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What it's like to be a pet parent

A lot of people have adopted pets during this dreaded pandemic. While compassion is good, remember that this is a long term commitment.

I resisted all I could when my daughter said she wanted a pet. I'm aware that a lot of people have adopted cats, dogs, guinea pigs and even bunnies during this dreaded pandemic. I listed out a number of reasons we shouldn't get one... my allergy history, who'd care for it if we were to travel, my reservations about an untidy house, chores like litter box/feed bowl cleaning etc. So, I told her she could go ahead and indulge a stray downstairs, within our residential complex. Little was I to know that the cute little kitten would soon become part of our lives.

So, this is how it unfolded. We ordered some pet food and disposable containers that we'd take with us when we went for an evening walk. There was this skinny little kitten that would be hiding from humans–under cars, behind bushes or up in a tree. But it couldn't resist a free meal. My daughter christened it Void because it would just disappear into the darkness. Soon, it got used to us and would come running when we called. In under a month, it was playing with a ball we got it. Soon enough, it started coming up to sit on the ledge outside our apartment. We still don't know how he figured out where we live. At times, he'd get shooed away by newspaper delivery guys or by not-too-pleased neighbours.

We happened to meet newcomers, Azmat and Shalini, who have 5 cats and are quite the experts at parenting cats. They suggested we let the kitten come into our house when he came next, and so we did. The trusting little thing surveyed and sort of approved our place after making sure we didn't have any other pets. By this time, we'd kind of grown fond of the little fella and were quite entertained by his antics. We started to worry about his safety downstairs, in terms of cars driving around and other tom cats. But we also knew we couldn't keep him unless we had him vaccinated.

We now started feeding him in a carrier so we could trick him into it, as he still wouldn't let us touch him or pick him up. That's probably because he'd had early bad encounters with humans and was already around 7 months olds when we adopted him. Unfortunately, we had a bad experience with his first Rabies shot, partly because we ourselves weren't fully prepared. The poor thing was alarmed through the car ride, had to wait for half an hour at the vet's with threatening-looking dogs all around, was handled badly, and kept limping and yelping for a day afterwards. That's when we heard of two reassuring things: Rescue Remedy (Bach Flower homeopathic drops) to calm kitty down and the wonderful Dr. Prabhakaran at Friendicoes. Our next visit, for the Tricat vaccine, was a breeze. This time, we did some research beforehand. We covered the carrier with a sheet and threw in a towel. The gentle doctor wasn't rushed at all and answered all our queries quite satisfactorily.

We now know through observation that cats shy away from strangers, like a feeding/bedtime routine, are most active at dusk and dawn and will not shy away from pouncing on you to wake you up when they want to play at 5am! They also like stimulation by way of new games and challenges, have strong likes and dislikes where food is concerned, and meow in different ways to make themselves understood.. a different yelp for a complaint, a soft one when it's hungry and yet another when it's pleading for help. They love to be cosy, find new hiding spots and scratching. Buying a cat tree with a scratching post has somewhat saved our furniture. His favourite perch is a high stool in the balcony, from where he observes people and birds. We have seen many documentaries till now to understand their behaviour better, and then some more to understand their nutritional requirements.

Cats are supposed to be fed a high-protein diet and do not need any carbs. Ours likes Lassi made from lactose-free curd (we use Epigamia). It also prefers Whiskas to most other brands. Although, now we've decided to give it fresh fish and chicken more often (it's natural diet). There is a remarkable change in his fur coat since we first saw him, and he's visibly bigger. He has never pooped or peed in the house and we didn't ever have to litter train him. Cats have a natural inclination to dig and make a pit to do the deed. So, if a litter box isn't ready, they may just use your balcony plants. They also clean themselves, so you needn't worry about bathing them.

Thanks to the kitty, we're vacuuming, wiping tables and washing our hands more often. We're also careful to put away our own bowls and mugs immediately after eating. We've joined a Facebook group called 'Friends of Cats, Delhi' where a lot of compassionate souls help out with rescues and fostering/medical boarding. And just like that, we've made some new friends.

Lastly, I'd like to make a few comparisons with human babies. Just like a baby comes with his or her own personality, so does a kitten. They simply make you fall in love with them with their innocence and reciprocated affection. You inadvertently end up giving them nicknames like floof, plop and badmaash. It's hard work if you're raising them single-handedly. They are sentient, smart and have varying moods. At times, they like attention and at times, they like to be left alone. You have to make regular vet visits and keep an eye on their health. You can actually teach them tricks and get them to be more sociable over time. They're safe in the area they're born in but not so safe outdoors if you relocate. They like treats (read junk food), prefer paper balls and empty boxes to fancy toys, and are ever so curious about what you're doing. They like to get rough and can run very fast, sometimes bumping into and dropping things while playing. You're lucky if they paw you instead of claw you, hold your hand and give those tiny affectionate bites. In short, this is a long term commitment. They come into your life, and it's changed forever.

#pets #pet nutrition #attachment to pets #pet products

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