This post, and the following three, are part of a series named Here For The Kittens and are all in collaboration with Cats Protection, the UK’s largest feline welfare charity…
You can find all the links for their social media here: Cats Protection’s LinkTr.ee
You can find the first post of this series here: http://www.imnotdisordered.co.uk/2023/05/hereforthekittens-series-intro-managing.html
The content of this second post in the series, has been inspired by the first, exciting, and very happy week with Ruby! Now, with I’m NOT Disordered primarily being a mental health blog, I wanted to make sure there’s a lot of related content in this series; just so that readers aren’t put off by the thought that they need to like cats to have any remote benefit from the content of #HereForTheKittens. So, this post will focus on the emotions and thoughts that come with getting a new pet and I’ll talk about how I’m coping with them and the ways in which Cats Protection have helped and supported me through the amazingly enormous amount of information and advice on their website. Dotted amongst this content, there’s some updates on how Ruby’s first week has gone, and there’ll be a reel/video at the end which will be a compilation of the many photos and videos of her that have totally clogged up my phone’s storage…
So, a week ago today I picked up my new little kitten; Ruby, who is actually part Ragdoll in breed so she’s extremely fluffy – fluffier than she’d looked in the photos of her that the breeder had sent me as she was growing up (kittens must be at least 8 weeks old to leave their Mum and siblings)! I also had struggled to tell just how small she was from the photos until I got a video of her sitting in a shoe and having that comparison helped to put her size into perspective, but she was still so much tinier that I had envisioned! But I’m not complaining(!) – little and fluffy sounds like the description of a perfect kitten for me! (Cats Protection have actually created a way to age a kitten in order to ensure that they’re the right age that both the seller is telling you, and that they’re old enough to leave their Mum and siblings: Kitten ageing chart | Advice on kittens | Cats Protection). And I think that the reason I’m commenting on the uncertainty of her size and her type of fur is because it was the very first really key emotion that I experienced in the immediate run-up to going to collect her.
Thinking about her appearance wasn’t the only uncertainty though; what’s arguably more important, was the recognition that there was a huge element of unknown in terms of her response in meeting my two mini-Lionhead bunnies (who are free roam) – Luna and Gracie. And in reverse too – their response in meeting her! So, in the run up to getting Ruby my beliefs around this were that Luna would be fine with her because she was brought up with my last cat (Emmy) for over a year so it wouldn’t be a huge shock for it. Then, because Gracie is only a few months old, I thought that either she would take Luna’s lead and be comfortable around the kitten, or that she’d just get used to Ruby being there because she hasn’t been here that long so there’s still scope for introducing her to new things and her not being totally terrified – more curious, if anything!
Cats Protection have a whole page on their website about introducing a new cat/kitten to a dog or other pet. It mainly focuses on doing things through a gradual process, but I think it’s equally important to consider what is best for your pets in recognising that you might be better placed in predicting their response to the introductions:
Because of this uncertainty around introducing Ruby to Luna and Gracie, I created a plan to do so… I decided to keep the bunnies in the kitchen (where their hutch is but they’re free roam) and let Ruby explore the rest of the house for a few hours and then my Mum popped in for a little bit and she had kitten toys for her. When my Mum left, I thought it would be good to give Ruby an hour or two to calm down and do some more exploring and establishing her way around the house (it’s a bungalow so it’s not too complicated!) and then I let the bunnies out of the kitchen. Initially, when I was planning this, I didn’t know whether to shut the three of them (and me) in the living room so that they had no real choice but to meet each other, because otherwise, what if they just ran off and hid somewhere in the house? But then I thought that if they didn’t feel trapped then it might help them to know they could go and hide or take a break for a little while.
In the end I let Luna and Gracie come through to the living room after Ruby had been home a few hours, but only Luna seemed curious (Gracie just watched Ruby from afar!) but I thought it would be this way with Luna having been brought up with a cat when I first got her.
Here’s a little video of Luna and Ruby meeting:
Now, in coping with all this uncertainty, I found it really important and settling to recognise and remind myself of the fact that in this respect, there’s only so much you can do. And you should therefore take comfort and reassurance from the fact you have tried your best and have done everything you can think of to contribute to the best outcome for you/your kitten/other pets etc. in these uncertain and unpredictable scenarios.
For more advice and information on bringing a kitten home:
Anxiety might seem totally worthy of getting a ton of mentions in the previous bit about uncertainty because surely being uncertain makes you anxious?! But I don’t think that’s necessarily true… I think that you can be excited about an uncertainty too. Like, the thought that something really good could happen can be a really positive notion and can actually leave you feeling productive and optimistic.
