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What getting a kitten has taught me about relationships, people and life in general

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Brighton chapter.

Apart from recently, I’ve never owned a pet. My immediate family have always lived in rented places with landlords who despised any sort of furry friend. So apart from my goldfish Clacton – R.I.P you lived a long 2.5 year life –  I’ve never had the opportunity to look after an animal.

The rest of my family however, made it so I adored animals. I grew up with cats, dogs and even rarer creatures like tarantulas, geckos, snakes and bearded dragons. Mostly though, it was cats.

My grandparents are huge cat lovers, in fact, this is the first time in my entire life that I could walk into my grandparents house and not have a cat immediately meow for treats.

First there was Missy, a gorgeous tabby that was originally their next door neighbours but decided that since that owner wasn’t treating her correctly, she’d give birth on my grandparents’ doorstep instead.

So one day, I walked in (at the age of 9 or so) to  a large cardboard box filled with a very proud Missy and her litter of kittens. They ended up giving away the kittens to friends and family and through some unfortunate circumstances got given one back a year or so later, Princess.

Something you have to know, before I go on with this story (and there is a point to it!) is that my grandparents and I are extremely close. In fact it’s probably correct to say that Princess and I grew up together. You’ll note that I use past tense for both cats and that is because unfortunately neither are with us any longer.

When my grandparents moved, it was like a piece of our family was missing, we weren’t seeing them as often and the effortless laughter that they produced was suddenly gone. So it was no wonder we followed them down a few years later.

When we moved down, we came across a new cat. A stray had made his home in my grandparents’ garden. Flat-Nose or Trafford we called him and he was a completely feral cat that only my grandparents could get near. In fact we were warned that he was likely to hit out at you, not because he was aggressive but because he didn’t trust people.

After both cats passed away, Trafford became a lot friendlier. I often say that my grandparents have a way with animals (or they just have SO much time on their hands being pensioners and all) but Trafford, after many years of being a feral cat, became essentially a lap cat. He became best friends with my mum and even though he sent my grandad to hospital (twice??) because of cat bites, he became a kitten again.

So when he passed a few months ago it definitely was a loss. Even though I’m now all the way in Brighton I was missing having a furry friend. My partner, having lost his own childhood dog (a gorgeous german shepherd called Pasha who was a constant friend to those around her) we realised that our lives were missing something. Sure, we’d just moved into our first place together and you could argue that no one really needs a pet but it felt meant to be.

Especially considering the day Trafford passed, my uncle’s cat had a litter ready to go. 

So, after much discussion and faffing around, we got ourselves a 10 week old, black and white kitten.

After a long list of names, we decided on Dusty, which wasn’t on our list at all but when he decided to run behind the toilet and cover himself in dust, it just seemed obvious.

Dusty is now almost 5 months old and he is a confident cat that has both of his parents wrapped around his paw.

But what has getting a kitten taught me about life?

It seems like an over the top title, just used to get clicks but I assure you it’s not. 

For myself and my partner, it taught us so much about communication. I like to think we communicate well, we rarely argue and when we do disagree about something, we like to sit and talk to each other normally as both of us know it’s us vs the problem and nothing gets solved while you shout at each other. However, when you add into the mix another living being, especially one which climbs on the counters and pees on clothes, it adds an entire other level to the mix.

As I’ve grown up with cats, handling them and their behaviour is almost second nature to me, my partner on the other hand, has grown up surrounded by dogs and big ones at that. So to throw him in the deep end, with what is essentially a grumpy toddler with needles on the ends of its paws was difficult for him. He had to learn a huge amount of information in such a small amount of time and it was so stressful! 

It started to grate on us and we had to sit and reconsider our communication and how we went about it. 

Relearning to communicate with one another takes time, and effort, successful communication only happens if both people want to. I feel like I sound years beyond my age when I say that but it’s true! Communication breaks down when a person does not want to communicate and that’s definitely a lesson I’ve learnt. 

So that’s what I’ve learnt about relationships, what about people?

We’ve had to travel a number of times with Dusty over the last few months and I’ve learnt that people always think that they know what’s best for your pet over actually listening to you. It does make me nervous for when I eventually have children as various friends and family members have told me that it is exactly the same if not worse with babies!

One instance sticks out to me, where we were getting ready to leave and Dusty was in his carrier on the sofa, already upset because he was in his carrier (he doesn’t like being zipped up but will nap in his carrier at home!) overwhelmed due to the noise of everyone saying goodbye (both our families are quite loud) and nervous as he was in a completely new place. 

A member of my partner’s family decided to unzip the carrier and stick their hand in! There was a swell of protectiveness in me considering my partner was in the kitchen so I told them quite firmly that he wasn’t going to take pets right now and could they please stop. They ignored me and told me Dusty would be fine and actively encouraged a younger member of the family to also stick their hand in! It took my partner and me zipping the carrier back up on their hand to get them to stop. It was probably the worst interaction Dusty had with anyone he met and has met so far and it made me worry so much. 

Whether it comes to pets or babies, please listen to what you’re being told! Speaking to my parent friends a lot of them say the same thing. Family members ignoring parent’s boundaries by kissing them on the face or not giving them back while crying or even unsolicited parenting advice.

 I know all I have is a baby cat but I think and truly believe the way we treat animals says a lot about how you will treat people especially when it comes to respecting boundaries.

So what is the number 1 I’ve learnt since getting a kitten? Patience is one of the most valuable things you can bring to a situation.

I lost a friend recently (he didn’t die, we’re just not currently talking) and although there is a lot I want to share with him, I know he needs time and we need time to sort things out. I think getting Dusty has shown me that things don’t need to be solved immediately. I know my friend and I will sort it out, we always do and although I miss his friendship and so much has happened in the last two months that I would love to tell him, taking the lessons I’ve learnt regarding patience and time has made it so much better. It hurts but I take peace in knowing that sometimes all someone needs is a bit of patience

It’s odd to say I believe I’m a better person from owning Dusty, but I really think I am. I’ve grown and developed my own thinking and my approach to situations that affect me from uni to work. 

Get yourself a little furry friend and be amazed about how much you learn :)

Grace P-M

Brighton '25

hi! I’m Grace I’m a humanities student interested in all sorts of things such as politics and history, as well as games like Dungeons & Dragons! You’d probably find me reading a book or playing video games :)