Science has said many-a-time that pets and children make a winning combination. Among the many plus points cited, children have been said to develop greater levels of self-esteem through their bond with their pets. Whether these are dogs, cats, rabbits or hamsters, pets give children (as well as adults) a level of companionship, acceptance, trust, value and appreciation they may not find coming from their human-to-human interactions. This is not to say pets are a substitute for social relationships, but they certainly can fill an emotional void until the situation improves. That\u2019s why we often hear people say: \u201cMy pet saved my life\u201d, not just from physical danger (and there have been many instances of these heroic acts) but also from loneliness, stress and even despair and depression. One reason is because pets give unconditional love. They are your BFF (Best Friend Forever), the ever-willing playmate (especially to the child). Pets are the \u201cshoulder to cry on\u201d whenever you need it and the confidante you can trust to keep your secrets. They never judge. They never criticise. They just adore you, whoever and whatever you may be. Beyond fulfilling the needs of the heart and emotions, pets are also said to be good for a child\u2019s character development. Pets take away preoccupation with oneself because they promote looking out for others, having compassion, building responsibility and learning reciprocity in relationships. They also open the child to a world of imagination and creativity when they play together. But let\u2019s hear it from the pet paw-sitive parents themselves on what pets do for them, their children and their families as a whole. Motherhood talks to four mums about the pets in their lives and how pets and their children are a great combination. 4 Mums Speak of the Intrinsic Value that Pets Bring to Families 1. Cheryl Ravindranath, a mother of 2 kids and owner of 11 pets\u00a0 From left: Zoran, Cheryl, Rafael and Zara, with pets (from left) Paddington (Golden Retriever), Smokey (British Blue), Leo (Persian), Benjamin and Rosie (Holland Lop rabbits). Motherhood: Please introduce your entire family and all your pets. Cheryl: Both my husband Zoran and I are working parents. Before the Movement Control Order (MCO), my work used to take me globe-trotting for three weeks in a month, but now I am working from home full time. Hence I don't get to spend much time with the kids and work is very stressful. We have an 8-year-old son Rafael and 4-year-old daughter Zara, and they study in an international school nearby. With MCO, they are both now schooling online from morning until about 2pm. So we have a packed and busy daily schedule. Cheryl says Zoran wanted a Golden Retriever, so they got one! It's a recent addition. He is still a puppy. My husband always wanted a Golden Retriever and we thought it would be great to get one soon. However, one week before getting our puppy, one of my husband\u2019s friends wanted to give away his Persian cat. At a spur of the moment, we decided to adopt Leo, our white Persian cat! Leo turned out to be one of the best behaved cats ever\u2014we had misconceptions about cats earlier. This led to us to getting another cat two weeks after as we fell in love with the character of cats. Smokey, our Blue British Longhair cat soon joined our growing pet ensemble. Oh, and I forgot to mention that in December last year, we decided to get two Holland Lop rabbits named Benjamin and Rosie! We also have five fishes\u2014two Tiger Lily and three Guppies, living in a big pot in our garden. So with five fishes, two rabbits and two cats in tow, we welcomed a Goldie puppy called Paddington in April 2021! On June 24, 2021, we welcomed yet another cat\u2014a British Longhair Silver Tabby called Coco Chanel. This brings all the pets in our household to a grand total of 11. Latest addition to the family \u2500 Coco Chanel, a British Longhair Silver Tabby. On why she has brought in yet another pet, Cheryl says: \u201cHonestly, we are enjoying every moment with our pets because they bring us so much happiness, love and joy!\u201d We took a decision to raise our kids with pets in their lives in order to have them care and love animals. We want them to grow up having a balanced life and acquiring a sense of empathy towards others. Motherhood: What has having pets taught your children? Cheryl: Firstly, I must say that having pets has been able to take my kids\u2019 minds off of school and digital devices. They provide relief from school work and they are also their digital detox. Secondly, the children overcame whatever fear they had of animals and they learned to love and be kind to animals.