he needs something different in his water/food routine. This acts as a direct reflection of me either not being home enough, or not prioritizing my time better when I am home. The fact is, that when you’re responsible for another life it will likely get taken care of first. So if Norman isn’t 100% happy and he’s one of my priorities, chances are not enough self-care is trickling down to me either.
2. He’s shown me the weaknesses in my personality…
I’m a bit like a cat myself in that I am pretty independent and not a huge cuddler unless the mood strikes. Norman is a super affectionate and cuddly cat. Sometimes, I don’t want a pile of fur on me, or a rough tongue licking me. Not being super affectionate isn’t a bad thing, but it’s something I’ll want to push past when I have kids of my own someday. Norman’s been great in identifying that early on for me.
3. …as well as the strengths.
Like I mentioned, I’ve learned a lot about my pet and his personality despite the fact that he can’t speak. I can identify what certain meows mean. I know how to give him what he’s asking for, or when he’s being a brat I know it likely means I need to get some toys out and play with him. To me, this has reiterated that I am attentive, a good listener, and at the end of the day, a good cat mom.
4. He’s made me grow
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a ton of patience. Alas, pets require A TON of patience. Every morning before I go to work and evening when I get home, I can expect one of the following:
- To be tripped by a cat that decides to run diagonally in front of me
- Having to quickly block said cat from booking it out the front door the moment I unlock it
- To be meowed at incessantly despite a full food dish and clean cat box
Not to mention, surprise hairballs in the middle of the night that wake me up as I scramble to make sure he’s not on my bed. That being said, while having my patience tried and tested isn’t fun, it is important and pushes me to grow in an area that doesn’t come naturally to me.
5. He’s shown me unconditional love
A pet doesn’t owe you anything and doesn’t really expect anything in return. Anyone can come in and feed them, but only the owner that they love will get the full joy of their excitement, affection, and love. That was something I’d never experienced before and it’s even more special because Norman didn’t just automatically love me from the start. It took about two weeks for me to earn his trust but once I did, he’s been a devoted pet ever since. He cuddles me when I’m upset, he follows me religiously wherever I go, and although he’s been a loving cat to my roommates as well, it’s always been evident that I’m his #1 human. On your crappiest days, it’s nice to know that you’ve still got this real, living, breathing being that’s always in your corner.
As any pet owner will tell you, there are days where cleaning up a hairball or a broken mug from a mischievous animal makes you sigh and perhaps think – just for a moment – of a pet free life. But there is always one thing I’m grateful to my mini-ocelot for, and that’s the knowledge he’s given me about myself.