Navigating Cats, Children, and Huntington’s

Carlos Briceño avatar

by Carlos Briceño |

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Several days ago, my wife, Jill, and I got a call from our daughter, Alexus. She wanted us to know she was getting two new cats.

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.

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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.

Children and cats | Huntington's Disease News | One of Alexus' cats greets one of her new kittens in her home.

Two of Alexus’ “children,” including a new kitten, seen here at left, learn how to get along with each other. (Courtesy of Alexus Jones)

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.


Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.


Alison Smith avatar

Alison Smith

Great article, I wish it had touched on the information that it is possible in this day and age to have children that will have no possibility of passing on the Huntington's gene through IVF. It is even possible to do this without knowing your own status if that is what you wish! I applaud every HD positive person who is responsible and does not pass along the gene! It is sad how many people out there aren't aware of the possibilities.

Deborah Baker avatar

Deborah Baker

Thanks for sharing this beautiful story. My niece has Huntington’s and she has a daughter now, but we don’t know yet if her daughter has the gene. Everyone has to make their own decision, but either way it is not easy.

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Thank you. I'm sorry to hear that your niece has Huntington's. I hope her daughter doesn't have it. Whatever happens, know that no one escapes from some type of suffering in life. So, then, what do you do with the suffering? Do you get bitter or better about it? I hope your niece and all your family are able to see the blessings that occur when you all open your hearts to not taking life or family or health for granted and seeing each day and each other as gifts.


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