6 Things I wish I knew before getting cats

3 Comments 03 September 2012

black and white kitten

The little crooked stripe on My Cat Paddy’s nose is what first caught my eye. Little did I know that this moody little kitten would become such a part of my life.

It was My Cat Paddy’s 19th birthday last week (Happy Birthday Pad Man!) and PetPlanUK have asked me to write a post about my cats so I thought it was perfect timing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Paddy’s 19 years lately. I got Paddy in a tiny little petshop in Norf London (that’s not a typo, that’s phonetic). I had been living in the UK a couple of years, I was just married (for the first time) and I felt a bit more settled here. I decided I needed a cat. I called around lots of petshops until I found one with kittens. My mom came with me. There were a cluster of tiny little black and white kittens and one really friendly one that had a crooked white stripe on his nose. I cuddled him, he seemed happy with me and so I paid for him, put him in a cardboard box and brought him home in a taxi.

He was called Max for several years, but his nickname was always Little Max Paddy Cat. He eventually grew into the name Paddy.

1. I wish I had known how sensitive he would be.

I might have made a few different decisions about how to care for him.

When Paddy was five we went away for a couple of months while a woman stayed in our flat and looked after Paddy. I don’t think she liked Paddy as much as she said she would. I don’t think she hurt him, nut I do think she neglected him. When we returned the sofa was one big collection of two months of cat wee. And from then on, any time My Cat Paddy was deeply distressed he would wee on something–shoes sitting quietly in the corner, a suitcase left open on the floor, a jacket someone carelessly let fall from a chair… Once it was a school bag. That was distressing on a whole different scale.

He’s still a moody cat but he is a lot less sensitive now, or perhaps just happier, because we don’t have the Wee Issue like we used to.

And if I had known in advance of getting him that he would do this would I still get him? Yes. Because:

2. I wish I knew how much of a companion he would be.

If I had known I might have been more likely to look on his weeing episodes with greater patience. Maybe.

My Cat Paddy has been with me in my UK life almost from the beginning. You can see some of what he saw on my post How I got where I am today. He has seen me get used to married life, seen me grieve, seen me move house (several times), seen me pregnant and have a baby, seen me struggle, seen me get divorced, seen me date, seen me fall in love, seen me get my daughter to school, seen me blend with a new family, seen me marry again. Sometimes I wonder if he’s less stressed because I’m less stressed now.¬†Through it all Paddy has been there, on my lap, watching the Michelle Show.

And My Cat Paddy has also seen me get new cats.

3. I wish I knew how well they would have got along (eventually).

And I wouldn’t have been so stressed about it.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I got Princess Minky RaRa by accident when a neighbour called to say there were kittens under her garden shed and as she hates cats could I do something about it? I could only catch one scruffy, moth-eaten little kitten. When I took it to the vet before taking it on to the Cats Protection League and the vet said I needed to give her a wormer over the next three days I knew right then that Minky would be staying with us. How can you keep a kitten in your house for three days and not fall in love?

Paddy objected of course, more painfully than I anticipated (one of his nails stuck into a tendon sheath on my index finger and the finger was as swollen as a sausage for a few days). But now they get along very easily and all the stress I had in the early days worrying about how Paddy would cope was wasted. He didn’t even wee on anything. But:

4. I wish I knew that bringing a kitten into the house of an old cat meant I would need another kitten for the first kitten to play with.

Because there were about six months of Minky running Paddy ragged. I would come down to the kitchen each morning and see Paddy on his bed with bags under his eyes. I stressed some more, then finally decided I would try getting another kitten. About a month later I found Raffy in a petshop. And he’s perfect, but:

5. I wish I had known more about Cerebellar Hypoplasia in cats

And I might not have spent so much money on vet’s bills trying to figure out why he was stumbling so much. And I might not have spent so much time worrying about him. He’s fine. The condition doesn’t get worse, he can have a normal lifespan, and he doesn’t know any different. He’s a very happy, cuddly little kitty. And when he organises his hind legs under himself properly he is a force for Minky to reckon with–they have great fights on the carpet, but he just spins like a little toy helicopter on the tiles.

These three are very different in several ways–Paddy needs more reassurance, Minky is very independant but demands a cuddle at my desk at about 10.30 am every day, and Raffy gets underfoot really easily so we need to always watch where we’re walking, but I don’t for a moment regret getting each of them. Even though I have to change the cat litter more often than I ever expected.

6. But I wish I knew what an emotional bind they would become.

I love them more than I ever expected to. I think about them when I’m away on holiday. I worry like a new mother at a nursery when I take them to the cattery for a weekend or a couple of weeks (and I am immensely grateful that I have found a very good cattery for them). The cats are easier than dogs because they are fairly self-sufficient in many ways and I can easily be gone overnight and not worry about them so long as I know I’ve put out enough food and water for them.

But they are an emotional bind–when we lost Minky for five hours once I was really distressed because we looked everywhere and I was worried we would find her on the road, squashed. She was in a cupboard sleeping. I felt like shouting at her AND cuddling her close AND crying with relief–and that’s how we are with children. This connection means I gain so much more out of having the cats, but have so much more anxiety about their welfare. It’s the emotional connection that I like and don’t like.

What do you wish you knew before getting your pet?


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Your Comments

3 Comments so far

  1. christopher says:

    Our thirteen-year old grey tiger cat is sitting right beside me and purring as I write this comment, as she does regularly.

    We originally got an orange tabby for my daughter a few years prior to the grey tiger. The tabby was quite jealous at first and hissed at her presence for a week or so. After that they got along exceedingly well.

    Not sure though what I wish I knew….actually I wish I knew earlier how wonderful cats are…I had always been more of a dog lover in the past.

    When our tabby died recently my daughter and I were together at the veterinarian’s office with him. We both cried an awful lot.

    Glad your nineteen-year old Paddy is still with you…as you comfort each other along the way.

  2. Nat says:

    I grew up in a house of dags, so I was used to having (and by my teens losing) pets. They weren’t *my* pets though. First I had my lovely dog Jack, my ex- bought him for me and when we split I got custody. He couldn’t live in my flats though so he stayed with my folks until he died. I missed him every day.

    Worse my/our kittens. Casper was always the independent one and Tinker needed people (mostly me as I spend a lot of time in bed). When Tinker died suddenly last year I never knew it could hurt that much. I don’t have kids but I think that is what my little black fur-balls had become. Was it the loss of Tinker, did he just feel he must become ‘that cat’? Casper now spends a lot more time with me. I in turn worry horribly about him. From all my friends with children, he has become my baby! I wouldn’t change it… but I wish I’d known!

  3. Dunk says:

    I liked this a lot; I’ve always been a cat person rather than a dog person. I don’t dislike dogs, but I much prefer the snotty independence of cats.

    On my blog, if you can be bothered, there’s a chapter from my work in progress novel. the blog is at

    The page you need to look for is Schrodinger’s Cat.

    Felines rock!

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An American writer in the UK for over 20 years. Lives in Essex. A pretend extrovert.

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