Friday, February 5, 2010

Do cats have honeymoons?

A common phrase in adoption circles is the "honeymoon period." You bring your child home and there's a period of relative calm and pleasantness before the child's issues begin to show. I suppose any situation that goes well for a while and then gets difficult can be said to have a honeymoon period. So the term is not limited to the adoption lexicon.

You may remember that we adopted (different kind of adoption) Riley in December and Ban Lu in January. Riley went on a hunger strike for her first 24 hours. It was less worrying than AwesomeCloud's hunger strike, because Riley is a cat and we knew to expect it. Hunger strikes are typical cat behavior. If they are typical child behavior, we weren't warned; additionally, we were in a hotel in Nanjing and had never been parents of anybody before.

For almost a month following, Riley was fairly mellow about food. She liked food all right, and she purred when she received it, but she didn't go nuts over it.

Then... she developed food aggression. She began to circle around me and snap at the other cats if they entered the kitchen.

Ban Lu followed the same pattern. 48 hours of little to no eating was followed by a few weeks of enjoying his food well enough. And then he began to beg. All the time. Every moment. He'd start begging the moment his plate was clean.

Both cats had changes in medication and/or diet at the time their food neuroses appeared. I can't rule out that Riley's aggression is a withdrawal symptom from her drugs being decreased. Or that Ban Lu simply isn't satisfied by "chicken with chicken gravy" baby food, no matter how much he eats.

(Yes, Ban Lu eats baby food. He hasn't lost his lunch once since he started. Except when he ate Melody's dry food, and except when he ate the plant covered with cayenne pepper, which is SUPPOSED to be a cat deterrent.)

So I don't know if the diet/drug changes were solely responsible for their changes in behavior, or if there really was a honeymoon period.

It got me thinking, also, about honeymoon periods for children. AwesomeCloud is a happy, giggly, responsive baby almost all the time. He hates to cry for long and will make an effort to giggle again as soon as possible. He plays happily when he's in pain or uncomfortable. He makes eye contact and reacts positively to his parents. He clings but is not necessarily clingy. He is easily and readily entertained, and he'll even accept attention from strangers (as long as they are nonthreatening).

Everything is going so well. Really, really well.


When other parents talk about honeymoon periods, some say theirs lasted as long as six months - eight months - even a year. AwesomeCloud has been our son for five whole months.

Are we not out of the woods yet? Is the kiddo's dark side ready to pop open at an unexpected moment? Is all this attachment deceptively easy, and will we have to start over someday? Am I speaking too soon when I say, "He's a total delight! Awesome in every way!"?

(I don't think so, entirely. I think AwesomeCloud is legitimately awesome, a natural-born optimist, and he'll laugh and smile for the rest of his life, with maybe a low period during adolescence.)

There's a reason I'm still reading the adoption blogs and books, studying, taking mental notes, noting trends. There's a reason I still seek out other adoptive families' experiences, and it's not to gloat.

So far, however, the only worsening behavior belongs to the cats. And they've really just turned normal. Most cats have food neuroses.

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