To pet, or not to pet, that is the question

Allison Tait blog
Posted on November 8, 2011

Mr4 is desperate for a pet. He has taken to crawling around the house, pretending to be a cat. Sometimes a Turtle Cat, but mostly just a cat.

The Builder and I are hesitating. Our reasons are sound – we have plans to travel, plans to move, plans to plan.

But none of them make sense to a four year old who wants something to pat.

He’s always been a patter, Mr4. Maxabella would be laughing at the irony of this, she being a patter, me being someone who has always hated being patted.

But, I’m here to tell you, being patted by the fruit of your own loins is somewhat different to being patted, absently or annoyingly, by your sister.

Mr4 likes to pat my hair. He has always done this. I generally wear it tied back in a messy, up-do thing, and he has always, from birth, liked to hold onto my messy, up-do thing. And pat it.

I thought this was something he’d grow out of, but no… His first words may not have been ‘Mummy, put her hair up’, but they were three, four, five and six.

Recently, the patting has been out of control. It’s a security thing, but he often forgets that it’s attached to my head – kind of awkward at times and the words ‘please don’t pat my hair’ may have been uttered on several occasions.

This morning we were discussing, in the car on the way to preschool, the RSPCA box set up in the classroom.

The children are all very interested in the RSPCA, particularly given the cupcake fundraiser put on earlier this year. We had enough cupcakes to have them on sale every afternoon for a week! Very popular, the RSPCA.

This time, we are donating tins of food, toys and treats. Mr4 is adamant that we must have a toy as part of our donation. He knows that RSPCA dogs are not free to roam around and feels they must be very bored. We decided on a tin of food and a toy.

There was a little silence. Then…

“Mummy, when, oh when, can I have a pet?”

I began the usual soothing ‘soon’ conversation, but he was having none of it.

“If I have a pet, I’ll have something to pat,” he said. “And I won’t have to pat your hair anymore!”

His smile was a mile wide. He’d played his trump card. He was willing to give up the hair, if he could have the pet.

It’s almost tempting…

A L Tait The Fire StarAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and a new ‘almost history’ detective series called the Maven & Reeve Mysteries (you’ll find book #1 THE FIRE STAR here).

You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here. And, as you can see, we did end up getting a pet… 


  1. Brenda @ Mira Narnie

    oh i have found a kindred spirit in relation to a child that is attached to my hair (and here i thought i was the only one!!!) Although my son requestion for me to take my hair out of my messy up do, and his first words were “open hair” which means, take out that hair band….he then wraps his arms around my neck to scoop up my hair and he is in eternal bliss. it is a security thing for him too. I joked one day that i would chop it all off, and he look mortified and said he would cry all the time…so of course i didn’t!
    So….i know you post was about a pet…yeah we have one…so i can’t see it stopping patting your head!!


  2. MultipleMum

    Remember Chimbo? He went on forever. It is a big commitment… x

  3. Kerri Sackville

    Buy a rabbit. They’re great value!!! They hardly cost anything! Of course, when they break their leg it costs about $195 to get it put in a cast, and then another $50 to put it in a cast when the rabbit chews the cast off, and then ANOTHER $50 when the little fucker chews it off AGAIN, and then ANOTHER $50 when he chews it off a third time and nearly takes his leg with it, and all of this for a FUCKING PIE INGREDIENT…. But yeah, apart from that, they’re great. Really fucking GREAT. *lies down and sobs*

  4. Rhonda

    we have 3 dogs and a cat, as well as one dog who is living at MIL’s because 4 is toooooo many (see all the extra O’s for emphasis) so I’m not any help. The best thing we did for my son after our move away from all our family and everything in another state was let him keep the mutt he had. Now he has 2 dogs (1 works though!) I say let him have a pet…let him get one that is easy to care for, such as an older already trained dog or something that lives in a cage, guinea pig, hamster, etc. I’m thinking he won’t be satisfied with a non furry variety of pet since he wants to pat. (BTW I HATE being patted and both The Hubs and Son are patters..ugh)

  5. MummyK

    We have two small dogs, always had them so it was an easy transition for MiniMe. Give him a snake! Our friends gave their kid a little snake, sooo easy.

  6. River

    Would he settle for a hairy, (as opposed to furry) stuffed toy cat or dog? There are some great imitations out there that look like the real thing. A bonus is you don’t have to feed or walk them or clean up after them either.
    Get a long-haired variety so it’s more like your hair.

  7. cathy@home

    Sounds like my oldest boy first we had a goldfish then a guinea pig and as soon as we had a garden we got our cat that was nearly 19 years ago and we still have her the little boy is a grown man and living abroad.

  8. katepickle

    We have guinea pigs… three of them. I made my girls wait until they were 6, but the middle child managed to get one when he was not quite 4.. bonus for having big sisters I guess. They are not bad maintenance wise, and they are good to pat, but I still have to nag my kids to feed them and I reckon we could have stuck to those damn zhuzhu pet toys for a much easier option!

