I thought I would feel like an adult the first time I went off to college on my own. I decorated my own dorm room, I organized all my notes, I had a color-coded calendar. I was an adult, 18, and sure of myself.
Then a week passed. I got lazy. I had pasta every night for dinner, when I remembered. I slept through lectures. I ate croissants for breakfast and lunch. And this kind of pattern happened every time I thought I'd finally reached the fabled adulthood. When I got my first job, when I graduated with my master's degree, when I moved in with my long-term boyfriend. Every time I believed I'd become an adult, it lasted for a short time until I regressed back to my childish habits. That is, until my partner and I got our pets.
My two cats completely changed my life. All of a sudden, I had to stick to a routine. If you've ever slept in past your cats' breakfast time, you'll know what I'm talking about: they're not forgiving. No matter how sleepy, hungover, or sick I was feeling, I had to clean their kitty litter. No matter how empty my bank account was that month, I needed to have money for their vet trips. I could no longer spontaneously take off on a trip because I'd need to book a cat sitter in advance.
Having cats gave me real responsibility, the kind you don't get from watering house plants or even from looking after yourself. Having two small furry beings dependent on me for everything completely changed me and matured me into actually being an adult. I needed to secure a stable job to make sure I could provide for them; I had to order their food well in advance to ensure it would arrive on time. I had to pick an apartment that would suit their needs. And I felt the guilt when they got sick for the first time and I wondered if it was my fault.
There have been many times in my life when I felt fully matured and ready to be an adult. And every time I was wrong. It took getting two cats for me to be a real grown-up - and I'll never go back.