Parenting Lessons Learned from Momma Cats
Does anyone need some kittens? My momma cats both had a litter of kittens this last month. I’ve never had a cat have kittens before, and it was quite an awesome moment to assist and watch the births. We were expecting to see three from one and two from another. We ended up with five and two – but one kitten died that night. So, now we have six beautiful and healthy kittens. Now there are kittens, kittens, kittens everywhere.
I’ve been watching these two sister cats with their litters, and how they interact with each other, the kittens, and their humans. I have seen some amazing things, and have learned some interesting parenting tips from these two momma cats.
First, when a mother is struggling – don’t judge, just help.
One of my momma cats is a great mouser, and patient with her humans – but she’s not really got the instinctual mothering figured out. Her sister, on the other hand, is a bit standoffish with her humans, and likes to play more with the mice than eliminate them. However, she has great mothering skills. My mouser momma cat had her litter first. That night, she left all of the kittens scattered about outside on the deck. To her credit, my mouser momma came to get me when she noticed the trouble her kittens were in. When I checked in the morning, one had died, and the other four were barely hanging in there. I did what I could to warm them up and get some sort of milk into them. Then, I set about the task of teaching this cat how to nurse her babies.
Fortunately for me, and my sanity, the standoffish cat had her litter that next day. She then set about nursing her kittens and her sister’s kittens. Then after the kittens were in better shape, my standoffish momma cat started teaching and encouraging the mouser momma cat. There was no judgment, just gentle encouragement. No harshness, just kindness and patience as the sister worked to help her sister understand how to care for her kittens. The two cats now trade off nursing the kittens – so they can each have a turn to go stretch her legs every so often.
I learned a lot from watching this example of love and kindness, duty and perseverance. When we, as women, see another woman struggling – we need to react with kindness, patience, love, and service to help her. We need to avoid gossip, judgments, or hurtful words/actions. We were all not taught the same lessons, we were not all raised the same way, and we were all not given the same personalities to raise. We need to join together in a sisterhood that helps and supports each other.
Second, when we are offered help we need to accept it graciously.
Through the above saga, my mouser momma could have reacted completely differently. She could have gotten territorial and chased the other momma cat off. She could have abandoned her kittens altogether. Instead, she sought help when she needed it, and accepted help when it was offered. What a great lesson for parents – if we need help, we should not be afraid to seek it. And if help is offered, a humble, gracious response goes a long way. People offering to help aren’t doing it to make those receiving the help feel bad – they are just wanting to help a fellow traveler on this journey through parenthood.
Third, it’s my job to keep my children safe
My poor momma cats have had the task of keeping their little kittens safe from five overly eager children. They started by using my bedroom closet as a safe haven for their kittens. But that was too accessible to my toddler. Then they moved the kittens behind my gift box, under my bed, under my first grader’s bed, into the toddler’s bed, and finally behind the TV. These two momma cats were persistent until they found a place that was safe for their little ones.
Parents need to do the same for their children. Children need to feel safe in order to grow. We need to be persistent in creating a safe haven for our children as well. They need to be safe to be themselves, to make mistakes, to learn, and to grow. It’s my job as my children’s parent to be persistent until that safety is achieved.
I’ve learned a lot from having these kittens as house guests for the past few weeks. I’m amazed at the miracle of life I’ve been allowed to be a part of. The parenting these cats have shown, the sacrifices, patience, and love have been amazing to be a part of as well. I hope I can apply some of what I learned as I parent my own group of “kittens.”