Pet Peeves

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Keeping pets in Beijing is a struggle

Something strange is happening in our house. It’s become a twilight zone for pets. We’ve already flushed an entire school of fish to a watery grave during our 3.5 years in Beijing, and we’ve even lost one – let’s call him “Mr Fish” – to suicide (he jumped, and no – he wasn’t pushed).

We’ve said goodbye to two turtles (released to the wild after a weekend of unpleasant family tummy bugs), a tadpole (evaporated into thin air), cicada (ayi took him home after he screeched for eight hours straight) and our latest friend, Sam the Cricket, lasted only one night. We decided his frightfully early wakeup call was intolerable, plus, his teensy bamboo prison was unnerving me. Lucky Sam now spends his days devouring the bushes at the base of our building.

Since Sam’s departure, my daughter Ella has redressed her relentless begging for a rabbit. It’s a little mind-warping, actually. I almost thought about relenting, but after visiting the bunny of a neighbour, trapped sadly in a cage on the kitchen floor, I’ve gone into shutdown mode again. Not even a hamster would make the cut.

Look, I’ve already said I become as enamoured with puppies, freshly hatched chicks and the belly rolls on a seal as much as the next person – I just don’t want them inside cages, inside the house. For those of you who haven’t read my blog – My Kingdom for a Rabbit – the reasons are many and include the fact we don’t have that grassy backyard, hen house or arctic ocean in our apartment.

It’s also the fact that owning a pet in Beijing can be far too fleeting, is fraught with too many health issues (just ask ICVS) and, frankly – I’m a sook. I can’t bear the thought of leaving a pet in Beijing, or worse – having to flush it; especially if it isn’t a fish.

Then there’s the “we promise we’ll look after it, mom” factor. Yeah, right. There’s also cages, poop-coated newspaper, skanky water bowls, the smell, the escape risks (feral gerbils creating a parallel world under our sofa system), the lack of grass and fresh air, the pet hair that scratches my lungs and turns my eyeballs into bloodshot, watering cesspits…

It all just makes my teeth clench and my lips curl back. A bit like a dog, really.

The irony.

First published on the City Weekend Beijing website.

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