A Deeply Cathected Kitten

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota

I received a phone call from my son one evening at the end of July.”Mom,  we found an abandoned kitten on our walk tonight. Can you keep her?”  He and his wife can have only two pets in their town home, and thought that since we were down to only one cat and an elderly dog who might die any day in her sleep, we could provide a great home for the foundling. I agreed, with husband’s blessing. Son lives in Brookings, SD., so getting her to western ND might be a problem. Our daughter was going to visit in Brookings the next day, however, and could transport the kitten to Moorhead for a couple of weeks before she came to us for a visit. Kitten’s travel plans were set.

Son set to work caring for kitten. He wasn’t sure how old she was, so he whipped up a concoction of evaporated milk, Karo syrup, and egg yolk for her. He took her to the vet, where he learned that she was about 9 weeks old and free of parasites and disease.There were no reports to animal control about a missing kitten. She was officially ours.

20160828_114851I assumed that since I had agreed to take the kitten, I owned her and could make decisions about her. Daughter met kitten in Brookings and texted me that it would be a great idea if we fostered the kitten for a year until she graduated from college and got her own pet-friendly apartment. I agreed with her. Daughter announced to her brother what he had agreed to. He was furious.

I received a blistering phone call from him, accusing me of abandoning the kitten only 12 hours after agreeing to take her, and said he intended this to be a family cat, and that he didn’t want the kitten moved from our home without consulting him first. Daughter told me he railed at her  “Mom plays favorites and you always get everything you want. You never have any expectations put on you. This is supposed to be a family cat”! Daughter was pretty upset about this and texted me “Why are all the men in our family so overly sensitive”? I shared this with her father, who surprised me by having hurt feelings for being accused of being overly sensitive.

I apologized to son for not acknowledging his role in this situation, and that I would certainly consult with him about the kitten in the future. He had, after all, rescued  her, fed her, worried about her, and did his best to make her healthy. He graciously accepted my apology and remarked with some incredulity “All this fuss over a kitten!”

Cathexis is a psychoanalytic term that means “to invest emotion or feeling in an idea, object, or person.”  I don’t subscribe to a psychoanalytic view of behavior, but this kitten is an unmistakable cathected object. I am trying to figure out just what this all means. I wonder if kitten is aware of all the emotions invested in her. The same sort of conflict occurred between my grandmother and her sister over a set of china canisters. The canisters took on some deep meaning about their relationship that I doubt I will ever understand.

Daughter decided after two weeks of caring for kitten that she was too busy to provide a cat with all the care it needed and that we probably should keep her. I suggested to her that since her brother and his wife would probably buy a house in the next year, perhaps they could take the kitten then. She was upset with me and said “No way Mom. This is a family cat and she’s staying with you and Dad!”  She named the kitten “Luna”, a pretty fitting name for a cat that had us all behaving like lunatics.

What is a deeply cathected idea, person, or object in your family?

48 thoughts on “A Deeply Cathected Kitten”

  1. Renee, I’m sure every family, including my own, has disagreements like the one you described that are of the cathectic type. However, publicly discussing a cathectic situation involving my family could create an explosive situation for me. I think that is all I have to say about that. I am trying to stay out of trouble. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t discuss a cathectic situation in your family, Renee. However, I am not brave enough to talk about one in my family.

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        1. if he wasn’t concerned what would jim say I think the secrets are much more interesting to imagine them there to hear about

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  2. The one that first comes to mind is and idea – if I bring up the idea of going up to the Twin Cities (a 2½ hour drive), I get an incredulous stare as if I’d said I was flying to Timbuktu, or abandoning Winona for a long stretch of time. Apparently we were supposed to move here and stay put.

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  3. My mother and fresh eggs. My first memory (or story told) was of how upset my mother would get if my father’s sister got more eggs from his mother than my mother did. Then when I started raising chickens and had excess eggs, I would take them when visiting my mother and sister. I offered several dozens to each of them, but my mother insisted that my sister could buy her own in Mankato, whereas in Rochester she did not have access to fresh farm eggs, therefore she should get all of them. My sister and I quietly complied and I never offered eggs to my sister in my mother’s presence ever again.

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        1. If you have to ask, you’ve never had farm fresh eggs…
          From the white being more ‘white’ and gelatinous and not watery to the bright, plump orange yoke in mine vs the pale yellow smudge of a store bought egg… they are much better than *most* store eggs.
          (Believing there’s a difference between ‘food coop’ eggs and Walmart eggs).

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  4. Eggs…a friend once told me that at a time when she was extremely depressed and thinking of suicide, the thinking of eggs and music saved her. As I recall she told me this when I brought her fresh eggs on the occasion of her son’s death. So perhaps my mother was right in investing so much emotion and energy in them?

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  5. Having been owned by 17 cats in the last 25 years, I relate to your experience completely! My 21-year old grandson moved in with me a few weeks ago. We’ve had just one major speed bump, and it was due to him bringing a cat from the Humane Society into my cottage without consulting me and giving me a say so.

