How I Became a Plant Mom

large monstera plant in black pot sits on green stand with keyboard in the background
Lil' Miss when I first brought her home.

The monstera. The plant we named Lil’ Miss. It was the first plant I bought that felt like an investment. It felt like a really big deal at the time because it cost more than $20. It was about 3 years ago a few months after my cat had died. 

I tend to name things simply, or cutesy; my husband tends to pick more complicated names. We named our cat Lady Kiki the Duchess of Cromwell. Cromwell came from the street we lived on. We first called her Duchess and later came up with her full name. Duchess didn’t really stick. I’d frequently just say, here kitty, kitty. When said fast it sounds like Kiki. Here Kiki. The name stuck. She was very small for an adult cat. At most she was 5 pounds. She had wandered onto a friend's property out in the country. She couldn't keep her so we took her in. We thought she was a stray but when we took her to get spayed the vet found a scar. She had been away from her home for so long. She was very skinny when our friend found her.
black cat with green eyes, white chest, white paws, and white whiskers
Kiki sits on a couch. 

Kiki was somewhat of an unusual cat. She was afraid of her reflection. We took in another stray for a few months - who we named Price - and she was so scared of him. I remember this time Prince tried to play with her and she peed herself. Poor thing. 

black and white cat sits on back of woman bending over
Kiki does not approve (of sitting on Nandi's back).

We adopted Kiki while living in Iowa. We thought we could let her come and go outside but she hated being outside. We let her out once and she got lost for what felt like a week. I don't remember if it was a week, or if it felt like a week. We put up fliers and some neighborhood kids found her. She had been hiding in a bush about two doors down. From then on she was an indoor-only kitty. 

Kiki had the loudest howl I'd ever heard come out of a small animal. 

I didn't live with a lot of cats growing up - my mom was allergic. My friends had cats and I was always so happy to cuddle and play with them whenever I went to their houses. Kiki had the loudest howl I'd ever heard come out of a small animal. Oh, she would howl. Mostly at nights. Why do cats howl? One of our current fur babies is a howler too. 

We found Prince as a kitten. I was on a walk with a friend in a neighborhood park. My friend had her kid in a stroller. We saw a cat a little ways off and we called him over and he was so friendly. He jumped in my friend's stroller and said hi to her kid. I went home to get some food. When we gave him the food he gobbled like a turkey. We tried to find his owners but no one claimed him so we adopted him. Kiki was not a fan. When we moved to Chicago we found a good home for him. I think Kiki was happy to be a single cat again. 

Split image of black cat sitting next to a sewing machine. On left, cat sits nicely; on right, cat is chewing on thread from the machine.
Prince eats the sewing machine thread, which is why cats are no longer allowed in the sewing room.
I don't think I realized how much our morning and evening time meant to me until she was gone. 

Kiki’s health had started to decline at this point, but I only know that looking back now. Hindsight is 20/20. We moved into our second apartment in Chicago and Kiki was a constant companion. I started working my first 9-5 job shortly after. It was a very stressful job. Looking back, I'm not sure why I stayed in it so long. On mornings before work Kiki would sit on my lap and I would pet her before the stressful day. She would also greet me when I got home, waiting for me to sit on the couch so she could get her pets from a long day home alone. I don't think I realized how much our morning and evening time meant to me until she was gone. 

I've sat down to work on this a few different times. Today I had a "memory" pop up on Facebook about Kiki's passing. She passed away about 3 years ago today (March 6th). I had taken the day off of work because I knew she wasn't doing well. She passed away in my arms. She had kidney disease and her health had declined severely in the past couple weeks. She had lost a lot of weight by then. I don't know if another way would have been easier to deal with. But it was such a weird, difficult, grief, heart breaking experience to have a pet die in my arms. It brings up a lot, even now, 3 years later. 

I think I still have a lot of guilt about her passing. Her health issues were around for a while before I ended up taking her to the vet. By the time I finally took her to the vet she had advanced kidney disease. I had my own health issues I was dealing with (more on that later) and I think I was distracted from getting her the help she needed. 

I think our pets can become comfort zones for parts of ourselves. 

