My Life as a Cat Step-Mom

By Ann

I always wanted a cat growing up. However, God clearly had other plans because he made my worthless brother allergic to everything cute and cuddly. Cats, dogs, bunnies—it seemed every pet worth having was off the table.

Fortunately, I was a weird kid and I considered many other options. When my parents told me I could have my first pet for my sixth birthday, I knew just what I wanted. Next in line on my wish list after all those adorable mammals, to my mother’s extreme chagrin, was a snake. Then she pointed out that snakes eat mice, which she knew would be a deal-breaker.  I went right on down the list to the next option: an iguana. Mom wasn’t thrilled about that either, so she argued that iguanas eat crickets. As an aspiring entomologist at the ripe age of 6 (told you—weird kid), she knew this would also be a deal-breaker. She was right, and long story short, I wound up with a gerbil named Sally.

I had a lot of gerbils over the years, and a lot of hamsters after that—all of them with weirder and weirder names. See, when I was left to my own devices as a kid, I named my rodents things like Star, Ginger, and Foxy. When Shawn got involved, we wound up with gems such as Julius, Augustus, and Copernicus.

To this day, in fact, I own two hamsters—Chinese dwarves named Lewis and Clark. Their balls are bigger than their heads and they’re divorced now because Clark kept trying to kill Lewis, but they’re surprisingly sweet for creatures so much tinier than the world around them that they live in a constant state of terror at every passing stimulus.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me some rodents. But there’s always been a cat-shaped hole in my heart for a pet with a brain larger than a pea, a pet who wouldn’t chew my clothes apart and try to make a nest out of them, a pet who I wouldn’t inevitably startle into a panic with my simple intentions to feed and love it.

When I was sixteen, I worked for an animal rescue called Alley Cat Rescue, which was great, except for the part where I’d get attached to the animals and then send them off to live with someone else whose family wasn’t allergic to their very existence. Once I began living on my own, I longed to get a cat, but still the timing has never been right. Just as I finally began to consider myself independent enough to consider cat adoption, I got myself an awesome boyfriend who just so happens to also be allergic to cats. Confound it—foiled again by those I love!

In the meantime, however, I may not be a cat-mom myself, but I’ve got the next best thing—a roommate who owns two of them—and this makes me, by the transitive property, a cat step-mom.

It’s not a perfect situation.  First, being a cat step-mom means that your relationship with your cat step-children is only as good as your relationship with their cat-mother. While Katie and I are fortunately in friend-love that will never die, we both know that as life goes on, our little cat family will one day split up into separate households. And, tragically for me, she’s going to get the cat-kids. I’ll get rights of visitation, but this is no substitute for raising them.

Second, being a cat step-mom means that you don’t get much say in the personality of the cats you’re going to have to love, or at least pretend to love for the foreseeable future.  So, for instance, when I moved in with Katie and she told me, referring to her one cat at the time, Kirby, “Yeah, sorry, my cat’s a total dick. You’ll probably hate him,” my only recourse was to sigh and nod in resignation.

Meet Kirby. Yep. Wouldn’t your life be richer if it included a world of this?

Then, when Kirby’s curmudgeonly dickery dictated that the new playmate we sought for him in the fall would have to have the personality of an idiotic gladiator fazed by nothing and with the energy levels of a crazed hummingbird on cocaine, I welcomed little Stella into our shared home and kissed our nice possessions goodbye.

Katie and Stella. Welcome to the family, Captain Dumb-Ass

I could go on at great length about the idiot antics that these cats put us through on a daily basis—and I will in the future, because they’re pretty entertaining—but for the present, all I want to say is, it may not be perfect, but there are perks to being a cat step-mom, too:

And those perks are that I get to be a crazy cat lady, too, who occasionally posts cute pictures of her step cat-kids online. Welcome to it.


  1. siblingandcharybdis

    A few addenda:

    (1) Ann’s really not lying when she says her hamsters’ balls are bigger than their heads. Those things are just testicles with mouths.

    (2) Ann omitted to mention all the caterpillars she used to keep as pets, which she’d invariably name Indy or Cody–they were frequently casualties of young Ann learning the hard way about the basic needs of animal life for things like, you know, oxygen and food.

    (3) Yeah, I totally kept trying to name our gerbils after Roman Emperors. We went through a couple of Neros in short succession before I moved on.


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