    “Look what I got, Noni!!!!” I was so angry that it shocked me. I loudly told him how thoughtless and disrespectful it was for him to take for granted that, since he knew how much I loved cats, this would be fine with me. Poor kid just stood in the entryway holding his cat as I demanded, “Return that cat NOW!!! I want her out of my house!!” Worse, one of his many girlfriends was standing there beside him.

    My concern was that my two cats, 6 and 13, would be traumatized by the presence of a strange new cat, get into fights with it, and maybe start spraying all over the place to mark their territory. Conner said he couldn’t return it until the next day and stayed far away from his angry grandma all night.

    While he was at work the next day, I sneaked into his room to check the cat out. As much as he earned my indignation the night before, I’d begun to backpedal by morning. The cat was starving for human attention, and I guess I’m a human, so I cuddled with her. Bad mistake.

    By the time he returned, I’d decided to give him three options: give her to a friend until he moved out; return her to the Humane Society (where he’d spent $150 to adopt her); or keep her in his room 24/7. Guess which one he chose? Yup.

    “Mei” is still here. My two have a strange reaction to her when she free ranges once in a while. They hide for hours. I feel sorry for them, but they’re adjusting to this intruder. So am I.

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  6. Toilet paper. I feel strongly that whoever uses up the last of the current roll should get out a new roll (not all of our bathrooms have t.p. storage convenient to where it’s used). Others in the house think it is the responsibility of whoever is in immediate need of t.p. to check that there is some available before they need it. I feel this is unrealistic, especially in the middle of the night or in some other circumstances.

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  7. If I understand “cathexis,” Renee the only object in my life that qualifies is a spoon rest. It is a pleasing object crafted from a single block of wood. The shape is logical and naturally appealing, and yet I’ve never seen another spoon rest that looks the least bit like it.

    To understand its standing as a cathetic object, we need a bit of context. After 31 years of marriage, my erstwife announced that she was moving to Europe, and I would not be going with her. After we agreed on splitting the family finances, we had a curious evening during which we roamed the house dividing up our earthly goods. I had dreaded this. But it went well, for my erstwife was overwhelmed by guilt, plus she was physically not capable of moving a lot of stuff to Europe. The things she wanted were clearly hers, such as family mementos and a painting of her mother I had always hated.

    Then we got to the spoon rest. It had been a wedding gift, so it was as much mine as hers. She wanted it. I wanted it. To my astonishment, I found that I really cared about the spoon rest. It was a cathetic object.

    As we wrangled, it suddenly occurred to me that in 31 years I had never prevailed in a conflict with her. Never. She was a person with high self esteem and a general air of entitlement. For a number of reasons–with one being that I’m a wuss who shies away from conflict–I had never insisted that we do things my way. But that night I told her I was keeping the spoon rest. Shaken, she agreed.

    Did I feel triumphant? No. I could barely handle the guilt I felt. I nearly gave it back a dozen times. And I spent–conservatively speaking–over a hundred hours on the internet looking for a similar spoon rest that I could give her for Christmas. But she’ll get it soon enough. My will is simple. Everything I own goes to my daughter, everything but the spoon rest. I’ve willed that to her.

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    1. My ex insisted on having a $15 food preserver (you know, vacuum sealer which he never used when he was living with me) even including it in the final decree. I gave it up easily….having maybe used it once. But it was a (special?) gift to both of us from the brother he didn’t like. Made me laugh, still makes me laugh.

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      1. Divorce will bring out the oddest behavior, Cynthia. I knew a guy who had a toxic divorce. A huge issue contributing to the failure of that marriage was his hobby: hunting big game. His wife hated the time he was gone and the money he spent hunting. It goes without saying that she hated the stuffed heads he had around the house. When those two split, she claimed (and got) half of his rifles and half of all the hated stuffed heads of deer, moose, elk and caribou. When it came down to street fighting, she knew just where to kick so it would hurt him most.

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  8. I don’t have a thing about things. People on the other hand . . .But then there is my wife, who deals with such issues without anger. Things and accessories and the like are her life.
    She likes to rearrange, which causes me confusion, but I do not get angry. There are five pump bottles in my bathroom, the one I use most. She likes to rearrange them. The problem is that three of the five have things with scents.in them. K sometimes do not look and get stuff on my hand which require me to shower to get off the scent. It is a funny mess when I go to wash dirty hands from dealing with soil or something and I suddenly have herbs de provance lotion over the dirt.

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  9. My grandmother and her younger sister had a conflict of enormous complexity and rancor that started in the early 1960’s and continued until they died in the late 1990’s. They never reconciled, even when they were 99 and 97 and living in the same nursing home in Pipestone.

