As a new parent – and even before that, as someone pregnant – you get warning after warning. Don’t eat lunch meat. Avoid eat blue cheese. Stay away from the wine. Babies can’t eat honey until they are one. Babies must sleep on their backs. Babies can’t actually sleep with any of the one hundred baby blankets, store bought or home knitted, crocheted, or quilted, that you receive. Keep children away from pets; they could get hurt. (Of course, they will – our cats nip our daughter occasionally, but it’s never been anything serious, and I really believe it’s taught her a lot about reading the emotions of others. It’s quickened her reflexes, too!) Crib bumpers may look cute but could cause death – so you might want to consider not using them. Unless you don’t love your baby.

Well, my daughter has finally found a good use for the crib bumpers, at least one section of them at a time: they make a giant, splendid, easy-for-a-toddler-to-carry cat toy! Much as she learned how to use the cat’s toy early on, waving it for the cats to play with until I thought my heart would explode with the joy and sweetness of this act done solely for the pleasure of another, she learned, too, that the cat liked this. Better yet, she learned this on her own. She created this game, and she squeals with delight as she drags it around behind her. She wraps herself in the Pooh-adorned cushiness of it, a small queen more cute than regal. Sitting on her small dais, with no apology to Piglet or Tigger hiding under her bum, she looks at her one furry subject, our younger, more active cat, Pepper.

Pepper also delights in the many ties that flap and flutter as my daughter runs. Every morning, Pepper looks longingly out the windows, tail bushing as she chases squirrels and birds from one window to another. She even made a quick escape last week, bolting out the front door and halfway up the front redbud tree. Then, she stopped. It was as if she realized that she didn’t really like the real thing, and she came back without a fight in my husband’s arms. She prefers the nature show to nature itself.

Now, she chases the bumper’s ties as if they were a small flock of birds brought inside for her kitty pleasure. She pounces and leaps, scratches and nips, and all the while, my daughter squeaks and runs, smiling and completely happy.

I could warn you about the dangers of babies being scratched or bitten by cats, leaving behind a mark like ballpoint pen but sadder, but I’ll leave that to the professionals. I say cats and babies make great companions, and my daughter would tell you the same.

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