Monday, March 7, 2016

My early experiences with animals

Abbey, Connor, and Natasha on a recent morning.

Animal welfare, especially cat welfare, is a passion for me. But it took a while for me to realize it.

If you had told me when I was a young woman that I would become a happy cat woman, I would have had serious doubts about you. 

One of my first memories of animals is of me running through the yard of our farmhouse, trying to outrun the puppies chasing me. I was afraid they would scratch me.

But as soon as I was inside the storm door, I looked back out. They would be outside the door, looking at me. They had sad looks on their faces, I thought. So I tried to make them feel better by talking to them through the door, telling them what good dogs they were and how sweet they were.

I had a heart for animals, but they weren’t a real part of my life. 

I was raised on a farm. When I was very young, we had milk cows, beef cows, chickens, and pigs, in addition to several dogs and some cats. None of the animals were allowed in the house. Ever. My parents believed they belonged outside, though old pictures showed that my oldest brother used to be able to bring his dog inside sometimes.

A view of the farmhouse I lived in until I was 10 years old.
The house is the white building in the center.

I don’t remember ever playing with the dogs other than running with them. But I do remember feeling sorry for them because I was leaving them alone when I went inside, and because they had to stay outside when they so clearly wanted to be with us.

And I hated to hear them cry. When my mother bought a boxer puppy, she was kept on the back porch. It was enclosed but not a real part of the house. Boots was by herself behind a barrier fashioned from a fireplace screen. When I heard her cry—probably from loneliness—I would sit on the concrete floor by the screen and sing to her. Sometimes I’d pull the church hymnal from the piano and sing hymns to her. She wouldn’t cry as long as I did that.

The cats were even more in the background. At the farmhouse I lived in until I was 10 years old, the only thing I remember about the cats on the farm was when my mother called us over to a bush, where a cat was giving birth under it.

So even though I lived on a farm with many animals, they seemed separate from me. That’s why it still surprises me—but delights me—that I’m an advocate for animal welfare today. But I’m sad at all the missed opportunities that I had as a young person to realize the true value of animals.

There’s a lot more to this story, more than you would want to read in one blog post. As time goes on, I’ll share more of how I became the cat woman.

What are your first memories of animals? 


  1. first memory is of our black Cocker Spaniel 'Boots' my Mom allowed dogs into the kitchen they had their own beds bowls sofa etc. but they couldn't pass the threshold into the rest of the house ever.Cats went everywhere..since my first own home pets have been welcome into every parents last dog was allowed everywhere and slept them, my Dad's doing :-).

  2. Lovely memories, Tina. My earliest memories are of cats and my cat Muffy, who ran away after we got our collie. We were dog people growing up and it wasn't until I was on my own and Stimpy adopted me that I became a cat woman. Not a single regret!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. My parents had a pug named Butch that I adored. He was my best friend.

    We are cooking down the syrup in small batches on the wood stove.

  5. we had poodles growing up and i remember clearly when each one came to live with us. i also remember my father house training them and that is a very difficult memory!!!

  6. Thank you for sharing your memories with us. I love hearing about others' childhood experiences with pets.

    My mother grew up very much like you - on a farm, with a fondness for animals, but no animals were allowed in the house. For me, though, growing up was a very animal-centric experience, and I am so grateful for that. The first true pet I had, as a very young child, was a little budgie bird. After he passed, when I was 4 years old, my family adopted 2 cats, and not long after we adopted 2 dogs. I grew up with them, and I even had one of my dear childhood cats all the way until last May, when she passed away at 21 years old. My life has always been filled with animals, all always indoor pets, and I feel so lucky and grateful this has been the case. I can't imagine my life any other way.

  7. de food servizz gurlz gram maw & gram paw all wayz hada pup and ore catz.... { and fish !! }

    her furst pet waz a bulldog when her terned familee could either haza puppy; or take vacationz...

    if they choze de puppy....they could knot take vacationz for a looooooooooooooong time......

    they all choze...puppy !! ♥♥♥

  8. The family had cats. Dads Mom had a restaurant and you needed a cat to keep the vermin out. The week we opened the doors a cat wandered in, Patches a calico, and took over the kitchen. A few weeks after she arrived a big Tuxedo Tomcat showed up. He was like 18 pounds of muscle and had a nub tail. The two had many litters back before Spay/Neuter. Dad grew up loving kitties and still does!

  9. My family always had cats, dogs, hamsters, gerbils, name it. And back then, we never bothered to have our cats and dogs fixed. It makes me cringe to think about it now. Today, I would never ever not have a pet fixed. ~Island Cat Mom

  10. I was deprived as a child-- we never had cats. We had dogs and guinea pigs. I am glad I discovered cats.

  11. I've always loved animals and could feel their pain so I soon became an animal advocate. At 17 I became a vegetarian and now in my 40s I am a vegan and even more passionate than ever to help animals. I feel that this is what I'm here for.

    Apart from 2 goldfishes when we were younger, me and my younger brother have only ever had cats. Cats do seem to love us as much as we love them! Though I am a cat person, I do love all animals and wouldn't mind getting a dog one day.

    Purrs xx
    Athena and Marie

  12. My father didn't want any animals, so as a child I had some goldfish, then a gerbil brought home from school. Only just over 10 years ago, The Hubby and I decided to bring kittens into our home, and our lives have been transformed. We are also vegan! Great post, and thanks for visiting my blog too!

  13. Funny you should ask about memories...first one is one I was told. I stayed with my Gma during the day. She had a collie named Lady. Lady had puppies absolutely adorable to a 3 year old. One day unbeknownst to my granny I had a pair of scissors. I decided Lady and her puppies needed a trim...and once finished I'm told I also cut my own hair.
    When I was found, I was asked what in the world had I done. My reply was "I cut their hair and they were very still." I only cut one side on each pup and only one side of my hair. Lady and her pup's hair grew quickly I had to pretty much have mine cut to a pixie to get it all the same length.
    Hugs Madi's Mom

  14. Apart from fish and some parakeets, we didn't have pets like cats and dogs growing up. But I was a softie for animals from when I was a tiny little thing.