It is 6am. My husband and I are jolted awake, bleary-eyed, by the sound of wailing outside our bedroom door.
We took him in. But being a big climber, he soon smashed several things in our house. He was also riddled with fleas from being outside, which we had to meticulously comb out and treat with medication.
Bluebell developed an eye infection at one point which necessitated multiple trips to the vet. She remains the most “scaredy-cat” one but has come out of her shell a lot, even taking to perching on people’s laps as long as they stay still.
As for Biscuit, she got much better after we got the automatic feeder, but she has recently learned to dig more food out of it than her allocated portion so we have to monitor her when we can.
Once, when we bought canned cat food online from our usual supplier, our cats began vomiting because it was nearly expired. We had to scramble to get new food and fretted over whether to take them to the vet. Luckily, they got better on their own.
When I got into houseplants, I also had to research pet- or child-friendly plants out of fear that they would chew on toxic ones and fall ill.
While caring for our cats and learning to deal with their idiosyncrasies, we often found ourselves saying: “This is like practice for having kids.”
Knowing how difficult it really is for parents of human children, we didn’t say it lightly.
WHAT OTHERS SAY
I spoke to a friend, Michelle, who has both a kid and a furkid, and an acquaintance who has a cat and no plans to have children.
Michelle, a civil servant, said that she and her husband initially struggled to care for both their dog — a four-year-old shih tzu named Monkey (apparently because they think his bark sounds like a monkey’s cry, though I disagree) — and their newborn son at the same time.
But she agreed that caring for the canine, which they’d had for two years before welcoming their kid, had prepared her in some ways.
More specifically, she said that Monkey had a peeing problem and they got used to cleaning up after the dog. “Not that (our son) pees and poops everywhere, but it was like we already had one baby that was more ‘jialat’ (Hokkien for ‘drain energy’), so it kind of geared us up,” she told me.
My acquaintance, who is also in the media industry, said he dismissed the idea of having children a while ago. His fiancee comes from a big family and agrees with him that they should not have their own kids.
He got a cat some time back and that cemented his decision, he added. Taking care of her gives him all the parental fulfilment and satisfaction he needs.
Luckily for him, his parents are fine with his decision to remain childless as they already have grandchildren.
As for me, I am not sure what life has in store for me on the parenthood front — maybe someday I will give birth to a child, or maybe I won’t and my husband and I might adopt more pets.
Either way, I feel like our current set-up has helped me to embrace the messiness and joy of family life, whoever the members may be.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Louisa Tang is a senior journalist at TODAY, where she covers court, crime and legal issues.