There comes a time for every young couple when—after being “just us” for a time—they find that something in their lives is missing. It’s a need for greater responsibility. A call to reach beyond themselves. A desire to nourish and protect.
And so, like countless other couples before us, we answered the call and got a cat.
(What did you think I was talking about?)
We named our striped orange tabby Simba because—as products of the 1990s and its Disney movies—what else were we supposed to call him?
Simba arrived to us literally minutes after the Tabor College commencement ceremony ended last month, which meant that in addition to socializing at our reception, Hanna and I also had to keep a confused kitten from self destructing.
Luckily, we all survived that afternoon before crashing on the couch—the family of three—for a much-needed nap.
So far, Simba has been every bit the joy that I imagined he would be. But of course, he’s also learning how to be a cat.
Two weeks ago he discovered the joys of feathers on a string. This last week he learned the game “Pretend the Red Laser Dot is an Evil Speck That Must Be Captured.” And tonight he found out that biting people’s toes results in a being spurted with water.
But I really am proud.
We tell Simba that I’m Daddy and that Hanna is Mommy, and we pretend that he knows what that means.
Sometimes I take it too seriously:
In the office, several of my coworkers have children, and a lot of the conversation revolves around parenting tips and child accomplishments. When someone mentions something interesting their kid did the previous night, I catch myself wanting to add, “Well yesterday Simba did numbers one AND two in the litter box at the same time!”
Yes, I have to be careful to not convince myself with absolute certainty that Hanna and I are authentic parental figures in the relationship we have with Simba. After all, as the adage goes, a person does not adopt a cat, a cat adopts the person.
Daily, Simba is discovering his independence, and he will quickly realize he doesn’t have to answer to us. Sure he’s still a little guy, but he’s learning the feather-ended ropes of cat-hood.
Already he pounces on imaginary foes with awkward coordination. He sets his sights high—specifically the dining room table—only to come tumbling back down. And his genetic irk of anything canine is becoming apparent by constantly pestering my parent’s dog. (She’s a Pomeranian, though, so Simba has encountered little threat.)
As C.S. Lewis wrote in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”: “He is not a tame lion.”
Although, now that I think about it, Lewis likely did not mean that in the sense of Aslan climbing the back of nice furniture or getting tangled in the wires behind the TV.
For the next few weeks we will enjoy all the cuteness and bliss that comes with raising a kitten. He pounces, mews, purrs, flops, nibbles and bats with an innocence I want to freeze in time.
However, I know Simba will soon mature and find his feline independence. He’ll skulk away into dark corners for hours, only coming out for his desired five and a half minutes of attention. He’ll probably catch rodents and drop them at my feet. And through it all, we’ll have to let him be himself.
Yes, someday he’ll wake up and discover that he’s become a big-boy cat.
But I’ve already got a veterinarian’s appointment set up for that.