It all started with Rocky. who was my husband’s cat since childhood.
He had quite the attitude (he liked to let everyone know after he visited the litter box, and used his thumbs to make fists to swipe at anyone who tried to move him).
At one point my husband’s family had moved and Rocky was nowhere to be found. They let the new owners of the house know to be on the lookout for him and contact them if he came around, but they never did.
It wasn’t until a year later, when my husband went back to the neighbourhood to visit a friend, that he saw Rocky sitting on the road with the usual scowl on his face. He had been on his own for a year, likely bullying unsuspecting elderly women into feeding him. My husband of course catnapped him and brought him home.
My husband was absolutely heartbroken when it came time to let Rocky go. It took me a long time to convince him that our house was too empty and that a new cat would cheer us up and provide us with some company.
We took a visit out to the old barn known as Katie’s Place. We visited all the rooms but I was drawn to the Boy’s Pen, where the FIV and FeLuk cats were housed, knowing that these guys were harder to adopt out.
We left that day, empty-handed, with my husband needing a bit more convincing. He was worried about the cats’ uncertain life spans, but eventually agreed they deserved a chance.
Of course, in memory of Rocky, we had to get a tabby, and we selected a fellow named Milton.
It didn’t take Milton long to adjust to his new home. He had a really mellow personality and liked to be around us.
He seemed really happy, but we were worried about him being alone for most of the day. Later, we made another visit to Katie’s Place and picked out another FIV+ boy named Barnaby.
Time went on, and eventually we once again added to our family. This time a human, not a cat.
After hearing about so many pets who have been surrendered once a baby came along, we weren’t too sure how the boys would react.
When we brought our little girl home from the hospital they immediately knew something was up. Their ears perked up whenever she cried and they wondered where the noise was coming from that was disturbing their sleep. When I got up to feed her, Milton followed me into her room. Both of them soon learned that when she cried, I would have to feed her, which meant I would be sitting in one spot for an extended period of time, providing a good opportunity for plenty of pets. You could often find me with my girl on a pillow and a cat on either side.
And our daughter never seemed to mind the furry purring next to her. She had heard it long before she was even born.
My husband, myself, the boys, and our daughter are coexisting quite nicely. Barnaby even steals pets from my daughter and likes to headbutt her when she’s feeding (she still doesn’t seem to mind).
He also lets her grab fistfuls of fur in her uncoordinated way. Milton still doesn’t trust her enough for pets, but he enjoys being around when she’s feeding, and he always gets up whenever she cries, as though he’s genuinely concerned for her.
From all of this we’ve learned two important lessons. One, FIV positive cats make amazing companions. Two, babies and cats can share a home. Before you surrender your cat when your bundle of joy arrives, give it some time, they will adjust and no one will need to lose their home.
Michelle Bast is a volunteer at Katie's Place, a cat shelter in Maple Ridge.