Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cat Caveat

Noah has always liked our cat Sidney, but he has recently discovered him on a new level. We will be down in the living room at any given time, reading books, working on puzzles, playing with his train or blocks, and he will suddenly jump up, sing out - "Catncatncatncat!" - run to the stairs, and head up to find the cat wherever he might be passed out at the time. This now happens several times a day. And he makes offerings to the cat, giving Sid his most prized possessions: one day he laid out three organic Cheerios-type cereal in front of Sid, another day a matchbox car, another day a board book opened so Sidney could read. He loves that cat, and points to the floor next to where he's sitting, inviting Sid to come and be with him, to be his friend and playmate. It's so sweet to see Noah lay his heart out.

The cat has simultaneously been showing more signs of interest and affection toward Noah. A few weeks ago he started wandering in to Noah's bedroom to sleep at the end of his bed when Noah takes his naps. This makes Noah shake all over with excitement when he wakes to find the cat there. Sidney also started purring when Noah pats him. But unfortunately, this new and more intense connection has even more recently resulted in Noah trying to lie on Sidney to feel the love even more, to crawl under the bed or couch after Sid once he'd removed himself in retreat, and to chase him eagerly from room to room to try to get him to come and play. It's love gone wrong. Sidney has gone from mewling warnings, to slapping Noah on the shirt, to scratching his hand and cheek. Noah acts so confused when he gets scratched, because he loves Sidney so much.

I remember reading advice to never leave a cat in the same room with the baby, but Sidney always had a very friendly and passive relationship with Noah when he was a toothless, bald, immobile sweet baby-blob. Even when Noah cried Sidney would stay close, and look concerned. But in the last two days Matthew and I have had more than one heated conversation about this being the end of the road for Noah's love affair with Sidney. I am now officially the mother I used to joke about who wails "Someone could put an eye out!"

So our plus-size kitty has to take a back seat (but he actually gets the whole upstairs) to Noah. This sweet baby kitten whom I've loved so much the past 3 1/2 years isn't the "top dog" any longer. It's a clear back seat for the animal. Of course it's not so bad for Sid, who has a pretty great life here with us, but so hard for me to remove him once he's given his warning meow, like I would a jar of poison or bottle of thumbtacks. He was the first creature in my adult life to unlock my maternal instincts and feelings, and really paved the way for the baby human to come along later. And Noah will not always be this adamant about pursuing him, I feel sure. Until that time, Sidney and I will have our early morning time, when Matthew takes Noah downstairs and I sleep for another hour, and the cat crawls up onto my chest as he has since he was a kitten, and settles down to sleep, soaking up the love there for him.