Baby and the Beast

I was heating up some baby food tonight as Camille sat happily in her seat on the floor in the kitchen. After pulling the containers from the microwave, I turned around to glance at her to make sure she was fine, and I gasped.
Her little arm was extended and her tiny fingers were outstretched, gently stroking Luca’s soft grey fur.
Luca is a bit bipolar. She’d love nothing better than to jump into my lap, have me pet her for an hour, then turn around and bite my arm for no apparent reason. We’ve lived together long enough – 10 years – that I can usually tell when she’s about morph into hellcat, but I can’t always get out of the way fast enough.
It is because of my many scars that I have been wary of any interaction between Luca and Camille. Some people say that pets often react differently to babies than to adults, as if they understand and respect their inherent innocence. But I don’t trust Luca to care one bit that Camille is vulnerable.
For the most part, the cat has ignored the baby. I have to chase her away from Cami’s blankets when Cami is lounging on the floor, but that’s been about it. She’s just in it for the fleece, and could care less about the baby.
But lately, Camille has taken a great interest in the cat. Cami will be playing happily in her exersaucer when the cat will walk by, and she’ll freeze. Her eyes will follow Luca across the room until the kitty is out of sight.
The other day, we were playing on the floor when the cat walked closer, and Camille reached out to her. Because I was right there in the cat’s face and could break up a fight quickly, I decided to give it a minute to see what would happen.
Camille touched her fur, and Luca moved closer. Then Cami grabbed the shiny, dangly tags on Luca’s collar and gave them a nice pull. Such a magpie. The cat obligingly laid down. All was going well, but I thought we’d tempted fate enough, and I swatted the cat away.
Well, tonight’s encounter was particularly alarming because I wasn’t aware when it initially began. It doesn’t take long for Luca to inflict damage. I stifled a loud yell, because I don’t necessarily want the cat to associate the baby with being in trouble. I just want her to ignore Camille, not think positively or negatively about her.
Camille stroked Luca’s back like she’d been around cats for 20 years. They were soft, gentle pats and the cat seemed to be enjoying them. Cami’s eyes were fixed on the kitty, her fingers raking through the thick fur, her mouth open in wonder at this fat, furry creature before her. I edged closer, just in case. That’s when Camille’s other hand reached up and poked the cat’s butt.
That did not go over well.
The cat jumped and her head snapped around to see who was messing around where the sun doesn’t shine. I knew that defensive posture, and as I lunged toward her, she fled the room. Her mouth had come awfully close to those precious pudgy baby arms, but I could tell by Camille’s face that she’d not been harmed. I don’t know for sure that Luca was about to bite, but I didn’t want to find out.
So far, all the encounters have ended with no injuries to report, but as Camille becomes more aware and mobile, it’ll be hard to keep their meetings brief and controlled. And that’s a problem.
One day, Luca is going to bite Camille. And when that day comes, I don’t know what I will do. As much as I love Luca (she was a great companion during college and those first years after graduation when I lived alone), I’d really like to find her a new home. Mostly I worry about Camille, but I also believe Luca’s quality of life isn’t as good. My lap is always reserved for the baby, and Luca only gets attention when I’m shooing her off of the baby’s things. But who would take her?
“Would you like my big grey kitty?”
“Why are you trying to find a new home for her?”
“Because she bites. Take her home with you!”
I could never take her to the animal shelter. Besides, it would be a death sentence, because who wants a 10 year old, obese, biting cat? But she’s not all bad – she loves nuzzling close when it’s chilly outside and giving you little kisses with her cold nose. But that won’t matter if she hurts Camille. She’ll have to go. But where? I just don’t know.