  9. Coal Valley View

    I love having animals. We have the Whippet and he is just part of the family now. He was a well researched and considered decision before the 4 kids came along but with them in mind. And sometimes he is more work than the lot of them! He’s just part of the family though and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I wouldn’t recommend spur of the moment decision for pets like dogs though. There are other alternatives, we have silk worms at the moment – all they do is eat and then make themselves a coccoon in which they stay for 1 month (no feeding required!) and then they become the moth and die after a week – very low maintenance indeed!

    Good luck!

  10. Mrs Woog

    Your son patting your hair is so cute. I suggest you get a rabbit. Good for patting and will not destroy your house x

  11. Rosie V

    Hi Al,

    If you want to bring the boys over for a visit, George would LOVE a pat from Mr 4. He’s only 6 months old, so still boisterous and very very playful! (I don’t have your mobile no or I would have called to invite you!) I would be happy to have a “pets need lots of care” talk with Mr 4 also to support your position 🙂 Come for a coffee even if you don’t bring the boys, would love to see you. Home all this week….

  12. Me

    My husband always wanted a staffie – I said no – I am not an animal person. Then after our daughter came along we went to visit friends whose cat had had kittens. She wanted one (as you do !) and we discussed it and said that if she was prepared to feed it and put water out for it EVERY DAY, we would get one. She agreed (of course !) and we got it. He was a lovely cat who thougth he was a dog and really good to have around the house. As long as we had Gus K would never have tummy issues as every time she had to feed him she said she had to go to the toilet – and then would have to feed him when she was finished.

    When we moved to Australia our next door neighbours took Gus and that was that. Then the nagging started when we bought our home – how nice it would be to have a dog. No it wouldn’t because we are at work all day and you are at school all day. When K was in year 12 she went through a really rough time and was diagnosed with depression and it was suggested that having an animal would give her something to be responsible for and help her so I gave in and we got a staffie. He is very sweet and a lovable dog but he made a complete mess of our garden because he was lonely and so I eventually gave in and said what is a second dog when we already have one. So we got Rosie – also a staffie. They play really nicely together and they certainly served their purpose in turning K’s attitude to a lot of things around.

    For this I am completely grateful and would do it all again knowing that getting those two dogs saved our daughter from a lot of dark and horrible things. Would I get more animals when these die ? No.

    On the down side it is more of a mission when we want to go away because we have to find someone to look after them or pay to put them in a pet hotel which I am not looking forward to when we go to Canada next year for 4-5 weeks !!!! So far we have been lucky in that when we go away for a weekend, K has been working and so stayed at home with the pets.

    It is a big decision and unless everyone is committed to it, don’t do it. It is hard work and does cost money. Rosie landed up having a loose patella and it cost us $1,500 and umpteen visits to the vet at AWL to get it sorted out.

    Good luck with whatever you decide !!

  13. Diminishing Lucy

    Your son has amazing salemanship skills for such a tender age.

    Al, get the child a pet.

    Pets are annoying and messy and smelly. A bit like children really? But so loveable.

    We have a dog. A Fox Terrier called Perry. He takes it in turns as to which childs bed he sleeps on at night. They pat him, they dress him, they cry into his neck. He is an integral member of our family.

    He is old these days (he was born in Marrickville in 1998…) and when he goes he will swiftly be replaced by another pet.

    Besides, don’t all builders need a dog too?

  14. therhythmmethod

    We always had pets as a kid. Our family dog Bindy had had 3 sets of puppies before I had turned 6, so my childhood memories all involve some kind of furry sidekick.
    I would never hesitate in getting a pet. They teach children to be nurturing and responsible, and with all that patting going on, also help to sooth busy little minds. If you get the right breed (cat or dog), they become a part of the family. That said, it’s no drama finding someone to mind your pet when you travel. In some instances you can even take your pet with you.

  15. In My House

    This is the age kids need pets. We have 2 cats, both foundlings, and my daughter loves them. They are great company when you are at home working. I always have a purring “tamagochi”, as we call them, sitting near me in my office or helping in the garden.
    Kids learn about how to treat animals, how to look after them and all that responsibility stuff.
    Guinea pigs, bunny rabbits, kittens, puppies -they are all cute!

  16. Mrs BC

    When teenage daughter was 5 she begged for a dog. Begged, begged, begged. Eventually her dad joined in & after 2 years they wore me down. We spent ages investigating breeds, kennels, etc etc. In the end we bought a golden labrador – and it was the best decicion we EVER made, for all of us. That dog was a major part of this family, & we never regretted getting him, not even when he died earlier this year at 12 years old. Now we have 2guinea pigs that no one is interested in, I can’t even give them away. So my advice is start small & build up.

