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I am a young woman. Almost divorced. I don’t have kids of my own. Yet, I have always empathised with my friends when their children were not well. Look at how angry I was when I heard a friend’s toddler was raped last year. I can also understand, now, how my mother has always been so overprotective of me.

A lot of people will tell you that a pet is not a child. Yet, for many, a pet is all a person has. Maybe they did not have children of their own for a particular reason. Or their children have grown up and left home to start families of their own. A pet is not intended as a replacement, but it definitely fills a gap and is often the only companion a person has.

I was born with brittle bones (Osteogenesis Imperfecta). I am small in stature. Marc and I agreed that it would be a serious health risk for me to fall pregnant. So I had a hysterectomy in 2008. There is always the option to adopt, but I know for a fact that I would not make a good mother to a human child. My patience can wear very thin. I do not have the strength to handle a baby of 3+ kilograms and would have a major problem with the child on the floor.

My choice of child has always been, and always will be, a pet. Up until recently, I have only had dogs as pets.  The only cat in my life was my grandmother’s Siamese, which I don’t remember much about. The dogs I have had were always spoiled in their own special way. I loved them to bits.

But I don’t ever remember feeling that heart-wrenching fear before, like I did last night. I had been sitting outside, with the chordless phone, talking to my mother while Gemma carefully explored a garden table in front of me. She turned around and jumped off. A moment later, I saw a feral calico cat on the other side of the garden. I don’t know why I did not stop first to see if she was somewhere on the ground around me. I just raced for the bedroom and called her, urgently. Of course, she was already there, safe and secure.

I don’t know how to explain what Gemma does to me. I love my little kitten to bits. I watch her playing and feel so proud and happy. The feeling of warmth and love is one that supersedes any other emotion. The idea of any harm coming to her is enough to cause my chest to close up in fear. That instinct kicks in, wanting me to protect my baby at all cost. It just sends me running back to the bedroom and slamming the door. I have never felt this way before and don’t want the feeling to end any time soon.