Parenting four-legged babies

A human baby can be put to sleep with a lullaby, but my kitten would have none of it.

The other day, I bumped into my schoolmate. After exchange of news over the years, she asked me, “How is your little baby?” I said, “very cute” — which is what all mothers say — “and very smart.” I also added that she doesn’t trouble me at all once she is fed, keeps playing by herself, that she is a jewel and I treasure her. Suddenly, she interrupted me and said, “Oh shucks, I was supposed to ask this question of my colleague. By the way, who were you talking about?” I said, “Of course, my baby — my little kitten who has just come of age.” 

My friend looked askance as she stared into my eyes – “Are you crazy? Comparing a kitten with a human baby?” As though my kitten was any less than a human baby, or rearing her any less challenging. That got me thinking of the various experiences I had had upon the arrival of children of the four-legged kind into my home and life.

The neighbours — who would coo into any baby welcomingly — reacted in different ways. A few spoke in whispers about our new pet, some in joy, while others advised their little ones to stay away as “it will bite you.”

I still remember the expenses I incurred on my pets’ vaccinations and medications, for which I could not claim reimbursement at work. A human baby can be put to sleep with a lullaby — even off-tune if you desire — but my kitten would have none of it, and took her own sweet time to learn to trust us not to hurt her if she cuddled beside us whenever she felt like it. What about the times I lost sleep trying to get her to use the bathroom to relieve herself, lest she dirtied our bed? Pet parents also have sleepless nights, but we don’t talk about them.

It is almost a done thing for babies to howl in the night for any of the myriad excuses — nightmare, colic, loose motions with a new tooth and what not. But I was given a show-cause notice when our little puppy whined on the first few nights away from and remembering his playful siblings and mother.

As he was growing up, my puppy had his share of health problems and was as helpless as a small child, if not more, as he could not speak out his discomfort like a human child could. When he threw up on the bed, I had to be patient till he recovered. I had to stay up, spoon-feed him and be there for him, just like a mother would for her sick child.

Recently at the vet’s, I saw another parent all tears while showing the blood report of her little Persian cat asking what she could do to reduce the excessive WBC count. I remember how I had taken permission at office to get home to help my daughter deal with the tantrums of my then teenager dachshund.

All through their short life with us, our four-legged children depend heavily on us and it is a pleasure catering to their needs for the unstinted loyalty and selfless love that they shower on us. We learn so much from them that it would not be wrong to say that they really bring us up, not the other way around.

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