By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
Have you heard the phrase “Starter Pets?” Each time I hear it, I want to jump out of my skin and shout at the offender. The last time someone used it, my family and I were at a lovely Pocono Mountain resort. My son was playing with a kid his age in the pool, and my husband and I were talking to this boy’s father.
The dad said his kids were bugging him to get a dog, “but I think we will get a cat as a—you know—a starter pet,” he said. My husband immediately shot me a look that said, “Stay calm.” Over the years, he has taught me that you can get through to more people by being rational.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a poker face. If I have a winning hand, you can tell. If my cards are the “fold’em” type, the disappointed look on my face gives it all away.
So I calmly explained to this gentleman that cats have great personalities; that each one is unique; and that they can live a long time. Earl Gray, my cat, is 19. I then told him how comforting it is to be accepted by a cat. I actually consider it an honor. I know many people—too many people—think cats are aloof. Some are, so are some people. So taking the time to get to know a cat and winning a cat over is quite special.
I’ve lived with a handful of cats, and each had his or her own distinct personality.
I was able to dissuade this man. He even apologized for using the term “Starter Pets.” No animal should ever be thought of as a test for the next one. Whether it’s a guinea pig, goldfish, lizard, bird, etc., all pets should be thought of as a part of the family.
A pet hamster can live between 5 and 7 years. For a small child, that is a long time. I know because when I tell my 11-year old that he has to wait a few months for something, he thinks a few months are an eternity. Some parakeets can live up to 15 years. Other birds, like African Grays, can live up to 60+ years. When you are considering adopting a pet, know that you are in it for the long haul.
Goldfish, on average, live up to 5+ years. The length shouldn’t matter. What matters is the quality we choose to give to that pet. I met one young boy who had a goldfish that he adored. He was 5 years old when his parents gave him the fish. He wanted to take the goldfish with him wherever he went. Thankfully his parents intervened and taught him to be gentle–no rocking motions. This boy developed a strong bond with his goldfish. He gently talked to him, gave him food, and even cleaned his bowl. To him, his goldfish wasn’t a “Starter Pet.”