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adopted ginger cat, Pickles, has become Facebook famous for his antics. Weekly,
sometimes daily, I share "The Pickles Report" of food he's stolen,
items he's torn apart and the number of times I've stumbled across a pile of
cat vomit after he chewed up some particle of plastic, a product of feline OCD.
affectionate, his favorite position for the first few weeks after we adopted
him was propped halfway up my back, curled into my neck as I worked, often with
his nose jammed into my ear. As large as his appetite for affection was, however, we
soon learned he had an even greater-sized stomach, and a decidedly uncatlike
Within his first week in our home, he plucked bread straight out of the
toaster and knocked muffin containers off the counter, spreading their crumbs
across the floor, eating an entire large muffin to himself. Pizza left in its
box has no chance. And one day I realized he'd been helping himself to the
remains of tortellini, jumping up on the cold stovetop and stealing them one by
one. The cat even made off with a doughnut, which he relished quietly in a
corner of my kitchen before I sniffed the crumbs to determine what it had been.
How many times have I snapped at my own child when he didn't respond to a command quickly enough or, like Pickles, didn't understand what I was asking?
In the first few months I found myself genuinely outraged at this
little criminal interloper. How dare he do whatever he wanted with no regard
for the rules? One day, I found myself shouting at the top of my lungs after
he'd stolen my hamburger patty, a minute after I had turned away to wash a
dish, and dragged it, cheese and all, under the table to gnaw.
"But mom," intervened my 7-year-old son Ben, mooning at me with his
big brown eyes. "He doesn't understand. I don't think you should yell at him."
It was true. Clapping, shouting and scolding do absolutely nothing to
reform our feline hooligan, and my son was calling me out. My reaction to this
cat gave me pause to consider how I handle stress when I feel that I'm not
being heard. How many times have I snapped at my own child when he didn't
respond to a command quickly enough or, like Pickles, didn't understand what I
Instead, we armed ourselves with four squirt bottles to keep him off
tables, counters, the top of the fish tank and anywhere else he saw fit to
claim for himself.
ways the cat aggravates us adults, Ben loves him with the passion of a life
partner. He forgives all of Pickles' insults and affection-borne scratches, and
constantly reminds us, "He doesn't mean to be bad."
My son, in other words, exhibits more patience
with his cat than I do at times with my own son. Through Ben's eyes I'm
reminded that sometimes I expect too much of a 7-year-old boy—overestimating
his ability to process or control big emotions, regulate his moods or exhibit
other adult behaviors. And I've lowered the bar on my expectations for the cat,
I could not have anticipated that this
incorrigible cat would teach me greater patience for my son, but it has. And
it's worth every bag of hot dog buns gnawed right through the plastic. You can buy more stuff, but you can't ever be too tender or
patient with kids and cats.