Should we get a cat?

Hmmmmm, this is a tough one. I grew up surrounded by animals and it has taken me a long time to adjust to not having one as a member of the household (husband and children excluded).

We had a visitor to our garden this morning . A marmalade and white cat with the most beautiful amber eyes. S & T were enraptured by its presence, excited to stroke it and make it feel at home and fill it in on the day’s news. The affable creature took all this in its stride and, having won a place in our hearts, was rewarded with a saucer of cream. The children “oohed and aaahhhhhed” and, when sated, the cat said its thanks and departed under the gate.

At lunchtime, K mentioned he’d been thinking about getting a cat from a shelter. This immediately threw up a hundred questions in my head. On the one hand, I love animals and find them rewarding and relaxing company, usually infinitely more poised and considered than your average human. I also think children should have exposure to them while growing up to show them that we share our existence with other species and need to remember that during our slides into egocentricity. Animals give children a subtle lesson in awareness of the needs and perception of others, a certain empathy. And some non-judgemental companionship.

On the other hand, having a pet means extra responsibilities, vet and insurance costs, cattery costs when we go away for a few days, what about the main road, what about coyotes, what about when we move , what about taking it abroad to another foreign posting? Then there’s the fear of something occupying a place in your heart only for you to lose it somehow. There’s also the consideration of another claim on my attention. I’m already spread thinly between children, husband, housework, and personal pursuits. I endure carousel-like bouts of guilt, when one area has had “quality time”, I feel that I must have neglected the others and so, with renewed zeal, try to redress the balance. This goes on, round and round, until I have a mini-meltdown and accuse myself of being completely inadequate and K has to talk me down, like that scene with Mel Gibson and the guy who wants to chuck himself off a building in the first Lethal Weapon movie. Oh my God, what cat would WANT to come and live with us??!!

Nope, I should just shut up and do it. That’s the attitude that’s seen me OK with major life decisions like marriage and emigrating. What do you reckon?

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. I would suggest that if you want animals in your life, but are not at a point where you could commit, to look into being a foster caretaker for an animal. Contact your local animal shelter or a rescue organization. They are always looking for homes to take in animals for a period of time to provide care until the animal can be placed in a forever home. It would also help you decide whether or not the commitment is right for your family.

    1. Thank you Rumpydog, that is a great suggestion. I was considering it when I lived in the UK then we moved and I completely forgot about it til I read your comment. It would be a good way to enjoy having a pet without a permanent commitment, until we’re certain, one way or the other.

  2. If you were definitely staying for the duration, I think it may be a lovely idea – but with the possibility of having to maintain a transient lifestyle and not having a full awareness of the coyotes etc may make it an incredibly difficult learning experience for the children. Maybe get through the winter and then make a plan?? As for dogs – not sure I’d fancy exercising one in the temperatures you’ve mentioned!

    1. Hmmm, thanks Jenny, good point about the coyote angle – there are wildlife programs for those kind of lessons. I must confess, I am enjoying the release from ties of all sorts that being an expatriate brings. To start acquiring “things” again would just undo all that. Perhaps we should wait until the kids start high school, we will be in the one place for a while then. As for a dog, I’ll be waiting a loooong time. K’s not a big fan…

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