From the time I was a little kid, I had a horrible case of pet wanting. I liked all types of animals, and I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. I read Eyewitness books about birds and horses. I asked for a dog or a pair of mice. The thing was, no matter how many times I asked, my parents would not agree to let me have any type of pet.
Even though I obsessed over all sorts of animals, I didn’t expect to get a pet. So it was a big surprise when my parents pulled into the Petco parking lot for the first time ever. My brother and sister and I were so excited! We practically bounced into the store. My Dad explained we were there to get one Siamese Fighting Fish, because they were good first pets and my parents wanted to see if we were responsible enough to care for a pet. We chose a handsome royal blue Betta Fish and got busy setting up the tank, decorating the inside with a few plastic plants and laying down fun, multi-colored pebbles.
It was very fun in the first couple weeks, caring for my new fish, who we had named Bubbles. I’m a bit ashamed to admit I started lazing around caring for him less and less. I didn't think it mattered. ‘Its ok if he misses a little food this morning’ or ‘He can go one more day without his gravel being changed’. It was subtle and didn't seem to affect Bubbles, but my parents noticed my lack of responsibility, and they were not happy about it. Bubbles happily puttered around his tank for almost two years before peacefully passing away at the ripe old age of 3 years.
Even though it turned out Betta Fish were only expected to live 2-4 years, I still felt bad for neglecting to care for him properly. Maybe if I had worked harder, he would have lived longer. I hadn’t done a good job of proving to my parents I was responsible, and I probably had hurt my chances of getting another pet.
I started to come up with a plan to show my parents that I was capable of taking care of bigger pets. First I had to research the best type of pet for our family. Dogs? We are Muslim, and dogs are not considered clean enough to be kept indoors in Islam, so not a dog. Mice, Hamsters, Guinea Pigs or Birds? Their cages tended to smell bad, and birds make lots of noise. Rats? They are smart and clean, but there was no way my mom would let me keep a rat. Cats? Cats might actually work. Apparently, the Holy Prophetsa had kept cats in his mosques, so they were definitely clean. They were easy to care for. The only problem was my Mom and Brother were all allergic to cats. And I really didn’t want a hairless cat!
After looking at all the pet possibilities, I ended up keeping the cat idea. I learned cat fur itself isn’t what gives you allergies. It’s a protein in the cat’s spit that makes you irritated. When a cat licks himself while grooming and then sheds his fur, the stuff irritates your eyes and nose, and in extreme cases, even your skin. Thankfully, my family’s allergies were not bad at all. Then I started looking for hypoallergenic cats. There were Maine Coons, Bengal Cats, Russian Blues, Cornish Rex, Siamese, Javanese, and Balinese. All of them were bred to have less of the irritating protein in their saliva, and not a single one was hairless!
The next step was to create an expense list to review with my parents. It would have to include all of the supplies necessary for owning a cat and what the vet trips would cost. I did a little research and then got to work. Whenever I got a chance over the weekends of 4th grade to work on the list, I added more information to it.
I also talked to my parents about why getting a cat might be good for our family. Their presence created a more warm and calming atmosphere. It was scientifically proven that petting a cat could lower blood pressure. Having a cat would make us kids more responsible, and it would be fun to have around. When my Mom said a cat would claw at furniture, I told her how if you get a cat when it’s still young, it can be taught not to mess with furniture or curtains. If your cat did develop those bad habits, you could also glue plastic caps onto a cat’s claws to keep them from doing damage or trim their nails with the help of a vet.
After I successfully presented my work, my parents seemed impressed and were happy that I had put all of that research together. I even wrote a persuasive essay in 4th grade to convince my parents further that cats were great pets. I was very determined! This went on for a little bit, but after a while I started focusing less on my goal of earning a cat and more on the upcoming school year. I still occasionally brought the subject up with my parents, but as the 5th grade started, there was no cat.
It wasn’t until early July when my Dad casually asked on the way to my brother’s baseball game what we would name a cat if we got one. We were very interested in Harry Potter at the time, so it was no surprise when we came up with names like Severus Snape, Dumpurrrrdore, and Rufus Scrimgeour.
One Wednesday evening, my Dad came in holding some boxes and set them all down in the living room. My brother and sister were eating dinner and I was finishing up my homework. My mom greeted my dad as she always did, and us kids just went about our business. When my Mom called us back into the living room, we had no idea what was going on. My dad was holding this tiny kitten in the crook of his arm. I just remember his huge ears and those big, scared eyes. I’d earned my cat!