Parenting Guru: When cats act like babies and babies act like cats

Last night, I was rocking my four-year-old daughter and singing her favorite lullaby, "The Rainbow Connection." As soon as my crazy, drooling tomcat heard the sound of the rocking chair, he threw himself into my lap, laid his head against my chest, and insisted that I sing him to sleep, too. By the time I was done and my daughter's eyes were shut, I found myself feeling a lot like I was dealing with twins-- first putting laying one "kid" in her bed, then the other!

Looking back, I realized how long this pattern has been going on, and maybe it's my own fault. When I was pregnant, I wasn't above holding a cat to my chest and singing it to sleep, fantasizing about the days when I'd have a real, live baby to hold. I was never hesitant about letting my cat curl up next to my daughter when she was a newborn and even sleep under little piles of receiving blankets. It didn't take me long to figure out that my crafty felines were even learning to meow more like their infant "sister." One day, when my cat sat down in the baby's high chair and meowed hungrily, the level of imitation really hit home.

This cross-species emulation went both ways. When my daughter scooted across the floor, crawling for the first time, I could swear she was uttering a "Meow!" It was so strange and funny to see just how much kids can absorb from their furry family members as well as their human parents. My baby girl seemed like she was in a hurry to grow up to become a cat, and my cats seemed like they might grow up to be real human children.

One day, when my daughter was nine months old, I took a snapshot that I still treasure to this day. A cardinal was making some noise outside our glass door, and I saw all three of my "babies"-the little blonde cat, the colorpoint shorthair, and the babbling tot-rush on all fours to see what the commotion was all about. Simultaneously, my three "babies" raised to a stand and stared out the window, their heads twitching from side to side, perfectly synchronized, as they watched the bird's movements. A few moments later, they dropped from their standing position and resumed to the ordinary business of walking on all fours and communicating in some language still unintelligible to me.

In several languages, the word for "infant" is the same as the word for "creature," and, to anyone who has seen the way babies behave around animals (and vice versa!) the reason for this couldn't be clearer. I'm not sure if my baby enjoys imitating cats, if my cats enjoy imitating babies, or a combination of both, but I treasure those adorable little moments when I have a hard time telling my furry "babies" from my own daughter!

Do your kids ever noticeably imitate your pets, or do your pets imitate your kids? Share your own story here!

Juniper Russo is a freelance writer and Shine Parenting Guru. When she's not busy keeping up with her wonderfully eccentric four-year-old daughter, she writes about a diverse array of topics including health, pets, parenting, and activism.