As part of raising a child, my wife and I have seen to it that our son considers our pets as more than just animals. We want him to consider our pets as part of our family. My wife and I each had multiple pets all throughout our childhood. Neither of us was ever without a pet. They became important to us as we grew up, and we both grew up loving animals. Naturally, we want to pass on the same qualities to our son, currently age 12. We want to make sure that he always has a pet.
Fun with the cats
We currently have four cats. We had the first two before our son came into our lives, and we obtained two more during our son's childhood. We thank all four of them every day for allowing us to live in their home, but we have our jobs to do to earn their support. We must feed them, play with them and pet them -- when they say so.
Our son likes to play with the two younger cats as much as he can. He chases the male (a 7-year-old grey and white tabby) around the house and wrestles with him often. He chases the female (a 5-year-old calico) around, but she does not care for that game as much. Still, though, she knows that our son loves her, so she lets him on occasion. Of course, the old stand-bys of string, laser light, and other various cat toys can keep them all entertained for some time.
Raising one from a kitten
We had our two older cats before our son was born. The oldest (Rusty, a 15-year-old male orange tabby) and the second (Pumpkin, a 14-year-old female orange tabby) had already begun young adulthood when our son came along, and they never really took to a baby in the house. They hid from him constantly and still do not have much to do with our son. Therefore, he did not get to play much with them when younger -- or even now.
On Christmas Eve 2004, just a short time before our son turned 5, we picked up the grey cat from my sister-in-law. I really did not want a third cat, but my wife convinced me of something. The cat was only a few months old, and my wife figured that if our son could begin with a baby kitten, then he would have a better chance to bond with it than with the older cats. I agreed but only if I could name it Shortstop (I love baseball and had a "Pitcher" previously). My wife was right as usual. The two became best friends immediately. He would play with the kitten all day long, and Shortstop would sleep on our son's bed at night. That cat would even let our son bathe it -- not us, only our son. Today, they are still best buds!
Bringing in the calico
I knew very well that three cats were more than enough, and even our son was happy with one of his own. In no way would we need another! Unfortunately, in 2009, I lost both of my parents. They had a 3-year-old calico that suddenly needed a home. "Callie" already knew all three of us from our many visits, and my wife, an avid cat lover, would always tease my mother about taking that cat away from her. How could I say no then? I naturally brought Callie home with us, and she immediately assumed her place as Queen regardless of who was already there first. Our son plays with Callie as much as with Shortstop, and the two cats, actually half-siblings, wrestle and play with each other just like human siblings!
What our son learned from taking care of pets
The two younger cats interact with our son much more than the older ones do, but our son cares for all four of them. He now feeds them and helps change their litter boxes. Our son has learned the value of pet ownership. Pets help comfort us when we need it; they make us laugh when they play and cry when they pass on. They also help relieve stress after a rough day. By having him help us take care of these four pets, our son is learning that pets play an important role in our lives and become valued members of our family. When he grows up and runs his own household, we both hope that he will still value pets just as much and allow his own kids to raise them.
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