\u00a0 Lately, they started to build a sense of care and responsibility to their pets\u2019 wellbeing hence looking outwards towards caring for others Vs looking inwards to their own wants (such as the \u201cme\u201d syndrome). We have begun to see our kids bonding with the pets and the pets becoming close companions for them, especially since we work most of the time and do not have much time to spend with the children. Motherhood: What joy or benefits or values have these pets brought to your household? Cheryl: Lots of laughter and entertainment watching how they play with us and their antics. They are also a source of comfort and a de-stress mechanism as we take them out for walks and hang out with them a lot at home.\u00a0 Inadvertently, the pets also brought us closer together as a family! Motherhood: Rafael and Zara, do you like all your animals? Why? Rafael and Zara: \u201cThey are playful and we like to play with them.\u201d Rafael and Zara: Yes, of course! Because they are furry and soft. They are also playful and we like to play with them. We like to touch them and scratch their belly. We like to feed them and love them. We love their smell! We like to look at them and they are our buddies! "Pets are humanising. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life." ~ James Cromwell~ 2. Linda Tay, a mother of 1 child and owner of 1 cat Linda, Bikesh and Ari with Ash, their new pet cat after their dog Miyuki died. Motherhood: Please introduce your son and your pet. Linda: My name is Linda, mother of one boy and we have one cat. Ari Zen is 3 years 5 months old. Our cat, Ash just turned 1 on June 8th, 2021. He\u2019s a Blue British Shorthair. Actually, I didn\u2019t want to have any more pets after our 14-year-old Miniature Schnauzer, Miyuki, passed away on 31st July 2019. I wasn\u2019t sure if I could love another pet. But my husband Bikesh, has always wanted a Blue British Shorthair and Ari has been playing with our neighbour\u2019s cats who always came over to our home. Seeing this, I realised it would be good to have Ari grow up with pets. Then, I decided to join the Malaysia British Shorthair Cats Facebook group and found an owner who had lost his job due to COVID-19. He had no choice but to let go his kittens. He had four kittens, sold two and had two left. We dropped by his home on 31st July 2020 (on the exact day of Miyuki\u2019s first death anniversary) and we met the two kittens (Ash & Toni). Ash (the name given by the owner) was playful and approached us. Ash began playing with Ari, and even allowed me to carry and cuddle him. Instantly, we fell in love with Ash. And deep inside, I felt the presence of Miyuki so I knew that Ash should be ours. On 5th August, 2020, Ash joined our family. Motherhood: How did you introduce Ari to the new pet, especially after Miyuki's death? How old was he when you got Ash and how did you make it work? Ari loves Ash because Ash makes a wonderful companion for Ari. Linda: Initially, Ari kept asking for Miyuki. So to make him understand and accept that she\u2019s no longer with us, every night I would show him Miyuki\u2019s photo and a lock of her hair so we could say good night to her. Ari actually understands that Miyuki is \u201cgone\u201d and at times he does say he misses her. Ari has been playing with our neighbour\u2019s mixed British Shorthair, Tod, so it was pretty easy to introduce Ash to him. Ari was 2 years 7 months when he first met Ash. When Ash first arrived home, Ari was eager to set up the fence, his bed, litter sand, and food. Everyday, we let Ari and Ash have their playtime with our supervision. We also teach Ari how to cuddle them as some cats do not like their tail or back to be touched. Slowly, they both bonded like best friends and of course, sometimes Ari would provoke Ash and get scratched in return. Motherhood: \u00a0What are the benefits and values that owning a pet will bring to Ari? How will it help him grow into a better adult? What has it taught him? Ari loves to \u201ccook\u201d for Ash. Sometimes they will play their train set together and Ash will block the way! Linda: Ari actually learned to be responsible by helping to give Ash his meals and medications. He also helps to clean up after Ash after Ash does his business. \u00a0He actually picks up all the kibbles that Ash drops on the floor after his meals. Aside