So, the anxiety I experienced in getting Ruby was particularly around judging myself as to whether I was a good cat Mum or not and how I would cope if I felt that I wasn’t quite up to scratch – scratch! Get it?! I mean, it’s no secret that I had a huge mental health relapse in February and was sectioned and that I went on to struggle for the following few months – it all honesty, it would be fair to say I continued to struggle until the moment I met Ruby and brought her home. Now, I recognise there’ll be a massive range of opinions around this because I’ve heard a few of them expressed to me…
The largest and most upsetting opinion has been around the idea that I wasn’t well enough to bring a new pet into my home and to be trusted to take responsibility for her. I totally appreciate this because it’s something that in the very early days of first seeing Ruby and putting the deposit down for her, I thought about that too. I recognised that I wouldn’t be able to self-harm or make a suicide attempt or be admitted to hospital in any way once I had her. But almost instantly, I appreciated that I have such good intuition with my pets, and I found the conviction that having Ruby was going to help my mental health far more powerful and persuasive than any concern I’d be incapable of taking care of her. Whilst I had this certainty, I very obviously did still keep in mind the importance of recognising if that became no longer true; and that no matter how heart-wrenching it might be, I would have to pull out of getting her if it became apparent that I might not be able to give her the safety, care, and kindness she deserves and needs.
Those closest to me though – particularly my Mum and one of my best-friend’s; fellow mental health blogger Martin Baker (visit his blog: www.gumonmyshoe.com) – were always so incredibly supportive of the idea and my belief that getting Ruby would be so helpful for my mental health and my recovery from this massively distressing and dangerous relapse. And that’s meant a lot – their trust in me and my instincts around my mental health and getting Ruby… And in caring for my pets in general.
This confidence in me honestly means so much because for such a long time I had all the wrong, unsafe ‘instincts’ that just put me in a more dangerous situation or just generally worsened my mental health. I would have something difficult happen to me or someone would say something upsetting and I’d just almost immediately and instinctively go to self-harm or other negative and unhealthy coping strategies in order to manage my thoughts and feelings around the situation. Whilst this was obviously bad for so many reasons, one reason that people scarcely realise or think of, is that basic human instinct to do whatever you can to survive. So, for someone to attempt suicide? Well, that takes a lot of… Just… A lot! And so, to come back from that; to change your behaviours and thought process so drastically? Well, that takes a hell of a lot of time, effort, passion, dedication, determination, energy… It takes everything. And so, for the people who know me the best and love me the most, to recognise just how much things have changed and to trust my decisions now, is so important and special.
So, even though I fully established that getting Ruby would be helpful for me, I still had a huge awareness of how I might cope if I were to feel like a failure in taking care of her or if she were to become poorly. I think that these anxious worries were particularly because I’ve gotten Ruby off the back of my previous cat (Emmy) being put to sleep so the thoughts of her getting poorly and me feeling useless are already still fresh thoughts and emotions from losing Emmy.
The only challenging experience relevant to the worry of being a failure, was the day I got Ruby because it was an incredibly hot day, and she was quite warm and drowsy but wouldn’t drink water from her bowl – yet she would eat her wet food from the identical one. Originally, I thought it was because the bell on her collar was knocking against the china bowl, but it did that on the food dish and it didn’t seem to bother her. I – with a huge amount of help from my Mum – eventually figured out that the bowl was quite deep, and she seemed unsure that it was just water in it so I found a side plate that had a bit of depth and put water on there until she – a few hours later – began drinking from the larger bowl (and she’s been using her ‘big girl’s bowl’ ever since!).
The majority of my sense of failure here came from the fact it took my Mum making guesses too and her coming up with suggestions and ideas for what to use as something shallower before I figured it out. And I guess that I felt that as the ‘mum;’ I should be completely responsible for Ruby’s care and that if I couldn’t figure something relatively simple out by myself, what right did I have to call her mine? Now, of course I recognise that this isn’t quite balanced or wise thinking because any new parent – whether that be of an actual human baby or a furry one! – needs help, advice, and support sometimes, you know? You can’t just get everything perfect straight away! And you shouldn’t be both expected to, nor have convinced yourself, that it should be that way.
To help relieve any practical, pet-related anxiety; did you know that you can book a talk and have Cats Protection visit your school, college, or place of higher education to improve your student’s knowledge and understanding of various important aspects of cats that include lectures on topics such as health and disease and welfare and ethics? To learn more about this service, to access their free learning resources, or to book a talk visit their incredibly useful and innovative Education Hub:
I won’t lie, the excitement for the week or so before getting Ruby was kind of like the lead-up to Christmas – and the night before was pretty much exactly like Christmas Eve! Now, this may seem like a completely normal and absolutely fine and healthy feeling, but when it comes to pets; the most important element to this is ensuring that your excitement doesn’t have an impact on the consideration you put into the more serious and practical responsibilities that come with the pet.
