Whether they are cute and furry, slither across the floor, or fly around the room, we all love our pets.

Cats and Dogs

Cats and dogs are still the most popular pet, with fish and birds a distant runner in the pet race. After all, who can resist a cute little puppy with big brown eyes, or a tiny kitten curled up in your hands.

Chances are you got your pet from the Humane society or some other pet adoption group. Or perhaps you received your cat and dog from an ad, from some kid with a box of kittens outside of the supermarket, or from a friend.

Use caution when getting your pet from a stranger, especially if you have other pets. The newcomer may have serious health problems and you could be helping yourself to large vet bills. If you have other pets, and the newcomer has a contagious disease, you could be exposing your pets to a serious heath risk.


My current pet is Zoe, a wonderful cat adopted from the Humane Society when she was about 1 1/2 years old. Zoe is a mix of British silver tabby and whatnot. She has all the markings of the tabby except for white boots and collar. Zoe is very affectionate, very curious, but not too brave. Strange noises usually send her running to find Mom to protect her. I adore this cat.

I tend to adopt older animals now, as they have a harder time finding homes. I also stick with mutts, again, mainly to give an animal a home when they might have a harder time finding one. However, sometimes it’s hard to resist a particularly nice critter that is purebred.

Speaking of purebreds, instead of a mutt you might be a pet owner of an animal that is, frankly, more blue blooded then most of us. You might own one of the many certified purebred cats and dogs, an animal that goes by a name such as “GULFCO’S SWEET TALKIN’ GUY OF ALEXY” or “KAMELOTKOONS MATTLOCK OF ABIZAQ” (names of actual cats). The American Kennel Club lists 146 breeds of dog that it recognizes. The Cat Fancier’s Association lists 33 pedigreed breeds.

Of the purebred dogs, I used to be partial to the larger breeds, such as Great Dane, Rottweiler and Bullmastif but now I’m starting to like the smaller breeds. Near to my last apartment in Boston was a man with two Llasha Apso that are wonderful dogs, and I think the Jack Russle Terrier is one of the smartest of all dog breeds.

For cats, I love the Maine Coons. These are incredibly beautiful creatures, and from what owners have said, a very nice critter to be around. And who wouldn’t love that tail. However, lately, I had a chance to meet a lovely Abyssinian. This, too, is a lovely cat, and the cat I met was a little charmer.

I was briefly owned by a Siamese cat, but after he and my father met, I could tell it was love at first bite. I can’t remember the cat’s original name, but Dad called it Bonzo, and Bonzo it stayed. To this day, in my opinion, Bonzo was the smartest cat I ever knew, and unusually brave. There was, literally, no dog too large for Bonzo to chase out of our yard.

Bonzo had some interesting adventures, but the most interesting was an actual volcano eruption. I was attending college and living with my Dad in Yakima, WA, when Mount St. Helen’s blew her stack. When the ash started falling I grabbed a plastic jacket to avoid at least some of the fallout and went out looking for Bonzo. I searched all through the neighborhood until the ash and fumes from the fall finally drove me back into the house. However, all throughout the afternoon we kept opening the door and calling for our missing cat.

Finally, this gray mound with two very blue, and very ticked off, eyes approached the house. Bonzo had come home literally covered in ash. Took hours to get him clean.

Lest you worry that it impacted on his health, he lived to a nice old age.

Having a purebred pet can be a joy, but it can also be a problem. One of the difficulties associated with purebred animals is that breeding for the characteristics that typify a breed can also breed in associated genetic problems. My father once had a couple of Bassett Hounds from a breeder but both had physical problems when they were older. The male, Max, had to have surgery several times — all from illnesses associated with the breed.


Finding a Cat or Dog

Frankly, if you want a pet to love and to be a companion, your bet bet for getting a new pet is to visit your local humane society or an organization like PAWS. To find pet adopting agencies near you, check out Hugs for Homeless Animals.

If you are interested in a purebred dog, check out the American Kennel Club first, to become more familiar with the breed you are interested in. In addition, purchase your puppy only from a reputable dog breeder. For a purebred cat, check out the Cat Fancier’s Association and, again, only purchase your cat from a reputable breeder.


Please, whatever you do, do NOT buy your cat or dog from a petstore. Many of the animals from petstores are from puppy mills and the kitty equivalent, and many have been mistreated. Stick to a decent adoption agency or reputable breeder.

You can also adopt a cat or a dog from any PETsMart. This wonderful store sets aside space for the local humane society to bring in animals that need adopting. The store does not profit from this activity, and the only critters it sells are fish and birds. Speaking of fish and birds…

Birds and Fish, Lizards and Snakes, rats and gerbils

My brother and his family have birds, birds, and more birds. Last I heard they had a parrot, a cockatiel, two sets of love birds, and some new baby love birds. I know I’m missing some, here.