from learning how to care for and love a pet, Ari has also learnt to have patience with Ash. Because of this, when he sees other pets, he would insist on greeting them. Every morning Ari would greet Ash and give him a kiss. He even helps to brush Ash\u2019s coat. We believe that kids who grow up with pets have a better understanding of responsibility, patience, love and care. Most important of all is having empathy. We would explain to him how Ash is feeling and why he doesn\u2019t like his tail being stroked, and Ari would understand. Both of them also learned how to play together without being aggressive to one another and how to share toys. Motherhood: Ari, do you like Ash? Why? Ari: Yes, because he is a good boy. "Educate the children in their infancy in such a way that they may become exceedingly kind and merciful to the animals. If an animal is sick they should endeavor to cure it; if it is hungry, they should feed it; if it is thirsty, they should satisfy its thirst; if it is tired, they should give it rest." ~ Baha'i Writings ~ 3. Fiona Sinnathamby, a mother of 2 children and owner of 2 cats Fiona with sons Aryan and Ayrton and their pet cats Sydney and Frost. And Ayrton with Sydney on the right. Motherhood: Please introduce yourself, your children and your pets. Fiona: My husband grew up with dogs, and I grew up with cats. Today, we have two cats named Sydney and Frost. And hopefully one day soon, we will have a dog to add more love to our household. My name is Fiona, a cat lover since I was a baby. Our two boys are Aryan and Ayrton, 10 and 8, both of whom have quite different ways of showing their love. Aryan is the more responsible chap making sure there is always sufficient food available for the cats and Ayrton is very physical with his love\u2014always carrying them and talking to them as it they are fellow siblings. Then there is my husband Sharma, who whilst is a huge dog lover, was the one who surprised us both times with the cats. We enjoy the chaos the cats bring to our home. Motherhood: When did you get your cats and how did you make it work between your cats, your children, your work and your household routine? A Pet Pawsitive Family: Husband Sharma, Fiona, the kids and Sydney. \u201cIt\u2019s amazing how pets can change the dynamics of the house. It\u2019s like an injection of love hormones!\u201d says Fiona. Fiona: I grew up always having a cat. My mother was a cat lover and I attribute my love for cats to my upbringing. We got Sydney, our first cat, when the kids were 6 and 4 years old. He is a flat face all-black Persian. My husband came home one night and surprised us with this beautiful long-haired Persian. We had not spoken about getting one just yet, but he surprised us anyhow. Of course, I always gave hints of wanting one! The kids were overjoyed. They were ecstatic to have an animal in the house. The boys took to loving Sydney immediately. They were brushing him and playing with him. It was a very natural process for them to show affection. He is the King of the House, and we all bow down to him, now. In April 2021, we acquired cat no. 2\u2014a mixed breed Persian we named Frost. Settling this cat was rather challenging as we had Sydney who is considered a senior cat. They knew of each other\u2019s existence from their smell, but only after two weeks did they meet and there was a lot of hissing between them and stressful moments on my part, making sure the new boy in the house, eliminated in the right place. Till today, we can\u2019t carry him, but we can pat him and play with him. This frustrates the kids as they want to grab him and squeeze him. Due to the difference in the two cats\u2019 characters, we have had to teach the boys that each animal has their own personality and we cannot treat them the same. So it happens that we have a not so \u201cmanja\u201d cat. As such, we have had to be creative in how we show and receive love from Frost. As for a routine, Frost started learning from Sydney\u2019s behaviour and followed suit. A routine was set. I have learnt that they need time, and we can\u2019t force them to get along. We just need to give them the space and allow them to find a way to co-exist\u2014an exceptionally good teaching opportunity for the kids. Motherhood: What are the values and benefits of owning a pet and how has this helped your children develop into better people when they grow up? \u201cIn early April, we learnt that our dear Sydney had mouth cancer. Whilst the kids were sad at the news, we have learnt to enjoy every moment left with him, spoiling him and laughing at his grumpiness. We are hoping to teach the kids that, while the cats are with us, we love them to the fullest.