When you’re responsible for another life, you have to think of that life’s needs. And sometimes, you have to put that life’s needs ahead of yours.

That is the lesson I’ve been teaching my foster daughter since day one. And the life she is responsible for is Schrodie’s.

You see, without opposable thumbs, the cat can’t feed herself (hunting for birds and mice aside). Without opposable thumbs, the cat can’t clean her litter box. And without opposable thumbs, the cat can’t clean her water bowl or re-fill it.

So those things must be done by the kid.

And those things must be done first thing in the morning before the kid feeds herself; because unlike the cat, the kid can choose to eat later.

In the beginning this was a lesson we had to discuss regularly.

I had to remind her to feed the cat: “She’s not following you around meowing just because she likes you; she’s yelling at you to feed her.”

I had to remind her to clean the water dish each morning: “How would you like it if I fed you out of dirty dishes?”

I had to remind her to wash her hands after cleaning the litter box (which she does right before fixing her own food): “Really, if you don’t, it’s almost like eating cat poop. Do you want to eat cat poop?”

But now she has the pattern down. And now she knows that I have sneaky ways of telling if she’s washed her hands. (Um, hello, why is the sink still dry?)

And on a morning like today—after having gone over the lesson of “Sleep-In Saturdays”—I heard her playing in her room, whilst I was snuggled under my duvet, when Schrodie came in to meow a hello (which was actually her way of being a tattletale).

So I shouted out: “Hey, what happens when a dependant life isn’t cared for?”

And she shouted: “I’m doing it right now!”

And I smiled as I stayed warmly under my duvet listening to the sounds of cat food being poured, litter being scooped, and water being turned on.

The cat sure does love her new care-giver. And I sure do love that I’ve not cleaned a litter box in three months.