Q&A: Pets

From Bjalstrom:
I have a question for you about the kitties I see in some of your pictures. How did you decide to add pets to the picture? How did you decide on cats? How do you teach your children to treat the animals? How do you not traumatize the pets with excited little kiddies? Just curious. I've always wondered how adding pets to a family works out when the children are small.
Pets seem to happen naturally in a house with kids. I don't think any special effort needs to be made to seek them out, only to keep them from moving in and taking over! While my husband and I have planned other aspects of our lives, our pets just seem to find us.

I do have one rule, however: No dogs. My husband would love one, as would all of my kids, but I KNOW how much work those adorable little puppies take and I don't need to make my life more difficult. I've told DH that as soon as he's retired and is home to train the dog himself, then he can have one.

We actually did own a dog for about a month. He was one of the neighbor's puppies my children begged me to adopt (see what I mean about pets just happening?). I was pregnant with #4 at the time, but everyone fell in love with these little eyes and I figured we could handle it.
I was wrong. We were told Cindy was half Australian Shepherd, half black lab, but after she kept biting our children, I researched it and figured out she was actually half Australian cattle dog, and they are trained to herd cattle by biting, so it was not something she was going to outgrow.

About this same time, we discovered I was not pregnant with just number 4, but also number 5. That was the end of our time as dog owners. We found a nice young couple who was happy to have a new dog and the kids quickly got over their disappointment when we adopted a nice cat a few months later.

We've had cats ever since. Currently we have three, which is one too many in my book, but works out great when there are three little girls who all want to hold one. They're mostly outside, since my mother-in-law is allergic, but we let them inside when the kids want to hold and play with them.

Cats make great pets. They are small and fluffy and fun to cuddle with, but thrive just as much on being ignored as on getting attention. They also don't put up with too much abuse, and minor cat scratches teach little ones very quickly to hold them gently. Cats are very good at avoiding kids who aren't gentle, but they also put up with a little bit of loving:

(this picture always makes me smile. Eliza's so happy and the kitty's so . . . well?)
Our other pet right now is a desert tortoise named Tommy, who has made some appearances on our blog. He's about three inches long right now, but will grow to the size of a frying pan and live to be a hundred years old.

We got him in October when we were in Palm Springs California. Allison found him in the desert when we were trying to rockhound and held him high over her head, screaming, "A turtle! A turtle! I found a turtle!" We took him with us back to our hotel, wanting to do some research and make sure they weren't endangered before we decided what to do with him. We found out that no, they are not endangered, though it is illegal to take them from the desert. Oops! Then we read further and found out that it is ALSO illegal to return them to the desert after they've been in your care, even if it is only overnight. So either way, we were in the wrong.

What sealed the deal for us was to find out that the tortoise was a hatchling and to read that most hatchlings do not survive in the wild. We figured he'd have a better chance with us, and we took him home. He's spent most of his time since then sleeping. In truth, up until a few weeks ago, he's been a rather boring pet. He's ignored all the grass and lettuce and snacks we've put in his cage and been content with tortoise pellets and water, and he's only moved around a few minutes at a time.

Then spring came, and with the change in the season, he's wide awake, climbing all over his cage and excitedly sampling our tulip leaves and grass when we take him out for exercise.

The kids are always trying to convince me to let them have more pets, but I think I've reached my limit with four. I do let the kids keep snakes and bugs they find during the summer, and I'll even let Joey keep grubs in the fridge to feed the snakes, but the rule is they have to let them go after a week or two.

We also had a fun time one summer with an abandoned raccoon named Bandit we kept for a week before giving him to a wildlife rehabilitator.

What kind of pets do you have at your house? Do you think my kids are missing out on the joy of having a dog? What's your policy on kids and their snakes and bugs?


Tiffany Wacaser said…
I love dogs and cats. But we've never lived in a place where we could have either. We had some fish in Sweden, but that was a dismal failure. I kept forgetting to feed them and you have to clean their tanks rather frequently. I decided fish are not good pets for our family because they are too quiet.
Josef found a toad several months ago. We kept him alive fairly well until a few months ago. I still feel guilty about his death--he dried up.
Cats and dogs make themselves heard, which is a point in their favor.
I don't like little dogs. I believe that dogs need a place to run and have space. At the moment, we could have a dog, but we live by a busy road and I don't want to risk the dog running onto the road and getting hit by a car. Plus, there is still a possibility that we could end up in Saudi Arabia next year. In which case, we couldn't bring a dog. And I want a pet for long term.
John said…
We have the best cat ever that thinks being hugged for an hour is just a normal part of every cats life. If you are not allergic and the cat is well potty trained, I say cats are perfect for busy families because they don't ask for much more than food.
bjahlstrom said…
I really enjoyed that post! I like hearing about how your family works, and those little details are fun to know. Thanks!
Natalie said…
I loved this account of your family pets=) We only have four goldfish (all still alive!) and that is about all I can handle at the moment. That may not be true...like you, a dog seems like too much work to me. I don't really like cats very much, and we haven't ever really considered any other animals. I'm not against them, but I am content with just my fish for now.
Cynthia said…
We just adopted our third cat, a feisty kitten. And with baby #3 on the way, I am beginning to wonder if it is one cat too many but the boys already adore it, and really so do I. My husband wants a dog and luckily for me we have a small yard, too small for a dog - so hopefully that will be awhile. Dogs are needy, cats do good with or without attention.

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