Tag Archives: cats

The Lights Are On

“Mom!” Nigel calls from inside the house. “Don’t forget we have to go to the animal shelter!”

“I won’t – I’ll be in in a minute!” I am hanging up the last strand of Christmas lights around the front roofline of our home and can barely feel my fingers. It is late afternoon, and there is still frost from this morning on all of the vegetation in our neighborhood. Baby, it’s cold outside. Cold and dry.

I climb down from the ladder, put it away, and plug in the lights. Then I step back a bit to view my handiwork. Hmm. Strange how those eight bulbs worked just fine when I tested the lights forty-five minutes earlier, before stringing them up. Oh, for crying out loud. Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

I run in the house and wash up, calling out to Nigel to see if he’s ready to go. Every Sunday afternoon for the past several weeks, we’ve volunteered at our local animal shelter as part of a community service requirement for his next level of Boy Scouts. The animal shelter welcomes under-18 volunteers as long as their parents accompany them. And so, we both go.

Initially, I resisted this time taken out of my much-needed and usually full weekends. How could we – I – possibly fit it yet another activity? How could I possibly get everything done? When was I going to squeeze in some down time? I already volunteer for the Autism Society of Oregon and various other Scout activities. Furthermore, we have pets at home to take care of! I didn’t have time to volunteer to take care of more animals! I did realize, of course, that this was the perfect opportunity for Nigel to get in his community service time for Scouts. The animal shelter is only a five-minute drive away, and Nigel loves animals. I decided to grin and bear it.

We get in the car and drive to the shelter. I laid down the law before we even started there four weeks ago: no new pets. No matter how cute they are, no matter how much you love them, no matter how long they’ve been at the shelter. Nigel had agreed. But after a month of being surrounded by cute kitties in need, Nigel starts saying things like, “I wish we could afford to take you home with us” when he’s holding a cat and I’m in earshot. I remind him of his irritation with cleaning the cat litter for the cats that we already have. He considers this a moment.

“I know!” Nigel exclaims. “I want to start my own animal shelter! That way, I can have lots of cats and have employees and volunteers to help take care of them.”

 So. We’ll just add that to the list of potential careers for my son, right up there with inventor and astronaut.  But then I realize that he’s absolutely right. He loves animals and wants to help those in need. And that’s exactly what he told me when I asked him why he wanted to start an animal shelter. I said that we could certainly look into it.

Meanwhile, my grin-and-bear-it time has turned out differently than I thought it would. I find that while I’m holding and petting the adult cats and playing with the kittens, I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m not stressing about the things that I’m not getting done and the time that I’m losing. I know! Can you believe it?! I just sit there and relax! There’s no computer, no phone, no calendar, no errands. It’s actually just what I needed.

The hour passes quickly, and we sign out and go home. When we pull up to the house, Nigel comments in a dry tone, “It seems like some bulbs aren’t working.”

And the best part is that it doesn’t even bother me.

Autism and Pets

Betcha didn’t know! June is National Adopt-A-Cat Month!

Did I hear a ‘so what?’ I know. Many people are allergic to cats. Many people prefer dogs. Many people prefer fish, rodents, or reptiles. And that’s okay. Because any pet will teach a child responsibility, compassion, how to handle death, and more. Pets also bring comfort, amusement, and can present a calming influence. I know. Every day I see the benefits of having pets – with both of my boys.

Over the years, we’ve been the proud humans of five cats, a dog, a rat, a mouse, and several fish. Currently, we share our abode with three wonderful cats, two adopted from local shelters and one from a neighbor. There’s Midnight, our sleek black male shorthair, Sheba, our pretty black-and-tan tabby (see her here!), and our medium-haired little gray girl, which Nigel named Winter (see below). The boys love all of the cats, but Winter’s the newest, so she gets the most attention. Nigel will hold her and walk through the house, saying to anyone in earshot, “Look at her! Just look at her! Look at how cute she is! It’s like she jumped straight out of a painting.” Then he snuggles his face into hers and says, “If your parents could meet you now, they’d be so proud of you!” Aidan loves her just as much. He bursts through the front door when he gets home from school every day and says, “Where’s Winter? Where’s that little princess? I have to pet her!” And then he squeals when he finds her. They are in love with this cat.

And since she’s not their first cat, they’ve learned about death from the ones that came before her. We had one hit by a car a few years ago, and as sad as it was for the boys (and me), our cat’s death helped prepare them emotionally for their great-grandfather’s death several months later. And when Nigel’s very own pet mouse, that he kept in his room and was responsible for entirely, died last year, he handled it with more maturity than I would ever have expected.

Oh, yes, they grumble and complain about having to empty the litter box. They “forget” to do it. But then they see what happens when they “forget,” and they realize that their pets are dependent upon them for their care. And they learn about treating their pets with kindness and respect. Sometimes, this carries over into their dealings with people. At least, that’s the idea.

It’s also worth noting that people on the spectrum can often relate to animals easier than they can to people, such as Temple Grandin with cows or John Elder Robison and dogs. I definitely see this with Nigel. He was playing with Winter a few days ago, pulling a string through the house and laughing as she chased it. After some time, he put the string away and went to the kitchen to get a snack. Then he went to his bedroom to get something, and after that he went to the bathroom. Winter followed him closely the entire time, running right alongside him like a little gray shadow. After a minute of this I heard Nigel say to her, “There’s no way of escaping you, Winter, but I’m glad of it!” He said it in such a sweet, loving tone, with more inflection than he’s ever used when talking to people.

*sigh*  A boy and his cat. Love at first purr.

Our Hero

We are an arachnophobic family. Nigel certainly fears bees and other flying insects, but spiders head the zero tolerance list for all of us. Aidan recently wore flip-flops in the house for a week when a spider hit had gone awry and the intended escaped. We don’t take these things lightly.

Last night, Nigel came up to pet one of our cats, Sheba, who was very interested in something on the floor. Nigel bent closer to look and immediately jumped back, gasping, “It’s a spider!” Sheba, as if on cue, pounced on the smallish pest, then stepped back and proceeded to eat it.

Nigel chuckled. “She’s a good cat. She’s a good bug killer.”

Then he kissed her head and said, “You mad, impetuous thing,” and went back to his room, secure in the knowledge that we have an effective spider slayer in our home.



We have a new little girl in our family! She is so sweet, inquisitive, and pretty! We are all in love with her already. She came with the name (from the local animal shelter), and we decided to keep it because she answers to that. She curled up for a nap after exploring the house for four hours. Nigel was quick to point out, “She’s our own Queen of Sheba.” Midnight, our other cat, is not yet convinced.

Tonight is movie night with the boys; we are making raspberry snowcones and watching Best in Show, one of our favorites. TGIF!