\u201d \u2500 Fiona Fiona: Compassion. Animals teach children to love and be loved. As my son says, the main benefit is to love and play with them. Our son has taken to Sydney as his first love. He dotes on him, and it seems Sydney loves it, too. He allows only him to do these acts of \u201clove\u201d to him. So, when a child shows its love in the purest of ways to an animal, I believe the animal picks up on it, enjoys it and returns it. Motherhood: Aryan and Ayrton, do you love your pets? Please tell us why? When everyday with an ailing pet is a gift. Aryton and Aryan with Sydney. Aryan: Yes, I like my pets because they keep me company. Ayrton: Yes, I love my pets as they are fun to play with. "There is a cycle of love and death that shapes the lives of those who choose to travel in the company of animals. It is a cycle unlike any other. To those who have never lived through its turnings and walked its rocky path, our willingness to give our hearts with full knowledge that they will be broken seems incomprehensible. Only we know how small a price we pay for what we receive; our grief, no matter how powerful it may be, is an insufficient measure of the joy we have been given." ~ Suzanne Clothier ~ 4. Elizabeth Lim, mother of 2 children, and owner of 17 pets Elizabeth with Hayden Alexander and Hayley Annabelle and two of their pets \u2500 Miu Miu the Pomeranian and Robyn the Poodle. Motherhood: Please introduce your children and your pets.\u00a0 Elizabeth: I\u2019m a mother of two kids, and we have 14 dogs and three cats. I\u2019m Elizabeth, my kids are Hayley Annabelle (9 years old) and Hayden Alexander Cheah (6 years old). The little ones are Robyn, 11-year-old Poodle, and Miu Miu, 9-year-old Pomeranian. Motherhood: How did you introduce your very large family of dogs and cats to your children? Some of Elizabeth's 14 dogs. On the left are the ones in their old age. Elizabeth: I had dogs way before I had kids in my life. When I had my first child, I had 10 dogs. Some of them were living with me and some were at the dog boarding house I was running. I never had the thought of whether my dogs would have issues accepting a new family member. I just trusted them. I knew they would instinctively know the new baby was our new family member. I just knew the dogs would care for and protect my baby. Motherhood: What joy or benefits or values have your pets brought to your children and household? In Elizabeth\u2019s family, pets provide her children important lessons about the cycle of life such as the reality of aging, illnesses and death \u2500 concepts a child would not know or understand otherwise. Elizabeth: My dogs respect the children and my children respect them. Hayley and Hayden have learnt to care for them. They make sure the dogs have enough water in their water bowl, they make sure they keep their toys away from the dogs because they know toys can be dangerous for the dogs. They make sure Robyn goes to bed with them every night. Robyn has been their constant companion. She is already at a senior age and just like people, she needs extra care. There has been times where people have said it isn\u2019t healthy for young kids to be with dogs because of the possibility of fur allergy and compromised hygiene. I make sure my home is always clean and my dogs are showered regularly. My children grew up with the dogs by their sides and they never had issues with allergies or breathing problems or any type of issues regarding being close to our pets. Hayley and Hayden learned very important lessons in life. They learnt to understand and respect other animals because animals have feelings and needs, too. They learnt about responsibility from a very young age and they are hands-on in providing proper care and love. Motherhood: Hayley and Hayden, do you love your pets. Why? Hayley and Hayden know about giving and receiving love from their pets. Hayley and Hayden: Yes, we love our pets because they are so cute and fluffy. Sometimes we fight but at night, when we sleep together, we are friends again. We love them because they love us, too. *All images courtesy of the four mums interviewed. And there you have it \u2013 pets and people living together harmoniously. For more real life stories of Malaysian families and how they live their lives in their own unique ways, tune in to Motherhood.com.my for the insight.