Pets bring joy and teach individuals about discipline, responsibility and compassion


Calming influence: Civil servant and certified divemaster Muhammad Rafiuddin Abdul Jalil, 36, misses going out to sea but is thankful to have his pet fishes for company during the Covid-19 pandemic. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

WORKING from home and the lack of social activities amid the current Covid-19 pandemic can be an isolating experience.

Because of this, many have turned to their pets for comfort and solace.

These creatures also teach adults and children valuable lessons such as responsibility, trust, compassion, respect and patience.

Civil servant Muhammad Rafiuddin Abdul Jalil is thankful for his pet fish not just for its company but in teaching him patience.

The 36-year-old, who is also a divemaster, has not been able to go diving because of the current circumstances.

“As someone who was born and raised in the coastal district of Mersing in Johor, I have loved being in the water since I was young and always enjoyed being around different species of fish.

“I miss being in the water and swimming among marine creatures, away from the rest of the world.

“But for now I have to be patient. I only have the fish in my two aquariums at home for company,” the bachelor said to StarMetro.

Working at the Johor Mentri Besar’s office in Johor Baru as an assistant administrative officer requires him to be stationed in the office but after work, he heads straight home to Ayer Molek Government Quarters to tend to his beloved pets.

“I have different species of fish such as arowana, blue-base golden arowana, red mahseer (ikan kelah merah), blood parrot and java barb (lampam jawa) in a 1.22m by 0.6m aquarium and another one that is 1.82m by 0.6m in size, both of which I bought a year ago.

“The two tanks are equipped with self-cleaning technology that I installed myself to ensure that the water is always crystal clear to keep my fish comfortable.

“I have a bench in front of the aquariums so that I can sit and admire them while they swim around.

“Watching the fish is a form of stress relief for me, especially when I cannot meet up with friends or participate in other social activities like before.

“One of the reasons I love fish is because they seem calm in the face of danger like strong currents and the presence of predators underwater.

“This has taught me the invaluable lesson of boldly taking on challenges,” he added.

Muhammad Rafiuddin said he spent less than RM100 per month on his pets.

He said many people were surprised at the amount as there was a common misconception that keeping and rearing fish was an expensive pastime.

“It is my hobby and I am deeply interested in it, so I often find ways and work hard on getting the items I want.

“Exchanging information and engaging with like-minded enthusiasts in online forums also helps me avoid unnecessary spending.

“It is a good way to find out about great deals such as instalment payment plans for fish tanks, like the one from a shop I went to in Petaling Jaya, Selangor,” he said, adding that he was lucky to have colleagues and friends who also enjoyed rearing fish and sharing information.Saidatul Aina holding up her feline friend Boba that has kept her company through some challenging days lately.Saidatul Aina holding up her feline friend Boba that has kept her company through some challenging days lately.

For 27-year-old biochemical technician Saidatul Aina Mohd Yunus, her furry pet Boba has provided a welcome distraction for her while working from home.

“My Semi-Flat Persian cat, which I started caring for in June 2019, lies down beside me to get my attention while I work on my laptop every day, making me feel loved and appreciated.

“To make Boba happy, I bought many cat toys for him to play with but he seems to prefer playing with my potted plants and things that I use or am holding,” she said.

Previously, when grooming centres were allowed to operate, she would take her cat for a bath and get its fur trimmed once a month.

However, these days Saidatul Aina, who lives in Taman Suria Muafakat, likes to brush and groom Boba herself because she finds it therapeutic.

“I am grateful to have a feline friend by my side during this challenging time, especially when there have been several upsetting events in my life lately.

“I think Boba understands how I feel and he helps me overcome my sadness when I receive bad news,” she added.

Similarly, IT technician Peter Ng, 38, lets his cat Rainbow, a British Shorthair, roam around the house while he works from home.

“I also have a parrot called Cheeky.

“My pets have been keeping me entertained now that my family and I are at home all the time.

“Although I initially bought Rainbow about six months ago for my five-year-old daughter, the cat is more attached to me because I feed and take care of it.

“I have no complaints because I enjoy taking care of my pets as they have become a part of my family,” he said, adding that he purchased grooming tools and learnt some techniques online and from a pet shop to care for them the right way.

Ng, from Skudai, said having pets at home was also beneficial for his young daughter as he noticed that she had developed more empathy towards animals.

“Her teachers have told her to be kind to animals too and having pets at home makes it easier for her to apply what she has learnt,” he said, adding that his daughter would often ask if she could feed stray animals whenever they went out.

Meanwhile, there is never a dull moment at 40-year-old Alvin Tan’s house in Taman Mount Austin, as he has 12 Border collies and poodles for company.

“The situation is not as chaotic as it seems, as the canines are able to follow a schedule for meals, play and sleep,” said the marketing executive who lives with his brother’s family and shares the responsibilities of caring for the dogs.

“Since we are home most of the time now, it is important not to mess up the dogs’ schedule.

“Otherwise it will be a challenge to retrain them to stick to a new routine, especially once restrictions are lifted and we start going back to the office.

“My brother’s family and I follow a roster to take care of our pets.Tan interacting with some of his dogs. He says children learn the importance of discipline and responsibility by taking care of their pets.Tan interacting with some of his dogs. He says children learn the importance of discipline and responsibility by taking care of their pets.

“Only two canines are allowed inside the house. The rest are kept in the outdoor compound and in an extended air-conditioned room beside the house.

“Dogs are creatures of habit, so it is better that they stick to a routine.

“With proper training, they will not bark unnecessarily,” explained Tan, who is also a certified dog trainer.

He said having pets at home, especially during the pandemic, provided an opportunity for his brother’s children to learn the importance of discipline, responsibility and time management.

“It also draws them away from their electronic gadgets because they are already logging so much screentime when attending online classes at home.

“The current pandemic is actually a good time for those keen on buying or adopting a pet.

“Get the consent of family members and don’t make a rushed decision, because animals require a lot of commitment and attention.

“Also, avoid making decisions on your own when getting a pet because it could lead to quarrels among family and even result in the animal being abandoned,” he said, adding that he had witnessed many such cases.

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