Two children sitting on a couch with a dog


Our Family’s Great Pet Debate

Jan 5, 2018

My daughter has a wish list. It’s not a holiday list, but rather an everyday ballot for which she’s spent five years lobbying. More than anything, she’d like to have a baby sister, a pet and magic powers. The child must be charmed with a measure of magic already, because she actually has me considering the addition of a furry friend to our family.

I’m not opposed to, so much as unfamiliar with, a life of pet ownership.

[What got me considering a pet] was the completely unexpected feeling of wanting to introduce new life into our family.

Growing up, few of my close friends or family members had pets. My Jamaican relatives ‘kissed their teeth’ at the Canadian custom of bringing a cat or dog into the home. Coming from a time and place where dogs were employed strictly to protect the home, the idea of a canine curled atop a comforter produced universal expressions of distaste. (Picture the squinted eyes and furled upper lip of a child presented with a plate of boiled brussel sprouts.)

Today, several of my friends and neighbours across cultures have cats or dogs of their own. According to a 2014 consumer report, 57 per cent of Canadian households own pets. The same report cites that minority households are only slightly less likely than average to own pets of any type.

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Cultural influences (and my irrational fear of llamas and ostriches) aside, I do appreciate the bond animal lovers have with slithering, feathered or four-legged friends. My daughter has an affinity for nature and a respect for all living things that I’d like to nurture. I imagine many parents feel the same because among families with children ages 6 to 11, that pet ownership figure leaps from 57 to 75 per cent.

According to a 2014 consumer report, 57 per cent of Canadian households own pets.

I buy into the big picture benefits of pets for children. I understand that a relationship with a family cat, dog or other creature can help foster greater compassion, social interaction and self esteem for my eight-year-old daughter. But selecting and caring for an animal is unfamiliar territory and I have a lot of questions.

A recent post by a Facebook friend suggests that other parents venturing into pet ownership are overwhelmed with the choice between dog, cat, bird, fish, reptile or rodent. For me, that’s just the beginning. I have practical questions like:

  • Would we get a baby or adult?
  • What would the monthly expense be?
  • How much work will this add to my days?
  • What lifespan are we potentially committed to?
  • Am I prepared to make hard life and death decisions, if it comes to that?
  • Will I start "liking" cat posts and cease rolling my eyes at dog sweaters?

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Cost, cleanliness and cuddle-factor considered, we’re leaning toward a cat. We’re still pondering questions of breed, age, indoor versus outdoor and how to best be humane in dominion over a feline, but it’s been a wonderful pet project exploring the options together as a family.

I’m not opposed to, so much as unfamiliar with, a life of pet ownership.

Like I said, my daughter’s been pressing for a pet for some time. I believe she’s serious, responsible enough and would reap the benefits mentioned above and beyond. But, that’s not ultimately what got me considering a pet. It was the completely unexpected feeling of wanting to introduce new life into our family — not unlike the feeling my husband and I had before becoming parents.

I definitely wasn’t a baby person back then, and didn’t have all the answers, but sure enough, I became a pretty awesome mother. I’ve learned a lot in eight years of parenting, including never say never.

Article Author Debbie King
Debbie King

Read more from Debbie here.

Debbie King (aka SUPAFITMAMA) is a Toronto-based masters athlete, influencer, freelance writer, wife and mother of one. At age 42, she is training toward her goal of becoming a 2020 World Masters Athletics track and field champion. In her work as a writer and influencer, Debbie creates powerful content and connections in female fitness, sport, wellness and culture. Body positivity, inclusion and representation are strong themes throughout. As a regular contributor for CBC Parents, she explores a range of healthy living topics for individuals and Canadian families. Follow her journey at and on Instagram and Twitter.

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