Family life

Introducing our new family pet

Tracy Chappell was sure that she only wanted two kids. But now they’ve adopted a furry new member of the family.

1Mae[1]

Mae, the newest addition to Tracy’s family. Photo: Tracy Chappell

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

There were a number of reasons to not get a pet in the years since we’ve had kids. One: The hair. I was always wiping something off my shirt, and didn’t want to have hair stuck to the slobber or woven into my yoga pants. Two: people I knew had allergies, and I didn’t want to give them a reason to avoid coming to my house and entertaining my kids for me. Three: I knew it would be all on me—the care, the feeding, the cleanup, the shots. Honestly, I just couldn’t fathom adding one more family member to train, nurture, comfort and clean up after. After all, that’s why we stopped at two kids.

Read more: Should we get a pet? > 

But times have changed. With my girls at eight and five, life has a bit of a different vibe. Anna and Avery have always wanted a cat—they’ve talked about it for years and I always shut that conversation down. We placated them with a fish for a while, but well, a fish isn’t much of a family pet (though the rock-paper-scissors over tank cleaning became the deterrent we needed to halt all other pet conversation). I knew it would be a cat, if we ever got one. Our lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to dog ownership (and I’m not a real dog person, anyway) and I didn’t want a family pet who lived in a cage. I grew up with a cat. I love how cuddly they are, how self-sufficient, and also how quiet they are most of the time. I do love my peace and quiet when I can get it.

This week, I’m happy to report that we’ve become a family of five. We adopted an 18-month-old tabby cat from a rescue organization that fosters felines who are going to be euthanized. Her name is Mae. The girls chose a few cats of interest from the organization’s website, and Mae was their #1 pick. I was partial to her because she reminds me of the cat I had growing up, and because of her name, which was my grandma’s middle name.

We were warned that she was shy at first, but a total sweetheart once she warmed up, before we went as a family to meet her. (I was OK with that—I have a child who is described the same way!) She hid for a while, but came out to see the girls and even ate a treat out of Anna’s hand. We could have checked out different cats, but the girls seemed instantly in love, and I thought Mae was adorable. I signed on the dotted line. Most people were surprised we didn’t get a kitten, but I liked the idea of getting a cat that was a little older and laid back. I was still certain that I was done with babies.

Her foster mom warned us that Mae might stay out of sight for the first couple of weeks. She worried the girls would be disappointed at first, but promised she’d be snuggly and sweet once she chilled out. I brought her home late on a Thursday night, after the girls had already gone to bed. I released her from her carrier and she bolted behind our chest freezer, where she stayed all night and most of the next day.

I picked the girls up from school on Friday and they ran to the freezer to say hello to Mae, but she was gone. We couldn’t find her for a while and I worried I’d somehow let her out of the house on her very first day in my care, but we found her behind Anna’s bed. Then she ran away and hid under Avery’s bed. By bedtime that night, she was settled under Avery’s dresser.

Saturday had her back behind the freezer all day, and I said to Sean that night that having a cat was, so far, sort of like not having a cat. But around 10 p.m., she came out of hiding. She poked her head into the living room where Sean and I were watching a movie. Instead of running away when she saw we were looking at her, she came right up to us and let us pet her. She cuddled up on Sean’s lap and purred. She hung out with us all evening, even following me up to bed and leaping around the furniture. All day Sunday, she hid under my bed, though she’d come out for a treat if she saw the coast was clear of the kids.

“I wish she’d come out and play with us,” Avery moaned yesterday. But they are handling her slow-to-warm-up temperament better than I thought. They’re thrilled to have her and wake up every morning eager to search her out. Their boisterous nature seems to terrify her, but she’s letting them come a little closer. On Saturday, they even squeezed behind the freezer to pet her and she didn’t run away. I know that over time she’ll get comfortable with them, too, and they’ll get to see how lovely she is.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy her after-hours cuddles. The cat I grew up with didn’t like me, or anyone really, except my mom. They were tight. I can imagine now that they bonded in the evenings while we were all fast asleep, when the house was quiet and my mom was folding laundry or packing lunches or writing her lengthy to-do list. Their relationship was quiet and loving and uncomplicated, and while I think Mae will be great for the girls, I can see how she will be that calming, comforting company for me, and know I was right to wait for her.

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