A reason for pets

When my kids were little, they would play dress-up with our cat. He was incredibly tolerant and rarely protested; his claws never came out. We have pictures of him wearing sunglasses and dolls’ clothes, and one of him sitting in a toy highchair with his food dish in front of him and a bored expression on his furry little face. He brought the kids countless hours of entertainment and companionship. They loved him.

Growing up, I wanted a cat more than anything. Every summer we would visit a family friend’s dairy farm. They always had barn cats and usually kittens. I remember searching the hay lofts and eventually we’d find a litter, which I would proceed to play with the rest of day. I desperately wanted to take one home but my mother wasn’t an animal person.

I was allowed pet fish. Fish didn’t shed or scratch the furniture. We set up the tank in my bedroom and I’d fall asleep each night to the low hum of its filter and the bright glow of its florescent light. When the fish would die — which was frequent, even though I took excellent care of them — we would have a funeral around the toilet bowl. There would be tears. But they were my pets, and I was happy to have them.

I finally got my first cat shortly after my husband and I were married. I was working at the Daily News and one afternoon someone heard a mewing from one of the cars in the parking lot. A tiny kitten had crawled into the wheel well of a car and came all the way from Maitland. She was covered in oil, making her look more like a skinny rat than a kitten. She was malnourished and had ear mites. We named her Daily.

Today, my family has two rescue cats and a black Lab. (As it turns out, I’m also a dog person!) Our house often feels like a zoo, especially early in the morning when the cats are playful and chase each other, the dog cries to go for her morning walk and they’re all impatiently awaiting breakfast. But I wouldn’t change a thing. I love that my kids grew up with animals and had the opportunity to learn the responsibilities that go along with pet ownership.

For most animal lovers, there’s no need to describe the reasons for having a pet. The companionship and mental health benefits are obvious. But there’s also the other side to consider. Pets are expensive. The food, insurance and unexpected vet bills add up. (The previously-mentioned sunglasses-wearing cat developed diabetes and required daily insulin shots and pricey food.) And do you have time to dedicate to a dog or cat? They miss you when you’re not around, and dogs require daily walks, rain or shine. In this issue, Janet Whitman’s article “Choosing the perfect pet” (page 16), examines the pros and cons of different pet options. We also chatted with families who recently trained service dogs for their kids with autism through K9PAD, a registered Nova Scotia charity (page 18). 

This issue also has stories on how kids can volunteer in their communities (page 14), urban homesteading (page 10), the benefits of physio for children (page 21) and fun spring celebrations (page 11), plus a new kids’ fun section with puzzles and activities.  

Happy spring!

Lori McKay, Editor

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