“Show Aunt Louise your underpants!”
As a full-grown adult confronted with this situation, three thoughts immediately come to mind:
1. There are other adults present right?
2. Others heard that my niece’s mother made this request, not me, right?
3. What is the correct reaction in this situation?
Luckily, the correct reaction immediately presented itself as my niece gleefully pulled down her pants and proudly presented me with her Hello Kitty underpants.
“Oh! It’s Hello Kitty! You’re so fancy!” I said. My niece exploded in laughter, and my sister-in-law explained that it was really the cats she was into. In that moment, my awkwardness melted into pride.
As a child-free adult who is quite content with only being parent to children of the four-legged variety, the moments that I can exert my influence over the next generation of cat lovers come few and far between. However, with my little niece — I’ll call her “Noodle” like I do because of her love for noodles — I’m beginning to see the glimmers of cat love I’ve been attempting to impart to her.
A few months ago I gave her a little white-and-hot-pink plastic cat purse. It was my first subtle attempt at steering her toward the fun and frolic world of cats. As she explored its contents — kitty hair clips — I coaxed her excitement: “Do you like kitties? I LOVE KITTIES!”
“Cats are FUN!”
“MEOW! CAT!! KITTY!!!”
She howled. I meowed. It was comedy hour at the loony bin.
As our relationship has progressed, and Noodle has come to accept me (like the rest of the family) as “Weird Aunt Louise,” her amusement with my antics, both cat and otherwise, have encouraged me to continue on my quest to mold her in my Cat Lady image.
The great thing about toddlers is that they, like me, can run on a tangent for miles, and while my in-laws have long since stopped laughing at my kooky kitty ways, Noodle still finds me HILARIOUS. That’s all the encouragement I need.
So here are a few of my tactics in showing Noodle the coolness of my Cat Lady ways. It may be all fun and games now, but one day I hope to be witness to another bonafide Crazy-Cool Cat Lady in my family.
Noodle just got a new baby sister. Understandably, her little sister draws a lot of attention.
While visiting I made sure not only to give Noodle lots of attention, but also her family’s cat. I mean, duh. Look at who you’re dealing with? Kids and kitties trump grown up talk about mortgages and car payments any day. I’m the gal you’re most likely to find under the dining table.
And under the table Noodle, her cat, and I did play. When Tuna, the family cat, decided to grace us with his presence, I saw this as a great opportunity to give both Noodle AND Tuna some attention.
“Is this your kitty?”
“He’s so pretty! Do you like to pet your kitty?”
“Can you show me how?”
Noodle stroked Tuna, his back arching to her touch. “Do you think Tuna likes that?”
Eyes darting between me and Tuna, Noodle nodded. I scratched Tuna’s head and he leaned into it. Noodle watched intrigued. “Ooooh! Tuna likes face scratches! Can you gently scratch his face?”
Noodle tentatively reached out and scratched Tuna’s head, he squinted his eyes and pressed his little face into her hand. I watched her watching him, a focused, thoughtful grin spreading across her face.
In all the frenetic energy of toddler life, this was a quiet moment where I could see the thoughts coming together in her head, connecting the dots between what was pleasing to her and what was pleasing to Tuna. Noodle smiled up at me and said, not too loud, “My kitty!”
Tuna and I could not have been prouder.
A few scratches and some pets do not a Cat Lady make, but starting down the path of what it means to be gentle and considerate of what a cat likes is in my opinion the basis for all human-feline interaction.
The Meowing Game
Lather, rinse, repeat. Maybe not the most sophisticated tactic in my toolbox, but nothing tickles a toddler more than a grown woman prancing around “paws up” like a cat. I meow, she meows. I act like a cat, she acts like a cat. It’s a fun little game of kitty see, kitty do. This continues until Noodle disintegrates into giggles then demands “AGAIN!”. Then the game begins anew.
Who has more fun than cats?
Don’t tell Noodle, but Aunt Louise has been doing some shopping.
The cat purse from Gymboree was such a hit, it only whetted my appetite to shower Noodle with more cat-themed clothes and accessories.
Part of the fun of being a Cat Lady is wearing it on your sleeve. And everywhere else.
With my various cat printed clothing items, I’ve often been accused of having the wardrobe of an overgrown adolescent. But to Noodle, I say embrace this window of time where you can pull of head-to-toe cat outfits or “cat-fits” without question! Don’t tell Noodle, but here are just a few of the offerings my protegee has to look forward to.
Some sweet shades for being a cool cat.
Cats and polka dots, what could be better?
And everyone needs a statement dress. Are you noticing my affinity for cats, glasses, and cats in glasses?
These may seem like tiny things, and sometimes I wonder if all these “lessons” will be forgotten as soon as Noodle’s mom puts Frozen on for the 300th time. But seeing my niece petting Tuna so gently without my prompting, or hearing from her mom that she gets excited over kitty “stuff” from accessories to underpants, gives me hope.
Sure I’m trying to make cats fun and interesting for Noodle, as her aunt there’s only so much I can do. But with a little care and guidance, I’m hoping her delight in the cuteness of cats will help her grow into a responsible caring cat lover.
Are you a crazy cat relative? How are you teaching younger family members to love cats? Share with us on Catster.
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About the author: Louise Hung is a morbidly inclined cat lady living in Yokohama, Japan, with her cat, her man, and probably a couple ghost cats. She also writes for xoJane. You can follow her on Twitter or drop her a line at IamLouiseMicaela@gmail.com.