My boyfriend Alex and I have been together for seven years -- since we were both 15 -- but we never “raised” anything together. I already had cats when we started dating, but we didn’t have any animals of our own.
Until now. And it’s taught us a lot.
In May 2017, this adorable little black kitty sauntered up to Alex every morning when he got to work. Alex works in a remote warehouse district where feral cats run rampant, and this little guy was the only friendly one around.
After about a week of daily Snapchats, we started to realize this cat had chosen Alex as his person and it was up to us to rescue him from the mean streets of Pinellas Park, Florida. He went to the pet store for some kitten supplies, then we scooped him up into the car and brought him home.
His name is Bean Man Jones, but we just call him Bean. Here’s a picture of him hanging out at Alex’s work the day we brought him home.
Almost a year later, raising Bean together has given us a new experience and brought us closer together. Of course, raising an animal isn’t the same as raising an actual child, but it’s still taught us a few invaluable lessons.
Putting Yourself Second
While this is just as important within a relationship, we’ve learned how to put another life (Bean’s) above us as a unit. We’ve definitely sacrificed frugality and convenience in the name of high-quality pet food.
Bean might just be the pickiest eater on the planet, which is surprising coming from a cat that was used to scrounging for food in the “wild.” A picky eater, whether it’s an animal or a person, causes you to go out of your way to make them happy and find food they will actually eat. Since a cat isn’t a person, you can’t reason with them, or tell them the food’s delicious even if it’s just a piece of steamed broccoli. Instead, you shop around at three different specialty pet stores, buy roughly 15 cans of cat food and see which one he likes best over the course of a few weeks.
Some food Bean wouldn’t even touch, others he’d pick at. It was also a struggle because we want to feed him the best food. A lot of cat food has unnecessary and harmful ingredients and additives, so we’d rather spend our money on high-quality, high-protein food that will benefit his health the most.
Would it be easier to pick up not so great canned cat food every time we go to the grocery store? Yep. But, we’d rather make an extra stop at the specialty all-natural pet food store to ensure we’re feeding our kitty the best food he can get, even though it comes at a higher price, which brings me to the next lesson we’ve learned.
Financially (and Emotionally) Supporting Another Life
It’s easy to split up the grocery bill since you’re actually eating it yourself. But what about when it’s time to buy a $50 pallet of canned cat food for the month?
Paying for food or supplies for anything besides yourself warrants a bit of a different discussion. We don’t want to be stressed about money, so we have open conversations about who will pay for what. We usually alternate buying food; I buy the litter and he pays for vet bills. Also, you have to actually remember you’re running low on cat food -- you can’t just order the cat a pizza because you forgot to go to the store that day. I think having these important money talks will help us be open in the future when we face a more serious money-centric topic like marriage.
It’s also important to be attentive to the animal’s emotions and needs to make sure they’re comfortable in their environment. If a cat’s behavior dramatically changes, like hiding a lot and being less social, it could signify a health problem. Or, it could just mean they’re scared of something new in their environment.
One of our other cats hid under the bed for three days after we brought a “happy birthday” balloon into the apartment. We’re not sure why the balloon scared her so much, but we realized that’s one thing we can never bring inside again. On the other hand, another pet cat started hiding because of a serious medical issue that ended with a $2K vet bill.
Cats aren’t nearly as adaptable as dogs are in new situations, or with new objects or people. You have to be attentive to their needs and emotions, even though they’re animals. It’s your job to take care of them, and seek medical attention if something truly isn’t right.
Keeping Calm During Emergencies
We live in Florida, where hurricane scares usually prompt a “hurricane party”. However, last year’s Hurricane Irma was a notch above anything we’d faced in a long time. They evacuated the area we live in three days before the hurricane even hit, and we had to think of where we’d go with our cats. Not every hotel was pet friendly, even with the emergency evacuations.
Luckily, we were able to find a hotel to accomodate both our family and our cats. It was a stressful time and in addition to making sure we had enough water and non-perishable food to last us through a hurricane, we needed enough cat food and cat litter too. This whole experience taught us we need to keep our cool during stressful situations, and think rationally about everyone -- and every cat -- involved.
We’ve only had Bean for a little over a year now, but he’s taught us to be better at adulting and given us all the kitty love we could ever need. No, I don’t call him our “fur baby” or pretend he’s our actual child -- but what we’ve learned from raising him together is pretty invaluable.