This is a very real problem in the animal charity/rescue world where a number of organisations actually stop adoptions during particular times of the year e.g., bunnies at Easter and puppies around Christmastime because they recognise that pets are often bought as ‘gifts.’ And sometimes, that means they aren’t carefully considered, and the long-term impact and implications aren’t recognised or properly accepted. And this is one big reason why Cats Protection and I have partnered on this series – to illustrate the very real responsibilities and duties that come with adding a pet – a cat obviously specifically – to your life.
One of the largest reasons for my excitement in getting Ruby was the thought of her being so helpful for my mental health. In all honesty, this was a huge reason purely for getting Ruby because since February this year, my mental health relapsed and I’ve been sectioned, detained and sedated under the Mental Capacity Act, restrained, medicated, and kept in hospital through a DoLS. Things got incredibly unsafe and to say I was struggling with the hallucinations would be an understatement – I couldn’t cope with them. I couldn’t live with them. I didn’t want to live with them. But, eventually, the thought of Ruby gave me hope and some actual light when I was feeling very lost in a dark tunnel!
Whilst some professionals did question whether I was fit enough to take care of another animal when I couldn’t seem to take care of myself, I thought that this actually made me extra-motivated and passionate about getting a kitten and being 100% responsible for her. And so, I actually put the deposit down on Ruby whilst I was under the care of the Crisis Team! I felt that even whilst up until maybe a week before I got Ruby, I felt so terrible to the point of being suicidal, as the notion of getting her became more real the closer it got to picking her up, that seemed to fill me with hope. It made me believe that I had a future. And that the future wasn’t going to be full of pain and leave me with an overwhelming resentment towards all the lovely, amazing, people who were working so incredibly hard to save my life (which is a fact I’m now really grateful for!).
The next bit of excitement that meant a lot to me (it’s something that I touched on earlier and which Cats Protection provide advice on here) in getting Ruby was the thought of introducing her to my two mini-lionhead bunnies (Luna and Gracie) because the two of them had bonded so well with their immediate introduction, but I knew introducing one bunny to another was a lot different to having a kitten meet two rabbits! But I was hopeful from the fact that Luna had spent her first year and a bit with my last cat (Emmy) and that Gracie seemed to take the lead from Luna and would often mimic her behaviours. So, in all honesty, my excitement had me wanting to just throw them all together immediately! But I remained cautious and considerate of the fact that Ruby was already being so overwhelmed with just being taken from her mum and siblings and then being plonked in a completely new home! I also recognised that Luna and Gracie are incredibly well-bonded, and I didn’t want to really disrupt that if one took well to Ruby, but the other felt threatened and then alone. So, I’ve been letting all of them have time together once or twice a day for this first week and then I think I’ll start doing one or two more occasions for their second week. It’s kind of a huge learning curve and sometimes, especially with new pets, you can feel like you’ve planned for so many eventualities and then none of them happen and something completely different occurs!
For general, rational, and sensible advice on caring for a kitten (including feeding, vaccinations, weaning, and neutering):
having gotten Ruby off the back of losing my calico rescue cat; Emmy, getting
her and our first week together has actually been a bit of an emotional
rollercoaster! I mean, I’ll never forget the warmth that seemed to touch my
heart and the feeling that seemed to give my entire body a cuddle when I first
held Ruby. It was like… it was like as new as she is and as tiny as she is; it
my heart had been made to fit hers. It was like I’d known her forever. Like she had been born to be with me.
As soon as I got her into the car, we had a photo together because my Mum had asked for a picture when I had her and to be the first one to see her; and she got emotional too! I think that a lot of that came from seeing and hopefully feeling or knowing that I was so much happier and safer now she was officially in my life. And probably another part was around losing Emmy, and the rest? Just how damn cute she is! I mean, the taxi driver who took me to pick her up and bring me home had said he wasn’t a ‘cat person’ and ‘preferred dogs’ but as soon as he saw her, he said “aw! Shall I hold onto her while you get in?” And this has pretty much been the standard response from everyone who has met her so far – either “oh my god she’s so cute” or “she’s so tiny!” and then “I could just watch her forever!” And those comments have been funny because each time I find myself feeling really proud; as though I’m the reason why she’s so cute!
If you’re in a similar position to me and your new kitten or cat is the result of a loss, please visit Cats Protection’s grief and loss section on their website which also features details for their helpline:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it’s been helpful in reassuring people that it’s absolutely fine to experience any of these emotions or have these thoughts, and that it’s possible to cope with them in ways that will be helpful, useful, and positive for both yourself and for your new kitten or cat.
Keep an eye out for the third post of this series that will be published Saturday June 3rd!
Don’t forget that after I purchased this Hello World sign: £5.99 from Phoenix Cove – to celebrate this series, the Etsy store have offered you lovely readers an exclusive discount code for 10% off their incredible products, just type in: HEREFORTHEKITTENS10 at the checkout! Also, you should go follow them on Instagram: Personalised Gifts, Decor, Wood Signs & More! (@phoenixcove.co) | Instagram
*Discount code valid until June 17th 2023*