Kiki was an unusual cat in that she liked to be around strangers. Whenever we hosted parties or gatherings Kiki would literally be sitting in the middle of the room. I haven’t met other cats like her. I think our pets can become comfort zones for parts of ourselves. Our inner child that needs protecting or someone we can talk to when we feel like we can’t talk to anyone else. At this point I’m not sure what Kiki represented to me but I felt lost not being able to take care of someone. 

I felt like if I could care for something at least it was something that helped me feel calm in my environment. 

I started buying plants because I wanted something to care for. I think I wasn’t taking care of myself and needed something outside of myself to care for. I felt like if I could care for something at least it was something that helped me feel calm in my environment. I wasn’t ready to adopt another pet yet. That’s where Lil’ Miss comes in.

When I brought Lil’ Miss home I knew I wanted to name her. She was so big. The biggest plant I’ve ever gotten. It’s probably why her name eventually became Lil’ Miss. The opposite of Big: Little. Little became cutesy: Lil'. My husband and I are into Royal dramas like, The Crown, and Victoria. I first named her Victoria Elizabeth. I actually don’t remember what her full name was. Maybe there was a Catherine in there too? Well, those names didn’t stick and somewhere along the way her name became Lil’ Miss. That name has stuck and she is still alive at the time of this posting. 

...her planti-ness has taken over in my mind as its own entity.

I’ve propagated her many times and now I have 6 slightly smaller monstera plants around the house. She has outgrown the bedroom where we keep her away from our two new kitties, Audrey and Frankie (monsteras are poisonous to cats). Her “offspring” is in 3 rooms of our house. Even though Lil’ Miss is just a plant her planti-ness has taken over in my mind as its own entity. She has her own personality and I find myself talking to her every now and then.

My husband and I bought a condo last summer. After a couple weeks in our new place it felt like it was time to adopt some fur babies. I went to a local shelter and immediately fell in love with a bonded pair - a brother and sister named Audrey and Russ. We renamed Russ to Frankie. They were about 5 months old and so rambunctious and playful. They’ve lost some of that but they still have so much spunk. 

black cat with green eyes has mouth partially open
Frankie enjoys sitting on the couch. His mouth is slightly agape. 

Unfortunately monstera plants are not cat safe so they stay behind closed doors and out of reach for the cats. I think sometimes I prioritize my plants over my two new kitties because of what they represented to me at the time I got them. I was grieving Kiki and needed something to take care of so Lil' Miss slightly filled that spot. Grief is weird. That felt judgemental. I think sometimes I pre-judge myself because I’m afraid of other people judging me. 

black cat with yellow eyes looks off to the side
Audrey also enjoys sitting on the couch often.

After writing all about Lil’ Miss I realized that my penchant for plants started earlier after a scare of cancer. But that is for another story. 

To me, plants are personal. They have a strong hold inside that I didn’t quite know until writing this. It’s hard to see a plant die. It’s infinitely harder to see a pet die. I don’t mean to end this so morbidly. I have a hard time sharing and I thought writing it out would make it just a tiny bit easier. 

What do plants mean to you?


  • Sharon A Walker

    Met you last year at Visible Mending event. Love this blog. My children are long out of the house. Pets and Plants have always been an important part of my life but, way more so since the son now have family’s of their own. I understand the need to care for something in your at home quiet times. Sweet post.

  • Nandi @ BLISS JOY BULL

    Thanks, Schuyler! Oh, Kiki was so silly about the dishwasher and her reflection! It’s taken me a while to get the hang of the plants that have worked. And it’s so tricky finding cat safe plants that do well. Pretty much all of our plants are in places the cats aren’t allowed or out of reach from kitty paws 😺

  • Nandi @ BLISS JOY BULL

    Thanks, Heather! Monsteras actually do really well in low light. I’ve had them in north facing and west facing windows. They’ve done well in both locations.

  • Heather

    Thank you for sharing your story! I think plants are very healing. I’m realizing that now I’m in my own space I would like some larger ones but I need to research which will do well in low light.

    I’m glad you have both kitties and plants now!

  • Schuyler

    Sweet Kiki!! I can confirm she had quite a robust howl in her little frame 💛 I remember cat sitting for her and I felt like she was talking to the reflection of herself on the dishwasher door 😸

    I’ve been hesitant to jump into the plant game because of Humphrey (my cat) but the two I do have – one of the basic green ones you can’t kill lives up on a book case, and an orchid that thrives in my shower’s windowsill – bring me a lot of joy.

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