How To Pick Your Perfect Pandemic Pet: A Quiz

So far, this year has been the strangest ever and I find myself doing absurd things and passing them off as normal. For example: I have a kitten now.

Pre-pandemic saw me pet-free for a solid twenty years. Why have animals when you have five kids, amiright? Post-pandemic finds me desperate to keep those kids somehow occupied long enough for me to throw a frozen pizza into the oven and open a bottle of pinot grigio. Do NOT talk to me about how these kids are in their twenties. Some things never change.

The kitten was an impulsive decision made in a fifteen minute window wherein I was not thinking clearly but I have to admit, my kids are flocking around this little fluff ball and our long afternoons are now filled with entertaining shouts of, “Look out, it’s crawling under the dresser!” “What’s that in the litter box?” and “Is it supposed to claw my hand into shreds while it drinks the bottle?”

I’m sure I’m not alone when I ask the question: What was the right pet for our family? And is it too late?

If you, too, are feeling like 2020 is the perfect year to bring a new pet into your home, take this handy quiz to discover if you are crazy which pet is your purr-fect pandemic partner.


Fat Kitty

There are very good reasons why I am anti-pet these days.

I suppose I am actually anti-cage.

If I have a bird, I want it to grow feathers and fly free. If I have hens, they get to roam with the buffalo because it makes them happy. Dogs should have at minimum five acres of running space.

I absolutely refuse to accept that Shamu is happy in a tub.

I’ve looked into Shamu’s eyes and I’ve looked into the eyes of a mama whale off the coast of Maui.

The two whales told me very different messages.

When the kids were all young we had many smaller pets. We had hamsters and parakeets and guppies and lizards. I raised hens and cockatiels.

At some point, it occurred to me that I couldn’t have five kids and still do pet maintenance, so they all went to new homes. Anything more than a Beta fish was just out.

Betas live in tiny solitary puddles in the wild. That works.

When you name a thing, it belongs to you in a sense. You have given it an internal tie to yourself.

If you are raising a cow intending to make meatloaf out of it later, it may be best not to name it after your sweet Aunt Matilda.

I think God had Adam name each animal so that he would feel a personal attachment, a responsibility, to them. So he would understand that these animals existed in his world and depended on him to take that seriously.

Fat Kitty was never named, in a futile effort to avoid this.

We did not want a cat.

Perhaps she’d been abandoned. She just appeared in our backyard frightened and sad one day, and it was over.

We did not adopt Fat Kitty. She adopted us.

The giant calico must have been someone’s pampered princess kitten once.

She was always a lady and never scratched, bit or growled at us. She let our youngsters pull her by the tail, carry her like a baby, and ride her like a pony. When we put a harness on her, she instantly turned over, four paws waving in the breeze.

This cat didn’t ‘go for a walk’ on a leash. It was more like ‘go for a drag’.

But when she heard our car pull into the driveway she came waddling out to greet us, just like a dog.

In return, we fed her, groomed her, spent money on food, toys, and treats. We actually gave this outdoor cat a litter box which she deigned to use on rainy days.

I planted catnip in the herb garden once and she rolled around on top of it and then passed out, drooling, completely cross-eyed drunk. Once we stopped laughing hysterically, I decided not to replace the crushed plant.

For Kitty’s sanity and ours.

She never had kittens and she never got sick. She never invited the neighborhood cats over to play. She regularly placed dead birds, lizards and gophers at my doorstep.

As busy as our street was, she never crossed it.

Fat Kitty was not hit by a car.

She waited until Hubby and I were out of town and fell, overnight, desperately ill. The children called us in tears to say she would not eat or drink or walk. Several phone calls later, my sister took Fat Kitty on her final car ride and had her put down.

My oldest son buried Fat Kitty, wrapped in her favorite little blanket, deep in our garden.

I was not there to say goodbye or to comfort my family.

I want to say, “Well, it was just a cat.”

But she wasn’t an “it”.

And she wasn’t “just” a cat.

She was “our” cat.

And she mattered.

Every day of our relationship, she had the complete freedom to walk away and find a different life.

Turns out, love is pretty strong cage.

Nine, Ten, a Big Fat Hen

It’s weird. You never see a poster tacked up on a light pole with:

“MISSING! Large Hen. Black and white stripes.
Answers to “Lucky”. Owners heartbroken. REWARD!”

Although I grew up with dogs and rabbits and birds and turtles and guinea pigs, chickens are just obviously the pet of choice.

They are self grooming, cuddly, colorful, and they eat your kitchen scraps and leftovers.

They roost at night. All by themselves.

And they give you eggs for breakfast.

Many times, we’ve had hens in our large backyard, and they roamed free during the day, gobbling up bugs and visiting with the neighbors through the fence. They came running when we called them and followed us around like puppies, begging for treats.

They never went rogue and so long as we remembered to close the henhouse every evening, things were fine.

Our phone did ring at 2am once. The little old lady next door was calling to report that one of our hens was being eaten by a fox…right under her bedroom window.

This was a new one. We’ve had possums and skunks and raccoons and coyotes and weasels in town before. It was almost worth losing a hen to see a fox.

One afternoon I watched out the window as a huge red-tailed hawk swooped down at the hens. It pulled up at the last minute and landed on the ground next to them. The hens and the hawk were the same size, and the hawk realized after several minutes of deep and desperate thought that he would never be able to carry one away.

The stare-down ended when the hawk flew off.

Our hens always did have a little attitude after that.

Cheeky things.

Once in a while, the kids were allowed to dabble in other pets.

We had hamsters that escaped regularly. I didn’t really grudge them their freedom. Less things I had to clean. They would eventually return after a couple of days to their little hamster palaces.

Except the one who set up shop sandwiched between the kitchen countertop and the dishwasher.

It’s startling when you reach to open the dishwasher door and whiskers are sticking out over the handle.

You scream, leap backwards and drop your fine china.

Not pretty.

And exactly why a pet reptile or tarantula will never happen.

My sister was having the same issues with her children; small pets that were fun for a week, then just one more thing to take care of once the kids were bored.

She came by for a visit once and disappeared for ten minutes.

Blending back into the house of kids and chaos with a sneaky smile on her face, she mentioned that they no longer had the two tiny pet mice her kids had picked out a month ago.

“Oh really?” I asked, “Did they escape? You should check your dishwasher.”

She frowned a little as she poured coffee.

“Well,” she replied, “I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to find them.”

She sipped cheerfully then. “On the other hand, you have some really high protein eggs coming in this week.”

Yeah. Eew. Chickens are carnivores.

Glad she didn’t need to get rid of a turtle.