The cat/baby dynamic

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Ginger has been a part of my life for nine years. She was born to a house cat on my parents’ farm in Ontario, and I brought her to live with me in Waterloo the same year I finished university.

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Ginger in 2007 with my former cat, Sage.

When I moved to New Brunswick in 2009, I came with whatever I could fit in my ’97 Volkswagen Jetta. Ginger and Sage made the 16-hour trip together in a cat crate, riding in the front seat. While Sage whined, Ginger was tough, curling in a back corner and sleeping the whole way.

These two furry friends were the only living souls I knew when I set foot in this city. They were with me through some very lonely days.

Ginger came with me when I moved in with my boyfriend (sadly, Sage had some issues and found another home). And she came along when we bought a house, and became our fur-child when we got married.

She once filled my Instagram feed. I called her my practice baby. I would narrate her odd little behaviours to my sister on the phone. She has a thousand adorable nicknames like Nirmal and Buggy.

And then, I had a baby. A human baby. And everything changed.

Sure, Ginger still gets attention, but it’s just not the same. She’s happy to curl up in a chair and sleep the day away.

My seven-month-old son squeals in delight when he sees the cat. The cat scowls. Silas attempts to gently pet her soft fur, but his little hands grab ears and hair. She tolerates him.

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Ginger has never once shown aggression or defensive behaviour toward Silas, and for this, I am grateful.

The trouble is that whenever I get cozy with Silas – particularly at bedtime – Ginger stirs from the warm spot she has occupied the past several hours and decides it’s dinner time.

I’ll be in the baby’s room, and he will have just nodded off to sleep, and she busts in, picking at the carpet. It’s an extremely frustrating feeling to hold a sleeping baby and listen to a cat scratch in front of you. She knows I’m vulnerable and will do anything to make her stop. Therefore, food in the bowl.

If she can’t break in the room, Ginger will linger in the hallway and make a loud gurgle-meow as soon as I emerge. I chase her away and feed her again to shut her up.

She has definitely woken up the baby a couple times doing this. And I’ve held a grudge against her. She knows it, too. There have been times when I’ve wanted to show her the door.

And then my baby will squeal and vibrate with excitement when he sees her, and she’ll relax and curl her tail around him and I’ll remember the tougher days, and how she stayed by my side and melded herself into this new life of mine that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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April Runs On

A writer who loves to run, often while chasing a toddler on the east coast

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