It’s not easy to find a nice boyfriend in New York City (or anywhere else, I’m guessing). I can’t help you there, since I met mine in a bank line – no longer a possibility and not recommended to the general public even if it was – so I’ll just quote my mother’s most memorable line after I told her the specs on my future husband: “if you’re lonely in that big dirty city of yours, why not just buy a dog?”
Words of wisdom, to be sure. Everyone here in New York knows the ideal boyfriend is a dog (or possibly a cucumber). More women are happier with their pets than they are with their boyfriends, husbands, girlfriends, or wives. That’s just a fact. But what’s the ideal pet to adopt in New York City? There’s a lot to choose from, and you’re in luck because I’ve had everything from Mr. Swimmy the turtle to Squeekolina — the guinea pig also known as Sugar Bon Bon — and Bobby the Jumping Crawfish (not recommended). I speak from experience.
New Yorkers have always had animal companions. According to StatsBee , a great blog about statistics and New York City (everyone’s two favorite topics, I know), there are a little over 1 million pets in New York City – or about 1 for every 3 households. Since there are 8 million people living in New York City, something is not adding up here, StatsBee! Also, StatsBee is only counting cats and dogs. So pedestrian! In my neighborhood alone there are also birds, rabbits, fish, ferrets (illegal), and at least one miniature pig (also illegal). This isn’t counting the more exotic items such as snakes, chameleons, chinchillas, the tiger that was found in Harlem in 2003 and Pizza Rat . In my old neighborhood, there was a small monkey that got out one day and scaled the building across the street – the last we saw of him was as he disappeared into Central Park. I’m not even counting people who enjoy interesting beetles, spiders, hermit crabs, and Giant Spitting Cockroaches. A friend I knew in college had a roommate with 2 large boas that would come into the kitchen while she was cooking and “constrict a bit” around her ankles.
With so much choice, what is the best pet? The ideal New York City apartment pet would be a cat on the small side with the kind of fur that poodles have (hypo-allergenic, no shedding) with blunted claws, an affectionate disposition but not too clingy, and an ability to use the toilet accurately and flush it afterwards. If you are a breeder, or a freelance genetic engineer, call me! Add some glow-in-the-dark fur, too, so I won’t sit on it accidentally.
Until that happens, there are really only four realistic choices.
Dogs are legal, enjoyable, and sometimes useful. If you like being around a creature that has the personality of a two-year-old with extremely sharp teeth who will never be able to use a bathroom, then this is the pet for you. An added bonus is that you’ll get to interact with other dog owners on a regular basis. Since you’ll be walking your pooch 3 or 4 times a day, you will definitely get out of the apartment rain or shine, sleet, snow, treacherous ice, burning heat, hurricanes, and during polar vortices.
There’s a whole service industry surrounding our canine friends, so you can spend that extra cash that’s piling up in your sock drawer on things like raw organic wild venison, specialty spa grooming, interesting healthcare options usually reserved for humans, certified dog walkers, licensed dog therapists and nannies, specially-built dog beds, dog towels, dog toys, and other exciting things you never knew existed. A small dog can be placed in a carrier and brought with you almost everywhere except places you may actually wish to visit, such as a restaurant, theater, or a museum.
Cats are the most care-free and rewarding pet of all. A cat with a good personality will snuggle with you when you want, leave you alone when you are busy, greet you happily when you come home, but not be very bothered about it when you don’t see them for 24 hours or so.
A cat with a bad personality will yowl incessantly for no good reason, jump over you repeatedly as you sit on the sofa as though it is in an Olympic track-and-field event, position its anus just over your face as you enter Phase Four sleep at 4:30 in the morning, create deep, red, inflamed scratch marks on your housecleaner, friends and babysitter, and vomit furballs four times a day upon all surfaces no matter what you do (including, in desperation, spreading a thin coating of olive oil over its fur in case it only needs some lubrication). I’ve had both kinds.
On the whole, though, cats are fairly trouble-free. Yes, there is the litter box, which is unpleasant. There are some high-tech alternatives (see the reviews and this comparison) but you’ll still have some involvement, however minimal. You’ve got to feed cats regularly, but if you can’t open a can twice a day, then you should get some therapy. If you have more than 3 cats at any one time, you should probably also get some therapy.
Betta Fish are ideal companions for anyone who wants a bit of movement in their peripheral vision. They live happily in small goldfish bowls and don’t like the company of other fish. You will have to get some equipment, including a thermometer and a betta fish aquarium heater since they go belly up if it’s too hot or too cold (and that’s about a 3-degree range). Otherwise, they are charming and worry-free, and you won’t be that broken up when they go.
The great thing about a betta fish is that it somewhat blurs the line between having a pet and having a hobby….so if you can’t choose between the two, get a fish and have both.
Guinea Pigs. We have just experienced the loss of our final guinea pig, which was a sad and sorry time for the whole family. The vet sent a sympathy card, and our neighbor who owns Phillipe, the French Guinea Pig, sent her condolences. In her words, “I know what little love nuggets they are.” Yes, guinea pigs are a very good choice for the parent whose child won’t shut up about getting a pet. Guinea Pigs (neither from New Guinea nor pigs) are placid of disposition, easy to feed with supermarket food (lettuce, carrots), and need only a few extra pet store supplies that are cheap (hay). They don’t smell up your apartment, either, if you keep the cage changed every other week using some newspaper and cheap bedding (you can make it yourself ).
They don’t jump unexpectedly out of a tank of water and then scurry like nasty cockroaches under the refrigerator as, say, Bobby the Crawfish might. They don’t scrabble about incessantly all night long trying to chew out of their plastic prison which starts to stink after a month no matter how long you soak it in Pine Sol as, say, Munchy and Tibbles the gerbils might. They don’t cannibalize the young or old of their own kind. You can create a pen for them on a table with wire walls about 6 inches high, and they can’t get out. They are sociable herd animals, and if you get them young they will be happy to let you hold and pet them. If they are handled gently, they hardly ever bite unless they mistake your finger for a carrot.
Never get just one guinea pig, since they will be very lonely. On the flip side, never mix the genders unless you want to create a guinea pig factory, since females become pregnant at about 4 weeks of age and can have up to 6 babies every 3 months for their whole lives. You don’t have to do the math to figure out you don’t have that many neighbors who want guinea pigs.
That being said, they are cute as heck, easy to care for, dim, sweet little critters who are considered edible in some parts of the world. They live between 3 to 6 years, so it’s not exactly a lifetime commitment (see: parrot)