Post by Youth Contributor, Jasmine F., 21 October 2021
In January 2021 we were all going crazy from quarantine, so my family and I adopted a cat. We got Rocky from a local foster pet organization. At first my mother didn’t want a cat, but I like to believe she warmed up to him. I think my mother was afraid that my brother and I wouldn’t properly take care of Rocky, and she would be left to clean up the poop. Rocky is the most lovable, friendly, and effortlessly funny cat I know. My cat has taught me so much; now I have a whole other life to take care of rather than my own. And that comes with a lot of responsibility.
I believe that pets matter, particularly to encourage skills that kids will use in the future. My brother and I have had to practice communication. We fairly divide up who plays with Rocky on which days, who feeds him, and cleans the litter box. It isn’t always easy; who really wants to clean up a litter box?
We have also learned to problem solve. Rocky began scratching up the carpet to get our attention, so we researched and found out that cats don’t enjoy the smell of vinegar. We spray frequently on the areas of the carpet he scratches and he immediately backs away.
We have also learned to interpret Rocky’s emotions. It can be challenging because he’s a cat that doesn’t meow or show facial expressions much. We have to imagine and learn what our cat likes, dislikes, and needs in a non-verbal way. For instance, he might walk over to the food bowl if he is hungry, or just wants attention. Lastly, we learn empathy. If you want to raise empathetic children, get them a pet!
The benefits of having a pet are well documented. Beyond teaching empathy, pets positively impact mental health by helping to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. If you want your kids to learn all of these skills (and more) at a young age, consider getting them a pet! Plus, pets are just so much fun!