Navigating Cats, Children, and Huntington’s
Alexus and her boyfriend just moved into a new home with the two cats she already owns. Because my wife and daughter are both gene-positive for Huntington’s disease (among other reasons), Alexus has decided she doesn’t want to have children.
As parents, we have always tried to be supportive of her decisions, and would never pressure her to have kids. Instead, we have several lovely “granddaughters,” which is how Alexus refers to her cats, because she loves them like they are her children. She’s not the only one. The term “fur baby” has made it into the Oxford Dictionary.
It is important to note that Alexus’ “children” will never be able to inherit Huntington’s.
When Alexus called to tell us that she was getting kittens, we pointed out some possible issues to ponder. Her two cats could be territorial. They could hurt the kittens. What if they got mad at Alexus for bringing new things into their home and scratched her or destroyed furniture? There were a lot of reasons not to get the kittens.
Alexus was not deterred by our objections. She brought the two new kittens home. They are tiny and adorable sisters that were found in a drainage pipe.
The next week, we waited for news of how the kittens were doing, but Alexus was busy working long hours, so we didn’t hear much. We were dying to know something — anything. All we knew was that they were getting used to the house, but she was keeping them apart.
Then, it happened. We both got a FaceTime call from her. We looked at the screen, and she had her camera facing away from her. Then, we saw it. All her cats were playing together. She had them all in the same room, and there was harmony.
We were concerned about something when we didn’t need to be. Upon hearing that Alexus doesn’t want to have kids one day, some people have reacted by saying that she is young and will change her mind. That it is possible to have a child without passing on the Huntington’s gene, because the odds of this are 50%. That one day Jill and I will be grandparents.
Jill and I don’t think that way.
Alexus doesn’t need to change her mind for us to be happy. We are happy when she is happy. We respect her decision, because we know how difficult it is to learn that one of your children has the Huntington’s gene.
Besides, we already have four furry grandchildren to love.
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