From what I’ve observed, Nigerians aren’t big pet owners. A former Nigerian blogger I knew had three cats, Seye has at least one bird, and Ruthie has fish (as I recently discovered), but most other Nigerians I know don’t have pets.
My mom is not into pets for reasons of practicality: with four children she didn’t really want to have another mouth to feed and clean up after. My dad is a softie and we probably could have convinced him to let us get a pet but as children my siblings and I weren’t into having a pet. As a result, my experience as a pet owner came later in life: about 10 years ago I attended a wedding and at the reception, the person whose birthday was closest to the wedding date was allowed to take home the table’s centrepiece, a live betta fish. I bought a bowl and food for my new pet and named him Morrisburg after the name of the town where the wedding took place. Morrisburg died soon after he came to live with me and I was crushed, unreasonably so because I didn’t realize how much I had bonded with him (also, seeing a dead fish is unpleasant). My mom immediately bought me another betta and he soon died. After that I told her that I was done with pets!
If I were to get any pet, I’d want a dog, but the thought of a dog that’s roamed the streets “barefoot” and stepped on and in anything and everything, coming home and spreading the dirt all over my house, from my couch to the bed, to the kitchen, is something my germaphobe self cannot deal with. It’s the same reason I don’t wear my own shoes indoors: I know where my feet have been! So until making your dog wear shoes isn’t weird or cruel, I won’t be getting a dog. My friends have suggested I get a cat. Although I’ve met some really sweet cats, cats are generally not the friendliest of pets: they’re moody and can be vindictive and they often want to be the ruler of the home and I can’t deal with that either! Besides, I don’t like the idea of having litter boxes around—I have enough litter around already (har har).
When I went to Nigeria in 2008, my grandmother had a dog, Chiefy. I was excited that my grandma had a pet but it turned out he was actually a guard dog, and most of my mom’s neighbours who had dogs were using them for that purpose too: they cared for their dogs but the dog did not enter the house and so the bond between owner and dog was not as close as it could have been. When my cousin told me he had a pet dog from a breeder I thought “Finally, someone who has a pet!” but it turns out that although he wasn’t the family’s official guard dog, he was an outdoor dog. Having outdoor-only animals may not be the case in other parts of Nigeria—most of my time in Nigeria is spent in my parents’ home state of Ondo, so maybe keeping indoor pets and taking dogs for walks is done in other states; the dogs in my grandma’s neigbourhood roam free all day then come home for food and to guard the home in the evening. Goats are treated as pets in Nigeria, but we know that most people who raise goats aren’t doing it for the pure, no-strings-attached love of the animal, but while they’re alive the goats are well cared for. Baby goats are just about the cutest thing—if someone can watch a baby goat frolicking and not smile, they may need medical attention.
One of my next door neighbours has a very sweet dog and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for her boy. My friend Wendy loves the Great Dane breed so much that she started a rescue organization specifically for the bred. Another friend has called her cat her soulmate and it takes very little to get her to gush about her kitty. When the dog owners I know go away they make arrangements for their dogs to be well cared for, either by hiring someone to come and take the dog for regular walks and keep him company, or boarding the dog at a kennel where it will be taken care of and also get to interact with other dogs. A lot of people here are pet owners and I know a few dog owners who’ve admitted they prefer animals to humans.
Because of this great bond between a woman or man and their pet, the pet-related industry is booming! Have you heard of BarkBox? It’s a monthly delivery service of treats and toys for your pet (human equivalents are BirchBox in the US and Glossybox in the UK for beauty products). There are pet groomers and doggie spas (where your pup can get pawdicures) and camps for dogs, to name just a few. You can get pet insurance, a good idea given the cost of veterinary services—several of my colleagues have shared the exorbitant costs related to caring for a sick rabbit, cat, or dog.
I wonder if, as part of assimilation, more Nigerians based outside of Nigeria are becoming or will become pet owners (in comparison to the Nigeria-based population). I also wonder how business is for pet groomers in Lagos.
Do you have a pet? If so, what animal is your pet?