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Does Parenting a Cat Prepare You for Parenting a Baby?

We learned feeding schedules and regular play, but a baby brought so many unexpected things.

 |  Apr 3rd 2014  |   3 Contributions


Some experts say a good way to know if you're ready for the responsibility of a human baby is to first bring a pet into your family. In my experience, properly caring for a pet gives you a tiny sip of what it's like to keep a human child alive and healthy. My husband and I shared our home with a feline child named Dobie for five years before we started having babies. Thinking back to my experiences with cats-only vs. the reality of having children, here's my take what the experts have to say.

First of all, allow me to express that taking care of a living being of any kind is a huge commitment that shouldn't be taken lightly. Even though kitties are known to be pretty independent -- at least more so than dogs -- they require regular attention. When we had Dobie, we lived in a small apartment and both worked full time. Because we were young and poor, we didn't really have the resources to go out very often, so we were home most evenings, probably watching Seinfeld, eating macaroni and cheese and scooping poop ... not all at the same time. 

Here I am with our eldest. He looked just like me, didn't he?

We were able to give Dobie lots of attention and together, we took care of his litter-box needs and made sure he had a full belly. If we were away from home, we found a sitter. I thought we were good cat parents and did learn the importance of routine and responsibility when it came to sharing the care of a small, breathing creature.

In 1996, I found myself pregnant. Well, it wasn't an immaculate conception or anything, but there was a bun in my oven. As the months progressed, I felt myself getting nervous about taking care of the baby, not to mention the whole birth process -- yikes! Would my experience parenting Dobie really help me better parent my child? 

Dobie was a child who took regular naps.

As time passed, I found that in our sharing responsibility for Dobie, my husband and I had learned a lot about co-parenting and cooperation. We were great tag-team parents, and I definitely think some of that came from our experience with our cat. We were familiar with feeding on a schedule, regular play and attention, and always having a camera handy. There were, however, a few ways taking care of a cat did not prepare us for parenting a tiny human.

First of all, birthing a baby is nothing like adopting a cat. That is, unless you plan on squeezing an eight-pound cat out of your body before signing the adoption papers. I do not recommend this.

My infant son didn't care much for naps -- for him or me.

Except in the case of bottle-feeding a kitten, you usually don't have to wake up every couple of hours at night to feed a cat. Cats also didn't prepare me for some of the painful issues with breastfeeding ... and thank goodness, because that would have been weird. And not once did I every have to change a cat's poopy diaper. Nothing could have prepared me for the whole poopy-diaper business. Not even the worst litter box situation.

And potty training was way easier with cats. We didn't have to buy a special potty seat and cats catch on significantly faster than kids. Maybe I should have trained my kids in the litter box. 

My son Ben and Fritz, our second family cat. Guess which one was potty trained faster?

And guess what else? After we adopted Dobie, I didn't have to deal with stretch marks, unbelievable exhaustion and not being able to shower for days on end. In fact, Dobie liked join me in the bathroom when I showered, and nothing excited him more than curling up beside me for a nap. I probably got more sleep with a cat.

In the end, I believe there is some truth to what the experts say about bringing a pet into your home to learn about the responsibility of caring for a baby, and I'd absolutely recommend it; however, caring for a human baby is definitely filled with more surprises ... and poopy diapers.

Did caring for a cat help prepare you for parenthood? Tell us about it in the comments!

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About the Author: Angie Bailey is an eternal optimist with an adoration of all things silly. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, thinking about cats doing people things and The Smiths. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, Texts from Mittens (originated right here on Catster) and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in a comedy web series that features sketches and mockumentaries. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food. 

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