Teenagers, still learning but pushing the boundaries, almost grown but not adults yet, working out their place in the family and in the world; we have a teenage kitten. Kiwi is an amazing little blessing, so intelligent and gentle. But, having celebrated her first birthday on Saturday (17 July), she is solidly a teenager. When she was little, her mistakes seemed honest, as though she was trying to do the right thing but misunderstood or just didn’t have the confidence. Now she’s pushing. Expectations in my household are high and she’s testing to see what is good enough. It may seem crazy to have expectations of a cat, but I know of what they are capable and it will raise the quality ~and flexibility~ of her life and ours if she lives up to her potential. Yes, Kiwi rides in a pram, is learning to walk on a leash and harness, and is learning to use the toilet. The first two are for travel, exercise, and enrichment. But the third will also improve the hygiene of our home. No litter, no tracking, no contaminating footy prints on the kitchen counter.
My own life has had expectations where one slip was disaster, speeding down a wrong path, certain harbinger of destructive habits and continued failure. But I’m learning that that isn’t true. A failure when one knows better does not mean one has given up. Nor is it the end of the world or even the end of the effort. An error, or even two, does not a habit make. The more opportunities for success I can provide Kiwi, the less impact her mistakes will have.
And honestly, when she has made a mistake lately, I have failed her by not listening to my own instincts. Frequently, she warns me that something is about to be amiss. Some people say we learn more from our failures than from our successes. I realize now that I am. Not just with Kiwi, but in many areas of life, when something goes wrong, I remember a gut feeling disregarded that might have saved it. That should have a blog entry of its own, though. I hope Kiwi is learning, too. When I do catch her and stop the errant behavior, does it click, “Oh, I can’t get away with this.”? It seems to. She knows to use her scratchy post, but the couch is also nice and while she’s nearly given it up, she still takes the occasional test swipe to see if we still care. When she really wants to get into the planter pot, but I “Nuht nuht” and maybe take a step toward her, she practically shrugs and trots in to her toilet. You know, kids don’t want to come in from playing outside just for that. In fact, her recognition that the avocado tree’s dirt might be an acceptable substitute leads me to hope than a nice patch of dirt in a roadside rest area will be, too. Dare I ask her to differentiate between indoor and outdoor facilities? But I get ahead of ourselves. We await the arrival of her birthday present, a new “wriggle-proof” walking vest (like a harness, but less bestial).
The man in the house is wonderfully supportive of my goals, but gives me room to fail in the end if that’s how it goes. When I decide to do something, when I finally manage to make that decision, I do it. The thought of deciding to walk my cat or have her use hotel toilets, then making public my intentions, only to be unable to accomplish the task is mortifying to me. It is as though I have given my word to do it and my word is good. Again, for another blog… or perhaps a therapist.
This must be what parenting is like. As the adults, we get these little creatures who depend on us for everything. But they have their own personalities, and begin to express them more and more. Yet, we still see the future better than they and we understand what will prepare them best. But teenagers can be irrational and if they don’t trust us, there is no explaining them into obedience. And trust must be built day by day, in time spent together doing things right.
So, I devote myself to helping Kiwi grow into the best cat she can be. It’s not for everyone, but right now I have the time. And think of the payoff for years in the future! Traveling with the coolest cat ever. . .