On compassion for animals

Cover of "Dr. Dolittle"

Cover of Dr. Dolittle

One thing I’ve always disliked Eddie Murphy for was his sacrilegious portrayal of Dr.Doolittle. I loved the Doolittle books when I was growing – because I’d harboured fond notions of being either a vet or a zoologist growing up.

But then I realised later in life that biology didn’t fascinate me as much as the arts.

I love animals, I do. Grew up with cats and fish, also ended up feeding the neighbour’s lovable mongrel, Tiger. Two landladies adored me because their dogs did. Maybe I’m more a cat person but dogs, for some weird reason think I’m lovely. I’ve fostered kittens, baby birds and a rabbit – most times I find my instincts serve me well with animals.

Spoiling my pets though, is something I don’t do. Mollycoddling animals is unhealthy – it often causes them to be far too dependant on their owners. Animals aren’t people. They were born to eat to live, to get plenty of exercise and endure the elements. But I meet too many pet owners who treat their animals like newborns. What will happen if you were to meet an untimely accident? Then your spoiled pet will suddenly have to face uncertain times and be less resilient in the hands of a new owner.

My cat Wally is an indoor/outdoor cat. I know some cat owners think it’s in the best interest of a cat to keep it indoors, safe from traffic, dogs and the elements. Try telling that to Wally. I tried keeping him in for a month and he drove me shit-stir crazy. He would make noise, squall, mope and generally make himself a nuisance. “Maybe you’re not entertaining him enough?” I am no substitute for the outdoors for a cat who is used to wide open spaces. I wouldn’t tell you how to raise your kids – don’t presume to tell me how I should care for my animals. Pets need love and attention – not coddling.When 9 out of 10 of the dogs I meet warm up to me immediately (even the ones their owners insist dislike strangers) then I think they know something you probably don’t. I’m better with animals than I am with people, really. But then, I think I tolerate animals better than the human race.

Update on my rabbits: I got them a new cage. Unfortunately domestic rabbits aren’t meant for the wild, though I’ll probably give them the run of the backyard once I chicken-wire the fence. Pie’s eye infection cleared up and both rabbits are healthy, alert, and trusting enough to let me feed them hay stems. Bun will happily follow me when I’m holding a stalk of hay in my hand, though both are still not keen on petting. It’ll probably take months for them to get used to me but that’s not a problem. What matters is they’re fed, sheltered from the elements and healthy. For company, they’ve got each other. I think I couldn’t ask for more.

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