a year without a cat

October 25, 2012 |  Category:   home life

It’s been over a year since our cat, Tobi, died. We knew we weren’t going to get another cat, not right away anyway, or maybe not even for a long time. Along with some other reasons, Mia seems to have developed an allergy to some furry creatures, cats included, and we saw some of this manifest during the last 6 months of Tobi’s life. Sometimes I still think he’s around, like he’s just in our bedroom laying on the bed like he always did or hiding under his favorite chair, and after having lived with cats for the last 20 years of my life, it’s a little strange not to have a cat around the house. But I do have to say, there are some things I’m enjoying about being petless at the moment – being able to put plants around the house, setting a vase of flowers on the diningroom table, putting a rug down in the livingroom, not having to worry about a cat sitter when we are away.


Like most pet owners who become first time parents, our cat was the world to us before the kids were born. We had whole picture albums filled with photos of him. Then when the first baby was born, he became another responsibility – not a burden by any means – but when you’re dealing with a new baby and it’s the cat who wakes you up in the morning and not the baby, for example, or the cat who tears a hole in your new sheets and not the kids, well…I think this happens to almost every pet owner who become new parents, even those friends who completely doted on their pets who I never thought would feel this way. I guess as guilty as it makes you feel sometimes, it’s also normal.

But the early baby years do go by and at some point you started appreciating your pet again. As crazy a kitten as he was, Tobi mellowed out in his later years and was completely patient with the kids. I was trying to picture the girls playing with him the other day, but I really couldn’t. I don’t know if it’s because it’s been over a year since he’s been gone but I couldn’t really remember their interactions with him. Surprisingly, it’s not Mia, but Claudine who talks about him still (I don’t know why that surprises me, but I figured since Mia had more time with him, his death would have made more of an impression on her than Claudine). It’s slowed down a little since the summer, but Claudine would make cards for him every week. For a while I collected them all and had a stack. Sometimes when I suddenly see her act all mopey and melancholy I’ll ask her what is wrong and she would quietly say that she missed Tobi. She mentioned that she missed him just the other week. But I’ve also noticed that he’s been gradually missing from our family portraits that she draws so often. For the longest time it was always the 5 of us. Now it’s the 4 of us. It’s weird to think that she may be young enough not to even remember him when she’s older. Somehow, it’s this thought that makes it feel like he’s truly gone.

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  • Kiana October 25, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Jenna, this post is so timely for me! I’ve just welcomed my first baby a few months ago and I’m experiencing feelings of annoyance and resentment towards our cat who has been a part of our lives for 8 years! Before we had the baby, my husband and I would post a million photos of our cat on facebook and be entertained by her antics for hours. Now, we post a million photos of our baby on fb and spend hours looking at him and marveling at how cute he is. It’s also hard like you mention, to not get annoyed at your cat when they wake the baby up or make a mess. If the baby cries or makes a mess, you deal with it but if the cat does it, you find yourself getting irritated which is totally irrational since they’re both doing it unintentionally. I found myself breaking down and crying to my husband the other day because I feel so guilty that our cat has now become this annoying roommate in my eyes through no fault of her own. It’s a hard adjustment to make but everyone assures me that it’s normal and it’ll work itself out so I just need to be patient. Thank you for posting this. I think I would have felt ashamed admitting these feelings in a public forum if you hadn’t mentioned it first. 🙂

  • Jenna October 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    @Kiana. Totally normal. In fact, this also happens sometimes when you have your second child. I felt totally horrified that I felt detached from Mia for the first few weeks after I had C. I just wanted to bond with the baby. So weird, so awful, but I was also told that this is also normal. Ugh. Talk about guilt.

  • Stephanie October 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    This made me tear up. We were doting doggie mamas before we brought home our first baby- and when we lost the two pups that were with us when our daughter came home it did feel like a final door closing on that part of our lives. I miss those dogs terribly and I feel both sad and happy when my daughter brings them up and remembers them on her own.

  • Amy Huff October 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    We lost our beloved dogs this summer after 12 years and our daughter was only a few months old. We used to always talk about what they would be like when we had kids and it’s heartbreaking they won’t grow up with her. At the same time, life is a lot easier now that we aren’t always caring for them but I still find myself watching my step to make sure I don’t trip over them and tear up. We’re still torn on when, or if, we would add more furry babies to the household.

