It was love at first sight.
I was scrolling through Facebook when I stumbled upon a photograph of kittens, so young their eyes weren’t even open yet. “I neeeeeeed one of those!” I commented. And I did. Six months earlier, our beloved orange tabby cat had been eaten by a wild animal. I missed her. I missed living with a cat. Also, mice were invading our farmhouse.
A few weeks later, we brought home one of the kittens from the photo, a fluffy gray tabby with big blue-ish eyes. Our three-year-old son named the tiny ball of fur, Runaway.
The kitten grew and grew and grew. As Runaway grew bigger, my belly also grew bigger. I was pregnant with our second baby. I knew bringing a new baby into our home would mean less time and attention for our pets but I already had experience being both a pet owner and a parent, so I thought I knew what I was getting into.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Adopting a new pet is a serious commitment. It’s similar to marriage. You make a promise to take care of that animal unconditionally “from this day forward; for better or worse…in sickness and health, in good times and in bad…as long as we both shall live.”
I tried to give our new kitten the best possible life: new toys, clean litter, and quality food. I made sure that he was neutered and given his shots.
Our son, Wolfy, and the kitten took naps together on the couch. It was adorable.
The first sign that everything was not perfect was that the kitten wanted to play all night, which is totally normal. But no one in our household wanted to woken up by being scratched by tiny claws, so we started locking Runaway in the basement at overnight. It was warm down there with fresh food, water, and a cozy bed. But every night, when we closed the door, he cried and we felt so guilty.
The second problem was that Wolfy and Runaway didn’t get along as well as I had hoped. I tried to teach Wolfy to be gentle with the kitten but he would get excited and forget. He pulled the kitten’s tail and chased him around the house. One of Runaway’s toys was a long furry string that he could chase and bat around. Wolfy used this string more like a whip. Runaway fought back until Wolfy’s hands were covered in scratches but all of them were well-deserved.
Then our daughter was born.
Something changed soon after we brought our new human baby home from the hospital. Runaway had grown gigantic. When he stretched out, he covered half of the couch. And he was wild. Sometimes when we picked him up, he would scratch us. I thought maybe he just needed to burn off some of his energy, so I tried putting him outside but he would cry to come back in and claw at the window screens.
One day, as I nudged Runway outside, I caught myself hoping that a wild animal would come and eat him. I missed my old cat. She had been so calm and cuddly. Why had the wild animal killed her? I wished the wild animal would come back now and take this crazy young cat off of my hands. I knew it was wrong to wish my pet would die but living with Runaway was terrible. His poop got caught in his long fur, his claws destroyed my furniture, and he purposefully knocked over anything that wasn’t bolted down. Still, he didn’t deserve to die.
I felt stuck with the cat and I hated it. I started to hate him.
Then Runaway attacked Wolfy. The first time it happened, we were walking through the house at night. I was carrying the baby and Wolfy was in front of me when the cat leaped out of the darkness like something out of the Exorcist. It was terrifying. Wolfy was crying. Our newborn was crying. I was almost crying.
After that, Runaway started attacking Wolfy almost daily. It sounds silly. It was just a cat, right? Wrong. When Runaway jumped on Wolfy, the cat would knock him over. Then Runaway would pounce on him; scratching and biting Wolfy’s head. It was actually really difficult to pry Runaway off of him.
The attacks were brutal. Wolfy became afraid of Runaway. They didn’t play together or cuddle on the couch anymore. One day, a delivery man came to the house and Wolfy tried to get him to take the cat away with him.
One night, while Wolfy was eating dinner, Runaway leaped up out of nowhere and bit Wolfy on the face. The attack was completely unprovoked. Dinner was ruined. Wolfy cried and Runaway got locked into the basement for the night.
I went upstairs and sent an email to the woman who had given us the kitten. I had been composing it in my mind for days, maybe even weeks, but I hadn’t wanted to write it. I didn’t want to give up. I didn’t want to admit defeat. I didn’t want to get a divorce from my cat but it was starting to be an unhealthy situation for all of us. None of us were getting our needs met; not me, not my family, and definitely not Runaway. I asked the woman if there was anyone, anyone at all, who would be interested in taking our cat.
I felt like a failure. We had turned into those people: the ones who get an adorable kitten and keep it until it isn’t cute anymore and then try to pawn our problem off on other people.
But I knew I had made the right choice when I heard that someone was willing to take Runaway. All the resentment transformed into relief. I had found a way out of this terrible relationship.
The next day I coaxed Runaway into a cat carrier, packed all of his belongings, and drove him to his new home. When we got inside and opened up the cat carrier, Runaway sauntered out and circled the kitchen like a king surveying his new kingdom. He looked relaxed and happy.
Now Runaway has his forever home. Instead of children tormenting him and being locked in a basement, he is given plenty of catnip. And over several months, Runaway has grown into a large, wild cat. He literally climbs walls and hangs from the top of doorways. In his new life, he gets more love than he ever did with us.