Pets are family, too: Tybalt

Dear Peanut and Munchkin,

I grew up with cats and dogs as pets, so it just feels natural to have them around. After teaching for a year in California, living with a coworker who had two cats, I took another teaching job in Colorado. It was exhilarating; I would finally be out on my own.

I knew I needed a pet.

I even had a clear picture of what I was looking for: a black, male cat I could name Tybalt, Prince of Cats.

At the back of a pet store not far from my new apartment, there was a veterinarian who rescued animals and put them up for adoption. Among the handful of kittens in the cage, one stood out: he was black with white-tipped paws, white throat and belly. He looked like he was wearing a tuxedo. I instantly decided he was coming home with me. The secretary told me she had taken him from his mother and put him in the cage maybe ten minutes before I arrived. It was providential: we were meant to be together.

Tybalt was my baby for years. He certainly lived up to his name; he could tear through my little apartment like the Tasmanian Devil, wreaking havoc as he went. His hunting skills were fierce, even catching moths in mid-air. But he could also be incredibly sweet, and he often provided just the company I needed, forging my way in a new state and a new job. I was never completely alone.

He moved to Missouri with me, where he begrudgingly shared my attention with your Daddy on a regular basis. Though he decided he could live with the situation, he still preferred me. But Tybalt got a rude shock when Daddy’s cat moved in. They eventually learned to tolerate each other, although they still fight fairly often. A couple years later, we added a dog to the mix. Tybalt quickly showed him who was boss; they mostly just ignore each other. Still, he probably would have been happiest as an only pet.

Then Munchkin arrived and Tybalt’s whole world turned upside down. Suddenly I had very little time for anything except the baby, though I tried to find at least a few minutes for him each day. Adding insult to injury, babies and little kids are noisy and grabby. You both tended to pull his fur and tail and be rough with him as you became more mobile: typical toddler stuff. Peanut still chases him around, but Munchkin has learned how to be gentle. She’s his biggest fan now, while I … I am growing obsolete by my own fault. My pride and joy mixed with grief.

I still make a point of petting Tybalt for a few minutes each day, but I don’t often find the time to just sit and focus on him like Munchkin does. He appreciates the attention; I imagine he feels loved again after years of feeling cast aside.

I still love him, too. I miss being able to just sit with him beside me or in my lap while watching TV or reading a book. Kids have usurped his spot next to (or on) me while I sleep, too. I love snuggling with my kids, but sometimes I miss cuddling with my cat.

Tybalt was the first pet I chose and cared for entirely on my own, a representation of my adulthood in a way. He has been my companion for nearly thirteen years. I can’t focus on him like I used to, but he remains precious to me.

I’m glad Munchkin can help him feel loved.

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