  • Katrin October 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Hi Jenna,
    unfortunately I never experienced the responsibility to care for a pet AND a child. Our dog had to be put to sleep in April 2011. In November I found out about my pregnancy and our daughter was born in July 2012. But whenever I see kids outside playing with their dog I´m so sad that our daughter and the dog will never met. She will know this dog just from pictures and from her parents going on telling the tale of the perfect canine. She (the dog) has always been great around kids and it still tears me up sometimes. Maybe one day we will have another dog or a cat in our family. I truly hope so.

  • Christine Somers October 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    We lost both our cats this past year and I was taken aback at how much we missed them. We too have decided to wait awhile before adding another furry friend to our family. With 7 grand children, two of which are twins under 8 months, we need to make sure no one is allergic.

  • lori October 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    I bet Mia will still remember Toby later on. I had a dog when I was very young, and maybe lost him when I was around Mia’s age – very young at least. And I still have memories of him or even just how I enjoyed being around this giant animal. I never really had any fear of dogs, like some friends who maybe didn’t grow up with one – so I think all this stuff probably does make an impression even if it becomes buried in our memories for awhile.

  • lori October 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    oops, I meant Claudine …

    Anyway, nice to have an experience with an animal like that I think. Even if it’s just once in someone’s life 🙂

  • Sunha October 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I think it says a lot about you as a person and a parent that you choose to go on a vacation while your loving pet of many years, years before you had your children was dying.

    What an interesting example of life and the value of life and love you made to your children. It reeks of irresponsibility. A lasting lesson you have taught your children. Most especially with your youngest. Vacations could wait, but unfortunately you choose not to and your pet had to die alone without the loved ones and the love he so easily gave to you. Do you think he was wishing for your familiar comfort in his last hours?

    Perhaps one day you will wonder when you are 60 or 70 and your children are young adults with their own family and choose not to see you instead choosing Disney or some other vacation or something that is just way more important than to visit, stop by or see you. You have taught by example that fun comes before dedication or responsibility. It doesn’t matter that you were visiting family. It was still a vacation that could have waited most especially with your dying long time companion. Plus with the way you cry over money, this would have been a great time for you to save money and forgo spending, but of course you choose selfishness as you always do.

  • Jenna October 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Hi @Sunha. Since it appears you disapprove of me so much judging by your last sentence (a jab that you had to get in which had nothing to do with our cat situation), why do you even read the blog at all? But I do have one comment: you don’t know the reasons why we decided to go ahead and take the trip to see our family. To you it looked like vacation, which in part it was, but you don’t know if there were other, more important reasons. Maybe we were visiting sick family, maybe there were family issues and business that we had to deal with. I don’t need to explain myself to you, but you decided to make a judgment based on the conclusions you have drawn.

  • Stephanie October 25, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Wow, Sunha, I hope you’re a person with children and pets, otherwise I would call you a hypocrite!

  • Paige October 25, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    1. Shake the haters off (which is hard when they come on so darn strong. Jeez. Manners and kindness sometimes seem to be a thing of the past.) 2. I have been a crazy cat lady for the last decade and lost my final two this last year leaving me heartbroken. On one hand, the place is totally empty and I miss having some really cute furry friend to say hello to and hug when I get home. On the other hand, the house is so much cleaner and I am not tied down by feeding times and am not making 7am runs to the grocery store because I hit my last can of food. I’ve been trying to stay away from the shelter but am secretly wishing for a little stray to come and make himself home on the front porch the way the previous darlings did. It’s hard…all the way around.

  • Naomi October 25, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Well I hope Sunha isn’t a person with the responsibility of either children or pets because that was an inappropriate and vile comment!

  • Ana October 26, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Oh that’s so sad! We don’t have kids or a pet yet, so I can’t relate much. We do want our kids to grow up with a pet though ! That’s such an important experience to have, even if it’s a brief one.

    And wow. It’s amazing that people take time off of their lives to stop and write mean comments. That just makes me so sad.

  • Stephanie October 26, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Right before I had my baby in April, I would randomly pick my cat up while he was sleeping or minding his own business and hug the crap out of him because I thought I wouldn’t have enough time for him anymore after the baby was born. Luckily, it turned out my baby is low maintenance, so my cat still gets plenty of cuddles and scratches! He still regards the baby with some indifference, but overall he’s very gentle with her. And ignore the mean people of the internets!

