5 ways my foster cat is like a toddler

I recently started fostering a cat. There were many reasons for doing so, the primary reason being that COVID-19 keeps me at home almost all the time, and unable to travel internationally for some time. I’d been thinking of fostering a cat before this, but my frequent traveling made it difficult to commit to the recommended fostering period of one to three months.

Before I flew back to Singapore, I discussed getting a foster cat with my family, and my spouse was supportive, since I would be the primary caretaker of the cat. My daughter wasn’t as thrilled. Not because she doesn’t like cats, or pets. On the contrary, she loves them and she has been wanting a pet for ages! She wasn’t thrilled because she wanted a pet, and I would have been fostering the cat while she wasn’t around, so she would miss out on it. As it turns out, my spouse and daughter are also back in Singapore now (spending 2 weeks in a mandatory hotel-quarantine), so they’ll get to meet the cat soon!

Without further ado, meet Bobby Greyon, our foster cat!

Bobby Greyon, our foster cat!

Bobby was previously unnamed, and my daughter came up with his name. Bobby because he looks like a bobcat, and Greyon because he’s… grey!

I’m fostering Bobby through Purrs & Meows, a one-person cat-shelter-caring organization led by a wonderful woman. There are many stray cats in Singapore, and many community feeders and cat carers. I was recommended to Purrs & Meows through a chain of cat carers. I don’t know too much about Bobby’s background, other than that he was in a house with many other cats, and they couldn’t handle taking care of him any more. When I first got him, he was pretty dirty and stinky, which was a stark contrast from cats’ typical clean reputation. Luckily, a shower fixed that, and Bobby tolerated it mostly, although he did poop on my plastic box (possibly in vengeance) afterwards. I forgave him though — I’d be upset too if someone showered me when I didn’t want one.

Over the few weeks that I’ve had him, I’ve noticed that some of his behaviors reminds me of my daughter when she was a toddler. So, I decided to write about some of the observations I’ve made.

Observation 1: Cats/Toddlers like cardboard boxes more than what’s inside them

Before Bobby came to my place, I bought a cat condo for him, since I thought he would like a nice soft, comfy place to lay down and sleep in. I’d previously read that cats also like cardboard boxes, so I decided to save one of my boxes for him just in case. As it turns out, that intuition was right! Bobby enjoys the cardboard box way more than the condo. In fact, he never uses the condo other than for scratching his claws on the scratch posts.

The unused cat condo, and Bobby in his cardboard box after his shower. Images are not to scale.

For comparison, here’s my daughter when she was about a year old.

My daughter climbing into a cardboard box, wearing a onesie with a picture of a cat.

Observation 2: Cats/Toddlers like to eat things off the floor

I noticed that Bobby has a strange habit of preferring to knock his food out of his feeding bowl onto the floor before eating. I don’t know why he does this, perhaps it’s more fun, or he’s more used to eating things off the floor? He does sometimes eat directly out of the bowl, but more often than not, he moves the food to the floor first, whether it’s dry food like the video below, or wet food in a smaller bowl.

Bobby grabbing food out of his bowl onto the floor before eating it.

I don’t have a photo or video of my daughter doing something similar, but when she was a toddler, there was a phase where she would put everything in her mouth, even/especially things on the floor 😅

Observation 3: Cats/toddlers sometimes scratch their faces with their claws/fingernails

I was stroking Bobby’s fur one day, and I noticed a small gash on his face that hadn’t been there before. Upon further observation, it seems like he scratched himself with his paws, and probably used too much force and ended up hurting his skin.

When my daughter was about a year old, she would sometimes scratch her face with her fingernails. I guess she was learning to control her arms, hands and fingers more accurately, and used more force than she’d intended to.

Bobby after scratching his face, and my daughter after scratching hers (the darker areas around her nose).

Observation 4: Trimming matted fur/fingernails can inadvertently hurt the cat/toddler

When I got Bobby, he had bunches of matted fur around his body. Initially, I didn’t know what they were, so I talked to some friends and family who have cats, and they recommended that I trim the matted fur off. So, when I was brushing Bobby’s fur, I’d sometimes have a pair of scissors nearby to trim off the bunches of matted fur, which were in most cases larger than a quarter!

I’m not very skilled with using the scissors to trim the matted fur, and I was also trying to trim as closely to Bobby’s skin as I could, since the matting went all the way to the skin. As you might imagine, I accidentally nicked Bobby’s skin. Each time, he would make a heart-wrenching meow. I’d feel really bad and stroke him afterwards. I hope he forgave me!

When my daughter was a toddler, I had to trim her fingernails sometimes. On one particular incident that burned into my brain, I pushed the nail clipper too close to her skin without realizing it. She made a very high-pitched scream that still gives me shudders when I recall it. What made it worse was that her finger started bleeding afterwards 😭 For a long time after that incident, I asked my spouse to trim her nails instead because I couldn’t bear the thought of accidentally nicking her skin again. Luckily, my spouse was very kind and agreed!

I don’t have photos of videos of either Bobby and my daughter for this observation, but my memories of these events are burned into my brain.

Observation 5: I check the litter box/diaper right after the cat/toddler goes

Bobby is pretty good with using his litter box, which is located in the bathroom next to the living room. It turns out that even though the litter box is a distance away, the smell of his poop can permeate pretty quickly throughout the house. I’ve learned that through experience. So, whenever I hear Bobby scratching on his litter box after he’s done, I know that he’s just gone to the litter box. After he’s done, it’s my turn to go to the litter box, to check to see if he pooped. If so, then I try to bag and throw it out as soon as possible, lest the smell lingers and gets everywhere.

I’ve done this often enough that now, Bobby comes to me when he’s done with his litter box, as if to tell me that it’s time for me to do my job as his servant.

I realized that my current behavior is very similar to when my daughter was a toddler and wearing diapers. When she pooped, the smell would permeate everywhere. As a result, my spouse and I would sometimes suspect that she went (she didn’t scratch a litter box or anything equivalent though), and check her diaper. If she did poop, then we’d change it asap for the same reason.

I don’t have photos or videos of this observation, and even if I did, I’m not sure I’d want to share them 😅 Instead, I’ll share this photo of Bobby laying down as he likes to do when I stroke his fur.

Bobby enjoying his fur being stroked.

Overall, having Bobby Greyon has brought a lot of happiness into my life, and I hope my spouse and daughter will enjoy their time with him as well! In case you were wondering, I did ask my spouse and daughter for their permission to share those photos and videos of my daughter above.

Proud mom, roboticist, software engineer.

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