Our Feline Family Member

Back in October of 2008, a scraggly little calico showed up on our back porch. She appeared to be someone’s lost pet — she was wearing a collar, but there were no tags that might help identify her or contact the owner. And she looked so thin and hungry that we were moved to take pity and give her a little piece of shrimp from a leftover chinese food container.

After that, she seemed to regard our back porch as a haven. She camped out there day and night, waking and sleeping, patiently waiting for someone to come back out. It was chilly that October, and after a few days of this we finally just let her inside.

At first, this was intended to be a temporary arrangement. She’d been wearing that collar, after all, so we figured that if we asked around the neighborhood and put up some fliers and such, we’d be able to return her to her rightful owner. But weeks of looking turned up nothing, and after putting a “Cat Found” ad on Craigslist and checking at the vet for one of those implanted microchips (there was none), we tentatively concluded that she’d been abandoned.

Long story short, we named her “Grendel,” and she’s been our pampered indoor housecat ever since.

Grendel sleeping adorably on the bed at our old apartment.

Since you might be wondering about her name, I thought it would be fun to share a few details about her wacky and often self-contradictory cat-personality. The following are some of Grendel’s traits:

Cuddly and affectionate. Sometimes Grendel wants to sit in your lap, and she just won’t take “no” for an answer — she’ll actually put up a struggle and strain against your hands if you try to push her away. Then she’ll cuddle and snuggle with you in the most adorable manner possible.

Grendel snuggling with me on the couch at our old apartment.

But sometimes bitey. Grendel has a habit of giving these harmless little love bites. Out of love, no doubt.

My response here was to take a picture instead of moving my hand.

Very picky eater. For a former stray, Grendel has some pretty high standards when it comes to her food. Would you believe she’s actually turned up her nose at brands of cat food that don’t have gravy in them?

One of Grendel's favorite brands of cat food, as seen here.

But will eat pretty much anything. One time, Joe and I bought a little “Lucky Bamboo” plant to try to spruce up our dreary basement apartment… and it lasted all of one day before Grendel ate it. She devoured every leaf, leaving just the sad little stump in her wake.

The unlucky bamboo plant as seen before Grendel ate it.

The irony is that, after this incident, we specifically got her a little pot of cat grass, and she refused to ever touch it.

Anyway, despite all the wackiness, we love our little feline family member. Which lately has been leading us to wonder how to ensure a safe and healthy coexistence for Grendel and Baby Hart.

We’re not too concerned about Grendel actively hurting the baby, but rather that she’ll try to snuggle up too close to this soft sleeping warm thing, and in the process interfere with the baby’s breathing. Some websites I’ve found seem to dismiss this concern as an old wive’s tale, but the ASPCA has an article that, while imploring people not to abandon their cats juts because they’re having a baby, also acknowledges that it’s probably a good idea to keep the cat out of a sleeping baby’s crib or even out of the baby’s room altogether.

So far, the solution we’ve been considering involves putting a screen door of some sort on the nursery, so that sound and air can flow through freely — we’ve heard that good air circulation has been linked to lower incidence of SIDS — but unauthorized kitties would be kept out. (Another solution would involve simply training the cat to stay out of the crib and/or nursery, but since Grendel is kind of an insolent rascal we’re not sure we’d trust her to obey such things.)

For anyone reading, have you had cats and newborns in the house at the same time? Any advice on how to deal with the situation?


  1. The screen door sounds good. Remember, even Pavlov didn’t try to train a cat! In ancient days, cats were considered gods. They have never forgotten this!

  2. In my experience it is an individual cat thing. I had a cat when Joe was born, and she was no problem with him as a baby, though I did send her to my dad to live with her mom and brother when Joe started toddling – for HER sake, as he pulled her ears and tail and all she did was meowwwwwww, and look imploringly at us. I’d never have put her in the pound, though. However, I was given a cat when Rachel was a baby, and I kept it all of about a week. It had been declawed and I think that made it a bit insane, it tried to bite when petted, even though it sought out petting. I did keep bedroom doors shut when both took naps, though, it is certainly easier than training.

  3. Oh, and introducing Grendel and baby should be done about the same as introducing a new kitten to previous cats, only with more care since they don’t “speak the same language”. Have Joe wrap Grendel in a towel or blanket, so she can’t claw the baby OR him, and sit on the couch. Then you sit with the baby, and gradually, if Grendel seems calm, move them closer together so Grendel can sniff. If she hisses, move back while saying a sharp NO! followed by soothing voiced talk if she calms down again and you can move back closer. It should be easier than if she were a male cat, since females sense “baby” even when not the same species.

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