Having 5 young children, there are certain things I hear all the time. If I had a nickel for every time someone said “You’ve got your hands full!” I would retire at the ripe old age of 32. Another one that is surprisingly frequent, “When are you getting the kids a dog?” I try not to laugh and remind them that I have 5 children….

I grew up with Black Labs, so the joy and companionship of a family dog is not lost on me, but we also had cats. Besides the fact that there is no room at the inn, my husband and I are cat people. Even before starting our family we always knew we wanted two kittens someday. These would be our family pets that the kids grew up with.

Looking back, the plan to get cats was half-baked –  it was focused on fun and responsibility. The obvious fun little kittens would bring to the household. Why not?! The built-in opportunity for chores and teaching children about responsibilities. Perfect.

luke-leiaThen about a year ago, a series of events landed two 4-month old kittens in our home. Luke and Leia (I know, #nerdalert).

WORKING PARENT TIP: If you’re looking for a family pet or pets, cats are extremely low maintenance. I was initially worried about adding to my plate, but they are easy and inexpensive to feed, no mess, no noise – they just need a warm lap and a toy to chase.

Our chaotic but established routines have not changed, but adding the kittens, who are now cats, changed our family. Luke and Leia have always been in the middle of the action. Whether we’re in the playroom, snuggled on the couch or on the playscape, they are right by our side. Sometimes even right underfoot or going down the slide (true story…on a regular basis). The kids are fascinated by them, they pet them, play with them, take care of them and love them.

What has come to amaze me and feel all the proud-mommy feels, however, is the level of compassion and care that the kids show through their relationship with their pets. They give Luke and Leia hugs for no reason, make sure they’re in the house before dark, sneak them treats when they can. The kids seek them out to play with them, talk to them, even pick special toys that they just KNOW the kitties will love. josh-luke

As parents we strive to teach kindness, compassion, care for others…and it’s hard to do in accessible way. As a working parent sometimes I think it’s harder still because of additional time constraints. Community service and community events  connect us with people in need and present ways to give back. But personally I have not yet found a way to get there.

Then much to my surprise, having pets to love and having that other life to care for and connect with has accomplished this goal in a meaningful way at such young ages.

Much more than just adding fun and responsibilities with two kittens, it has been encouraging and motivating to see that profound life lessons of love, caring and kindness can be taught at home in the simplest of ways. It’s naturally in them – in us all – and this is a simple way to bring it out, cultivate and keep growing.

That’s why my cats have super powers. All well-loved pets do.