By Rimla Batool

Imagine waking up every morning by a nudge with a paw. Imagine a beaked friend calling out your name when you come back home. Imagine another four-pawed friend jumping joyfully as he catches the sight of you from afar. Imagine a guaranteed true, loyal friendship you won't find anywhere else!

Make it real by adopting a furry companion who would stay by your side all his life.

Animals have a right to this world as much as us humans. While we should support the wild ones, such as lions, tigers, monkeys, and elephants, to stay and thrive in their natural habitat; adopting a tame pet can help us understand nature's works as well as learn to love all its creations.

I was four-years-old when Mithu came in my life. He was a parrot chick who had fallen from his nest and found by some people who bought him to our home. As I saw him grow feathers and learn words, I developed a very unique friendship with him, understanding his body language to tell if he is at ease or not and him climbing up the bed and approach the quiet me and literally ask me "what's wrong."

Now he is over twenty-years-old, really! This is an age parrots can reach only if they are not in the wild, hence safe from predators.

Since Mithu, I have had many furry friends; parrots, cats and dogs. While I loved taking care of them and playing with them, having pets helped me turn more responsible and affectionate. It also helped me observe how a bird works as a natural tape recorder; saying the right things at the right time or how a cat can inspire the world by his graceful gait; leading humans to "catwalk". Or even how a dog can be so faithful, no one can come close to his title of being man's best friend.

With all the love and joy pets can bring to your life, they also need to be taken care of everyday. It may seem very easy to keep a cat because you want an animal friend, you must remember he would depend on you for all his needs; from food, safety, good exercise by plenty of playtime to keeping clean, getting vaccinated and keeping the litter tray tidy. Dogs also require similar care as cats with an added need of a daily walk. If you miss out on any of these, there is a chance your pet will fall sick or his bacteria could even affect your health.

If you are more interested in keeping a parrot or some other bird, keep in mind to lock them up safely in airy, spacious cages suitable for their size. Cleaning up the cage regularly is very important for your feathered friend’s health and happiness. Birds require a special diet rich in grains and seeds so ask someone who has experience with your kind of pet or consult a good veterinarian to ensure your bird gets all necessary nutrients.

No matter who you pick for companionship, it will be an experience of a lifetime filled with a lot of good times. And at times, a few challenges.

If ever, your pet gets injured or sick, do not self-medicate at any cost. Human medicines are very potent and can prove fatal for your furry friend. If a vet recommends a human medicine, it would always be in a very, very small dose and mostly according to your pet's weight.

There could be times where your pet would act out by making a noise, biting or scratching you. If this happens, do not ever react by hitting them. Use of aggression would either make them fear you permanently or result in an even worse attack from their side. Leave them alone for some time and attend to your injury first. In case of excessive screaming, meowing or barking, check to see if they are hungry, sick or hurt.

If your pet's aggressive behaviour continues, you may need to get the help of a veterinarian who would recommend suitable methods to train him to behave.

Delightful as it is to receive a warm response from your pets, keeping them is a serious commitment. As long as you remain aware of your responsibilities and treat them with care, you will always come back home to a warm hello from Mithu, a loving purr by Mister Whiskers and Tommy's wagging tail telling how much you are loved!

Published in Young Nation magazine on March 12, 2016