I will never forget the day we realized we would have to live without our cats, Ajax and Ulysses. We adopted them back when we lived in a little apartment in LA and they started, somewhat reluctantly, as indoor cats. Soon enough, we graduated from college and moved in with Nate's parents while we looked for jobs here in San Diego. The cats LOVED the freedom and space of Oma and Opa's big country home, the ability to frolic outside and chase gophers and mice. But Nate and I eventually found jobs and it was time to settle down in another apartment closer to the city. We were wary of taking the cats with us after they'd had a taste of the “good life,” and we decided to start by easing Ajax into the idea. Ajax is less of an adventurer and we thought she'd settle back into an apartment space pretty easily. Ulysses, we hoped, would eventually follow suit.

saying goodbye to cats

If I've learned one thing about cats, it's that they can't be tamed. You can care for them, love them, and they become good companions. I'd even call Ulysses loyal, the way he follows Nate around the country house. But you never truly own a cat and they aren't subservient to your commands the way some pets are. Ajax wanted nothing to do with the apartment, even after we gave it a couple of weeks. She went back and forth from listlessly gazing out the back window to howling agitatedly at the front screen, pawing for release. She wouldn't sit still to be pet, and she refused to eat or drink. I don't think it had much to do with Ulysses not being around because, frankly, the two cats don't seem to care for each other that much. They were companions when they were younger but more and more (especially as they had more space to stretch out), they started living surprisingly separate lives.

Ajax just didn't want to be caged. We had to send her back to live with Oma and Opa. It was the right thing to do, even though it made me cry my dang eyes out.

This story does have a bright ending: we wound up switching jobs and moving closer to Oma and Opa a year later. We get to go up to the country house at least once or twice a week and we spend tons of time with the cats. We're happy that they're happy, and as soon as the baby came along I realized it was a blessing in disguise to not be juggling the needs of the baby and the needs of the animals in a small space. But I still remember that moment, sending Ajax away, as one of my most memorable life moments.

It was one of the first times I made a huge sacrifice to put someone else's needs above my own. I could have easily stood my ground and insisted she just get used to it. I could've said that she was my cat and she'd live wherever the heck I went. But fortunately, I had the option of doing the right thing…instead of what I really, really wanted to do. That was a turning point for me and one that I honestly think helped prepare me for being a parent. That's why I always recommend that people thinking about having kids give it a go with pets first!

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The Real Stories Project is an app that collects the real stories of cat people everywhere. Cats are special to each of us – this is our way of celebrating how much of a role they play in our lives, all the memories we have had together, and the fact that they are always there for us, no matter what. This experience lives on yourcatstory.com, catchow.com, facebook.com/purinacatchow, and youtube.com/purinacatchow.

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Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Purina Cat Chow via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Purina Cat Chow.