  17. Mama of 2 boys

    Mr4 is SO gorgeous. That is just the sweetest story Allison. I don’t know where I stand on the issue of to pet or not to pet, mainly because it’s a bridge we haven’t come to yet. I’m not entirely anti, because I always experienced the value of pets as a child, though I know it would kind of complicate things around here somewhat… and we certainly don’t need any more complications for now.

  18. The Rambling Pages

    This was a very familiar conversation in our house as well and we got round it by agreeing to a ginuea pig each. They have been very loved, we had them as outdoor pets but did bring them into the garage in the winter. ” and a half years on we have just lost one of them which caused some tears, the other one is still going strong though and both boys would now like a new one incase the remaining one is lonely!

    We have also recently just got a dog. We have always wanted one but due to work commitments etc we have always said soon or maybe one day. Recently our 7 year old who has mild austism developed a major phobia of dogs to the extent he started saying he didnt want to go to the park or walk places incase we saw one. The doctors advised he had to be exposed so we borrowed a black lab. 6 weeks on we still have him as the owneer has disappeared. We knew he needed a new home but we were ment to be trailing him to see how Little Man went. Thank god after 48 hours of screaming while stood in the middle of the dining room table, he has decided he actually loves Dog. In the space of 6 weeks Dog has become part of the family and we can;t imagine not having him. I do work from home 90% of the time, but we have found dog walkers in the area for when I am not around, my parents seem very taken with him and he is so little trouble. I am so glad we have him, so I would say go for it. If we hadn;t been put in this position I don;t think we would of done it, now I wonder why we didnt do it earlier.

  19. tinsenpup

    My big girl was born with a hair fetish. It was (and is) a comfort thing for her too. She’s 10 now and plays with (and sucks – ew) her own hair constantly. Occasionally, she knots it so badly that we have no choice but to cut it out forming odd tufts. My point is (if, indeed, I have a point), get him to grow his hair until he can form an up-do of his own to pat, thus negating his argument and sparing you discomfort.

  20. Maxabella



    PS – get a pillow pet.

  21. Toni

    We have a greyhound, which is really more like having a cat than a dog. She sleeps about 23 1/2 hours a day and doesn’t jump up, dig or chew.
    The downside is — ummm — I can’t think of one….

  22. Saucy B

    hee hee, looks like Mr.4 is quite the negotiator. You know i’m an animal lover, so I can’t help but root for your little guy.
    But, in all honesty, while I love dogs, I must admit that cats are very low maintenance pets. If you can find one that’s really affectionate and will welcome Mr. 4’s pats, that might be the way to go.

  23. Jodi @ The Scribble Den

    I have never lived without pets! When I grew up we always had dogs and cats, and from time to time, horses, chooks, and cows.

    When I first left home I inherited the family dog and then added a cat or two.

    Now we have two dogs (a lab and golden retriever), a cat, and a fighting fish.

    Our animals aren’t just pets, they are part of the family, they make our home. And our girls love them as much as they love us (and yes I’m sure even the fighting fish loves us. Really!)

  24. Bri

    My Miss5 wants a pet. We have a fish. For the moment this will have to suffice. I have terrible luck with pets. The last 5 cats I have had have run away (or been stolen). The last one was when I was in hospital having Miss 5. Our dog disappeared not long after. Since then we have had no pets other than the fish (which is over 5 years old and going swimmingly. Sorry, couldn’t help the pun, lol). Husband is not fond of pets. Father (we technically live in his house while he lives in a flat at the back) isn’t fond of pets either. I wouldn’t mind a cat but can live without the toilet training and emptying of the litter tray. I wouldn’t mind a rabbit but I worry it would freeze in winter (cold in country Victoria in Winter). So yeah, we have a fish.

  25. Cath

    We’re in research phase… for chooks. We can’t have a cat, as we back on to National Park and that would be bad. The Munchkin LOVES cats – he is already saying he will move out of home one day so he can have a cat. We thought about a dog, but I’m allergic. We’ve even thought about puppy walking. But we’ve come up with chooks. We might hire them. Then if the foxes get them, they weren’t our anyway – or something to that effect. I’ve heard chooks make great pets, AND they lay eggs.

  26. GetawayGuru

    Oh, so good to know this conversation is happening else where. We have used many of the same ‘arguments’ – e.g. we’re away a lot and also we live on a busy road.

    What has stemmed the flow of ‘please can we get a per’ is the daily visits we are currently getting from our neighbours cat. She sits under our outdoor table, she meows at our door and she rolls over to be patted frequently.

    I call her my claytons cat (the cat you have when you don’t have a cat)

    But secretly inside, I would love my boys to have a pet, there’s nothing as comforting as the patting of a dog or cat *sigh*

    One day. Good luck with the decision!


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