Most of us have probably grown up in a household with at least one pet. A dog or cat usually, and if we’re lucky, a bird or other animal. However, in the most case, a lot of households tend to have pets that earn their keep – dogs that are purely for security, and cats that keep the mice population at acceptable levels.

On the other hand, there’s a handful out there, growing in numbers now, that have opted to keep pets for the sole aim of pleasure. No, not in THAT sick way, but for the sole aim of giving an animal a good, if not great life.

What is the difference you might wonder, between pets and domesticated animals?


A cat that lives to catch mice for dinner, but has a welcome spot at the hearth is a domesticated animal. On the other hand, a cat that lives to laze about, get fed daily, and merely catches a mouse because it’s ‘fun’, is a pet. A dog that lives in a kennel during the day, chained to the post, with occasional scraps thrown at it is a domesticated animal. A dog that lives a life of relative luxury, laying at his master’s feet, still loyal, but deserving a spot in the family album, is a pet.


It might seem like a waste of time to most when they see someone taking care of a pet like one would a child. On my part, I have often been advised to get a child. Especially since I’m a thirty-something woman living single. My attachment to pets has been seen as misdirected affection on the lack of children in my life. However, that is not the case. I simply love animals and hate to see one suffer. Those who misjudge this for misdirected affection should cease and desist already.


That aside; the effort one must put in while taking care of a pet is consuming, and it is akin to having a child in your life.


Back in the days when my parents were kids, they didn’t have hybrids and pedigree dogs and cats. They had the good old fashioned village type dog – slender and brown in color, with a long face and a thin tail. The coming of the mzungu saw the influx of different breeds of dogs, and when I grew up, I thought our black German Shepherd was out to kill me, while in fact, he was just trying to play with me, and he was bigger than I was. My parents had favourite goats and sheep and cows, and an occasional chicken. My mom had a rooster that lived more than 10 years – she couldn’t bring herself to slaughter it. That to her was a pet.


Nowadays we have more luxurious, modern pets. The neighborhoods are full of little cute terriers and Chihuahuas, larger German Shepherds and an occasional Great Dane. Cats are many a piece, and most rural households have a dog or cat. The urbane Kenyan, especially the single and childless ones, seems to live a life free of any pet baggage – and that sometimes is constrained by space and time to take care of one.

In the next article, we’ll focus on what to do when you want to get a pet, and if you should get one. Then we’ll tackle what kind of animal is suitable to fit into your life.


For now, be kind to the animal in your life, whether you found it or it found you. Just like a human being, you do not realize the value of a pet, till it’s gone. And as I always say, the pet did not ask to live with you: You went and brought it into your home. Take care of it as it deserves.