  • Kate October 26, 2012 at 6:04 am

    You know jenna I have loved reading your blog but the constant praise and adoration towards Claudine compared with the negative, almost disinterested comments towards Mia have made me quite sad. Don’t believe me go through and re-read all the entries on your children. I’m sorry I have stopped myself from writing this for a long time….

  • sylvï October 26, 2012 at 7:18 am

    it has been a little over three years now for me, not having a cat around, and i still don’t feel quite ready for another pet. we have had so many ever since i was four, and i haven’t forgotten any of them, but life goes on and sadness fades.

    regarding that one comment above, and i probably mentioned this at the time, but i have seen enough cats come to their life’s end to know that if they could have their way, they’d crawl into a quiet, dark place to die alone. it’s in their instinct, however bleak it may feel in our human hearts. it’s us who need the hand-holding and cannot let go, and animals often hold on for their keepers’ sake even when it is time to go. so don’t let it get to you. it was most likely just a reaction to some guilt of their own.

    on a totally unrelated note: winter arrived in finland! the snow is such a joy! (even though i wasn’t exactly ready for it yet…)

  • Jenna October 26, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Hi @Kate I did actually go re-read the entries, but I am not sure how my posts about Mia have been negative or disinterested. Sure, there are posts that speak of the more challenging aspects of parenting, but I don’t feel that I have “favored” one child over the other. In this entry I am not sure how observing Mia’s reaction to Tobi’s death not being the same as Claudine’s is a negative or disinterested comment on her. Can you clarify? Is it possible that maybe you are projecting by reading into something in this post that isn’t there? Has is it ever occurred to you that I don’t write or post as many photos of Mia because she has expressed not wanting to have her photos taken as much? Or that because she is older than Claudine, I’m becoming more aware and respecting her need for privacy? It very well might be comments like yours that might put ideas into my children’s heads, should they ever read the blog when they are older.

  • Jhope October 26, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Sending you a hug today. I’ve never seen it negative like this in your comment space- wtf. People are nuts. Deep breaths.

  • Jenna October 26, 2012 at 8:12 am

    @JHope. Thanks so much. Normally I brush it off, but you’re right, there’s a lot of negativity right now.

  • Jenna October 26, 2012 at 8:53 am

    @sylvï I recall quite a number of people saying that at the time. Thanks again for reminding me. No one knew when he was going to go. At that particular time when we left he seemed to be doing ok. Enjoy winter, enjoy the snow!

  • Liz October 26, 2012 at 9:31 am

    I don’t have a pet. Nor do I have children. But your post made me think about so much.

    I am always stuck by how you talk about the characteristics you see in your daughters; there appears to be an amazing balance between standing back and observing and the close proximity I associate with a parent’s unconditional love.

    Reading the comments made me draw breath. It’s days like this that make me glad I’ve never blogged. But it also makes me all the more grateful that some people continue to write honest and heart felt blogs about all sorts of things.

  • Gracie October 26, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Jenna I hope some of these harsh comments won’t put you off writing your blog. I find your observations on your children sweet and touching, you clearly pay attention to their different characteristics and needs and you seem like such a loving family. I hate to be judgemental on the commenter but it sounds like transference to me.

  • Bobbi October 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    We have been without a cat for a couple of years now although my daughter really wants to get a kitten. Cats are great but I am hesitant because of the reality of having a cat (shedding, hairballs and mostly the litter box). I guess you can train a cat to go outside so that might be an option. We have a dog who doesn’t shed much since she is a Golden Doodle. I believe pets are good for kids and kids are good for pets! As far as the negative comments on this post, if you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say anything at all.

  • Uncle Beefy October 26, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Jenna, this is a lovely and reflective post. And, like many of those who admonish the negative comments, forget the haters. I know that can be hard but it’s worth the effort, I can assure you. But I’m feeling for you.

    Both of them are coming from a place of feeling weak and powerless in their own lives and are just using you and this forum as a backdrop to project their own insecurities onto you. And in a manner common with most bullies, they’ll drop these bombs and then hide in the shadows to avoid the consequences – but they’ll probably read along in hopes of getting a rise out of you or others and, thus, a swell of the most superficial power. They cannot possibly know the finer details of you or your family so they have no basis of knowledge from which to comment with authority on any of it.

    In short, what they need to do is stop reading blogs and start calling therapists.

