The suggestion of a Pet Show as a new PTA fundraiser fills me with foreboding: it’s bound to trigger a renewed appeal from my nine-year-old daughter Laura for a cat or a dog.
Our household is currently a pet-free zone. It’s quite a change from the fur-dominated home into which Laura was born. At that point I had four cats, Posy, Mabel, Dolly and Grace. Laura’s first word was not “Mummy” or “Daddy” but “Cat”, and her first proper painting was a black cat with yellow eyes.
Before Laura was born, I’d worried for months about old wives’ tales of cats inadvertently smothering new babies by curling up and going to sleep on them. I even invested in a “cat net” – a flimsy, over-priced bit of net curtain material, meant to repel cats from cots. But I needn’t have worried. It was soon clear which of the small creatures in our house had the upper hand. All were in awe of Laura, mostly keeping their distance from her shrill sound effects. The only one happy to linger was Mabel, our tailless white wonder who had survived a close encounter with a car in kittenhood. (Not so her tail.)
Mabel was the most good-natured and sociable cat that I’ve ever had. Whereas the others would run away at the sound of the doorbell, Mabel would bound up to the front door to greet whoever was our visitor. It was therefore not surprising that she was also the most obliging in Laura’s games, letting herself be tucked in to Laura’s doll’s pram and wheeled around the garden.
Mabel also had the most caring nature. When my husband was ill, lying on the sofa feeling wretched, she looked at him analytically, trotted out into the garden and returned with a dead mouse in her mouth. She laid her prey gently at his feet. Just what the doctor ordered to build him up again – a high-protein snack.
When Grace, the last of our cats, died of old age, Laura was too little to feel real grief, so missed the opportunity to learn a useful lesson about death from her pet. My tears were copious tears. But soon after I’d dried them, I started to notice how much cleaner the house had become without a cat. There was another significant benefit: our cat-allergic friend could at last come to stay. Helen’s allergies turned into a blessing: they became our main ally in fending off Laura’s requests for another pet.
Even so we weakened around the time of her sixth birthday. Unwilling to take on a house-dwelling pet, we acquiesced to two rescue guinea pigs. Laura chose their names, calling the ginger one, erm, Ginger, and the brown one Brownie, as she’d just become a Brownie herself. Sadly, like all small pets, they didn’t last long. Only Brownie made it through to Laura’s seventh birthday and only hung around for a couple of months longer after that. Again the loss hit my husband and I much harder than it did Laura, and this experience steeled our resolve to remain pet-free.
Until this summer, that is, when Laura came up with a new and effective solution to the problem: she acquired some invisible dogs. Now here is a pet I am happy to recommend. Invisible dogs don’t make a mess, leave no fur on the furniture, cost nothing to feed, and you don’t have to pick up after them when you take them for walks. The only real danger is sitting down without noticing they’re already on your chair. Fortunately they have a very forgiving nature. I just wonder how the judges at the PTA pet show will tell them apart.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like another one I wrote about our pets – but this time with my own suggestion of an alternative: Garden Birds – The Perfect Pet