They also have tree frogs, and fish, a guinee pig,and a dog and a cat, and a hedgehog, but we won’t go into the hedgehog just yet. And a rat. Other things too — it all becomes a big furry, fishy, feathery blur.

Birds can be terrific pets and good companions, but they are a lot of work and you have to be careful, again, about where you get your bird. You don’t want to buy a bird that has been imported from a restricted area. In fact, you should ensure that your bird is born in the country where you are purchasing the bird.

A good web site on birds is BirdsnWay. This site lists breeders, and places to buy bird toys and food and anything and everything associated with birds. The site also has a wealth of information about birds, and bird chat groups.

If you aren’t into birds, then how about fish? Once we are out of our apartment and into a house I want to start an aquarium. I think there are few things more beautiful and restful than watching brightly colored fish swimming about in a miniature pool of water. If you are interested in fish as a pet, you should check out AqualLink as a good starting place.

If your idea of scales is a little drier, then check out The Herp Mall for the reptile lover among you. I had at one time an iguana and a chameleon as pets. The iguana’s name was Horatio, and the chameleon was Godzilla.

I used to take Horatio around with me. He loved nothing more than to stretch out on my arm (for the heat, but I used to think it was because he loved me) or to ride in my hair (messy at times). However, taking a largish lizard — Horatio was about 18 inches long if I remember correctly — around with you can lead to interesting experiences. For instance, at the time I had Horatio I was also into hydroplane racing. Not the big jobbies, the small outboard and inboard boats with a maximum speed of about 60-70 miles an hour. We would go out every weekend to a different race in a different part of the Northwest region. Once, when we went to a race in Eastern Washington and I knew it would be warm enough for Horatio, I took him with us.

Well, that Saturday, after a day spent racing and helping with the boats (I was pit crew), we were all lazing about in the hot sun. Horatio must have decided things were too tame where I was and started stalking towards one of the racers who was sprawled on a towel in the sun. The racer came out of his semi-doze to find this large lizard face to face to him. I have never seen such excellent reflexes. The guy took off running down the park, screaming “Gila Monster! Gila Monster!” the entire time he ran.

Honestly, there are certain moments in life that are really funny, and this was one of them. The racer did forgive me when I explained that Horatio was not a Gila Monster, but an iguana, and a vegetarian at that.

Anyway, I can tell you from personal experience that lizards, snakes, turtles, and other types of reptiles can make terrific pets. Clean and quiet, too, so they’re ideal for apartment living. Last time I heard, no one was allergic to a snake.

If something like hamsters is your type of pet, then you should check out The Hamster Page.

How about something larger, like a horse? Horses are not for everyone and can be very expensive to maintain, but once you’ve been bitten by the horse bug, there’s no going back.

If you are interested in horses or burros, a worthwhile program to investigate is Adopt a Horse. This program is sponsored by the Bureu of Land management, and the plan is to provide homes for wild horses and burros that would normally be destroyed due to overpopulation. The program even arranges for adoption over the Internet. Read more about the program at BML Adoption Site.

Well, we’ve covered some of the more common pets. Now it’s time to look at some of the more uncommon pets.

The exotic

As I said earlier, my brother and his family have a hedgehog, known as “Big Boy”.

Hedgehogs are really one of nature’s most brilliant inventions. It is surrounded by sharp quills and can roll up into a tight ball, effectively presenting a nice sharp interface for any potential predator. However, nature didn’t stop there. Hedgehogs perform a process known as “self-annointing”. What this means is that when a hedgehog is exposed to a new material, it will sample the material and somehow use this to generate a foam which it then slathers all around its quills, making them even more lethal to predator (but not to you and me — honest, they really are cuddlesome). It is most unnerving to have a hedgehog lick your tennis shoes, and then start foaming at the mouth. Needless to say, the hedgehog is also incredibly resistant to toxins.

The best place to learn about hedgehogs, is to go directly to the link page for The Hedgehog Wheel, a Web ring. Or, check out Hedgehog Hollow.

So, hedgehog’s not your forte, eh? Well, how about a Pot Bellied pig instead? These small pigs were a big hit in the 80’s, and everyone wanted them. Why not? They’re affectionate, friendly, and intelligent. You can find out more about Pot Bellied pigs at The National Committee on Pot Bellied Pigs.

Some animals should not be made into pets, and by this I mean wolves and big cats, bears, and other wild animals. We shouldn’t be in such a hurry to make our mark on the animal kingdom that we deprive ourselves of the wonder and awe that comes from observing many animals in the wild.


More Pets

I didn’t cover many types of pets, such as gerbils and llamas, frogs and toads, and the ever favorite tarantula. However, regardless of what type of pet you have, be a responsible pet owner and make sure your pet breeds only if you are a breeder. There is nothing sadder than a homeless puppy or kitten, or unwanted horse, or unloved critter. Be cool, not cruel.

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