  • Ann October 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Jenna, I’m so sorry that such a thoughtful post has brought out such rude comments. I haven’t commented much but I have read your blog for a long time.
    I love your writing (photos too)and observations on parenthood/family life in general. Please try not to let the few negative out weigh all the many positives.

  • Caitlin October 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Hey Jenna, I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now, and I just wanted to let you know how much I value your honesty and candor while you write about raising a family, running a business and, you know, being a human. As someone new to Brooklyn and relatively new to married life (who is considering kids down the road) it’s been really helpful and reassuring to read your posts and see what life can be like here in the city. I especially wanted to thank you for being real and not presenting your life as a perfect (and unattainable) picture, but for giving us a nuanced view of your day to day, both joys and challenges. I’m sorry that it means you open yourself up to attack (I can’t imagine how hard that must be), but for my own sake, I hope you don’t stop doing what you’re doing here on this blog.

  • lori October 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I really enjoy your blog & admire your ability to write about your life. I can’t believe people comment on things assuming they know more than you about your own life (from a blog none the less!!). AGGGhh. Even with friends here I can’t assume to know what happens in their life, or relationships daily. I can offer them support but really, I’m not there with them in conversations or daily experiences. Like previous posters I hope this doesn’t discourage you from writing. I think this is why on my own blog I tend to just post images. Anyway, ignore judgements. I think living life, caring for people or animals or making enough money or whatever is tough enough, without others chiming in telling you what’s best. With lots of new mom friends I notice they are finding that hard too as the random public seems to love to offer their opinions or criticisms on what they are doing wrong. Lametown.

  • Alex October 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    My childhood dog died 8 years ago and I still expect him to greet me each time I walk into my parents house. I love your blog, it’s a beautiful and real space. Please don’t dwell on the nasty comments.

  • nicole October 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    I too am a longtime reader and find myself really disgusted with the nasty comments. I’ve noticed more and more that the bloggers I love the most (you included) are blogging less often and sharing less freely and I wonder if it’s because of all the crazies out there feeling empowered by the anonymity to be utterly rude and ugly? Preparing, writing and photographing blog posts is truly a labor of love and I love the community and perspective I get from blogs, especially those like yours that are so honest and real. I hope you won’t find yourself so worn down by assholes that you stop sharing. As a wife, mom, pet owner that recently lost an 18 yr old kitty and small business owner, I relate to SO MUCH of what you have to say. You have written posts that made me laugh out loud on a bad day, given me fresh perspective on my own daily stress and brought me a lot of enjoyment. Know that you are very appreciated.

  • Jenna October 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks Nicole and everyone above for your comments. It won’t stop me from blogging, but Nicole, you are sort of right about the less blogging and sharing less freely, however, no one is forcing me to blog, therefore you have to expect a certain amount of negativity and criticism if you’re putting yourself out there. So yes, I am choosing to share a little less and I will certainly be sharing less about the girls, not out of fear of nasty comments (which is different from criticism), but out of respect for the girls. We all deal enough with life already. No need to invite judgement and scrutiny if that’s what happens by opening up, but maybe that is a lesson I need to think about going forward.

  • nicole October 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    i totally understand. i don’t think everyone gets how important honest blogging is yet. blogs that gloss over and glorify life are a dime a dozen. and while pretty pictures and glamorous recounts of experiences can be inspirational, they also create a false reality and lofty set of expectations, especially for parents. it’s hard to not compare yourself to the idyllic narratives on a lot of blogs. sometimes life isn’t pretty. sometimes our kids are a pain and talking about it is cathartic. sometimes a pet becomes sick while we’re on vacation and flying 3200 miles home with two kids in tow isn’t going to fix it. that you put that stuff out there – the beautiful, the mundane and the sad is so important. i’m all for less fluff and more honesty. i thank you for it every time i read your blog and i know a lot of other ladies do too.

  • Tricia October 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Very touching post. We lost our dog about 4 years ago. Se was also alone when she died. She was doing so much better. We left for breakfast and when we came home she had died. My younger son was 4 when she died. At 8 he still draws Ginger in family pictures. Like with your little girl, I think it is sweet they really remember their pet.

    As a long time reader I just want your to know how much I value your blog. We are the same age with children of a similar age. You often put Into words what I am feeling but unable to verbalize. Thank you for letting us Into your life.

  • Diane October 27, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Beautiful, beautiful post….that anyone who has a lost a pet can feel. And I just want to join the others in saying how much I love, and how often I read, your blog. I too am amazed at the negative and judgmental comments. It makes me sad.