    My great aunt ended up with their mother’s china canisters after she died in 1937. I believe they were bought soon after the family immigrated to the US in 1914. I guess that my grandmother thought she should have had them, as the oldest daughter, and probably let her sister know how she felt about her having them. The conflict that started in the 1960’s is too convoluted to describe here, but it had nothing to do with the canisters.

    In the late 1970’s, my Aunt Leona, my grandmother’s oldest daughter, received in the mail a large box with the canisters in it. My great aunt lived in the same town, but chose to mail the canisters to her instead of bring them over. It set off lots of sturm und drang from my grandmother. Aunt Leona kept them, but was uncomfortable about the whole thing. At the same time, great aunt returned to my Uncle Harvey some linens he had bought her when he was in Korea during the war. She seemed to be ridding herself of everything that reminded her of her miserable older sister.

    I think one of my cousins has the canisters now.

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  10. I will send in a very brief guest post. Not sure we have much participation left any more. I am tempted to put up Taps.

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    1. Oh, don’t do that yet Clyde. I think summer is a slow time on the list as we’re all busy. I know I am.
      And I like having a couple days to respond (again, because I’m busy. And I think slow…)
      That said, I appreciate those of you who write blogs. Thanks for doing that!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I’ll try to participate today, but don’t expect much from me. I have a cold. Apparently colds are minor things for some people, but for me they are massively difficult and painful. All that coughing has left my stomach muscles distressed. In short, I’m feeling sorry for myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had that same cold last week; I hope I didn’t somehow transmit the germs to you over the blog. The good news is that the part where I felt like a truck hit me was over in a couple days – I hope the same is true for you. The bad news is that I am still coughing, still coughing up mucus. But it has stopped hurting like it did last week. I took cold medicine in hopes that it wouldn’t develop into something nasty like an ear infection (like I had last winter) and still take nighttime Robitussin to help me sleep and to not cough so much at night.

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  12. I hang onto way too many things. But thanks to someone on the blog last week, I am not hanging onto way fewer t-shirts. I dug down to the bottom of the drawer, pulled out about a dozen, thought about when I had acquired them, thanked them for their years of service and they are now in a bag downstairs waiting for the trip to the Goodwill (probably on Saturday).

    And just in time, since I acquired a couple of new shirts at the Fair!!!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I said goodbye to a couple of t-shirts that are actually close to 15 years old. They are in remarkably good shape – only cements my theory that I have WAY TOO MANY!

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      2. And more irony…I found, sorted and re-stored my t-shirts on Sunday. Still not ready to part with any…and discovered having lost some weight that I can wear the mediums again, the large and extra-large will work as night shirts. Yes, and got a new one “I (heart) goats” this summer. But that was a gift. Have vowed to not buy any more new.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. OT – I have good medical news to share. Since I was released from the hospital last month, I have been going to the lab weekly to get my blood drawn. This was because my white blood and platelet counts had been so low that the doctors were very concerned. The counts had been steadily improving and I was hopeful that when I met with the hematologist that she would tell me I was A-OK. Then last week, my platelet count dropped below normal. This was to be the last blood draw before my appointment today with the doctor. So I was a little nervous that something was really wrong with me, plus I was going to the cancer center at Methodist Hospital for my appointment.

    It turns out that the lab didn’t test all they were supposed to last week, so they drew my blood again right before my appointment – and the doctor informed me that everything was NORMAL and I would not have to see her again, or get a bone marrow biopsy, but could go forth and live normally. Except I should take precautions to not get bit by a tick again.

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  14. I told son that my mom fed me a mixture of evaporated milk and karo syrup when I was an infant. I guess thst was pretty standard infant formula in the late 1950’s.

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  15. When my sister and I were disposing of my mother’s belongings after she died, we came across a whisk broom that was eroded down to the stitching, pretty much beyond any usefulness. My sister threw it away. I later retrieved it from the wastebasket. Not sure why exactly, but it seemed to me that it might have had some significance. My mother didn’t usually keep stuff that was worn or damaged, so the whisk broom sort of stood out. I thought maybe it had belonged to her mother or grandmother. I guess you could call it suspected cathected.

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  16. thanks renee for the wonderful post and for the new role as regular guest blogger it is apprciated. the mornings are a commodity for me these days and i dont get to hang out like i used to.
    i have a family of misfits who glom onto stuff and want the thing the other one has. there is little of real value but some nice things just the same. wen we were growing up m mm asked what we all wanted when she died and everyone got dibbs on everything. the china the china cabinet the silver the rings and jewlery, i said i wanted the art and the books and one chair in particular. the chair is in my warehouse in toug shape hoping for a recovering some dya. the art is on my moms walls and the books are in boxes with my family encouraging my mom to throw them out. i remind them thesea re my books they are encouraging her to throw then i get reprimanded by my family for my hoarder tendencies and told to throw out my books in addition to all of hers. stuff gets in the way in this world and i have stuff to spare but i am hard pressed to get rid of it.

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