  • Heather M October 27, 2012 at 1:20 am

    I really appreciate and enjoy your blog. Particularly your honesty here and the way you explore your thoughts and some tough issues.

  • Victoria October 27, 2012 at 5:13 am

    Hi Jenna, I rarely comment on blogs but I this time it seems too important not to. A couple of the comments above are so unpleasant and, I think, completely unwarranted I am quite taken aback by them, as I imagine you must be. I have always assumed that the fewer mentions of Mia over the last year in particular have been to do with her growing up and becoming more aware of herself and possibly also your blog – I certainly don’t perceive any difference in the way you see or treat your girls. On the contrary, what really shines through in all that you write is your love for your daughters and your striving to create a secure loving home for them. As my daughter rapidly approaches a year old and I have to start thinking about going back to work – financially, there is no alternative – and trying to get her settled into a nursery, I more than ever admire the choices and sacrifices both you and Mark have made to ensure one or other of you is home to care for Mia and Claudine. As a still pretty new to it mum, I really hope we can do as good a job – in whatever ways we are able – of putting our child and a settled family first as you and Mark seem to do.

  • erin//suchsmallsteps October 27, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I love this blog, too, for the reasons mentioned above, but I get where you’re coming from in terms of keeping negativity and judgment from total strangers out of your life if possible. I’ve been struggling with my blog for the same reason and it’s much smaller in terms of readership. I had a family member make some very critical comments of a post I recently wrote, which upset me so much I went back in and edited it to say almost nothing of real meaning. And that was someone in my family- who knows what other readers who don’t know me intuit from my posts. The internet is a strange place and I’m starting to see that while there is something to be gained from finding shared experiences and written expression, there’s a less positive side that comes along with it.

  • Jae October 27, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    I really loved this entry. You really have a great way of putting things, and Claudine is so sweet!

  • Jae October 27, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    So is Mia by the way. She just has a different way of showing it. 🙂

  • Pomme de Guerre October 28, 2012 at 4:22 am

    Sunha, more like Sunhater, amirite? You’re a crazy catlady. Get off Jenna’s blog and don’t come back, you old biddy.

    Kate: Quit giving Jenna grief. In fact, why doncha go read Sunha’s blog.

  • Robin October 28, 2012 at 9:42 am

    It is an election year! I really believe that people are more nasty than usual during such. It doesn’t help that everything put out by the mass media has such a nasty tone. It gets to people -for realz!
    Keep doing what your doing Jenna! You are an adult and have to answer to NOONE!

  • Sora October 28, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Wow. A lot of judgement being thrown out there. I just don’t get people who have the need to do that. It’s their own insecurities coming out. Please know that there are readers out there/here who really appreciate your honesty and willingness to share your life with us. Your entries make me think and reflect on many things going on in my own life. That’s the beauty of your blog …the negative commenters really don’t understand it and shouldn’t be reading your blog anyway.

  • Britta October 29, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Oh, I’m sorry the comments went so negative. I adored this piece because it felt timely. I am still in the early baby phase and the cat is now on year 3 of less attention. His basic needs are still being met (as are the children’s) but I do so look forward to appreciating him again. Thank you for giving me hope.

  • oilandgarlic October 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Thank you for your honesty. Most people I know, myself included, had mixed feelings about formerly adored pets once kids entered the picture. It happens. It’s natural. No need to feel guilt.

    Long ago, before kids, I remember watching a documentary about Hurricane Katrina where some pet owners refused to leave their pets behind, risking their own life. I thought I would do the same for my dog. Now that I have kids, I know that I wouldn’t do stay behind for that reason. I would only risk my life for my kids and I would never risk my life and leave my kids alone in the world. Fur-babies are special but priorities change.

  • velika October 31, 2012 at 12:30 am

    I can relate on the kid/pet front! But, like you, now that my son is older, I find myself to babying our pooch once more. (And appreciating that he doesn’t talk back!)

    People comment on blogs for all sorts of reasons, no doubt most of them having more to do with the commentator, not the blogger. I myself have made mild, constructive comments on blogs I really liked — just to supply information or answer a non-controversial question — only to see them deleted, with only the fawning comments included. I really admire you for not only writing honestly about matters of substance, but for having the intellectual honesty to run the comments that follow. This is in my mind part of what makes your site not only beautiful to look at and thought provoking, but relevant and important to your readers like me.