Nigerians and pets

Nigerian goats

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?

15 thoughts on “Nigerians and pets

  1. I love pets-dogs, birds, cat/electric fish! Cats are good pets to have but on the other side of it, they can be dangerous animals and especially on this part of the world (Nigeria).

    I can’t but point out a few phrases that either got me laughing out loud or left me wondering and asking questions…

    “…So until making your dog wear shoes isn’t weird or cruel, I won’t be getting a dog…” I couldn’t stop laughing. If you are not seeing it as being weird, who cares and it would be fun how you go about doing that.

    …”Another friend has called her cat her soulmate”…”I know a few dog owners who’ve admitted they prefer animals to humans”… If anything is to be seeing as being weird, trust me its those two quoted phrases, but I guess individuals and their ways of life.

    I enjoyed this piece though, weldone!

    • Thanks for commenting, James—I’m glad you found it funny. Do you have any pets? Please tell me more about cats and their perception in Nigeria (I’ll also ask my parents).

      Regarding weirdness: remember? I work my quirk!

  2. As you know I have a cat. Goofy the internets coolest cat. Also cats really are not evil. You just have to pet them in approved ways. I will try and send you a chart so you can understand the approved cat petting.

    I’m pretty sure if you got a cat you would be very happy with it especially if it became a lap cat.
    so snuggly hehe

    • Your cat is quite cute, Matt! He likes going outside though so I’d have the same germaphobe issue as I have with dogs.

      The petting chart is funny but quite useful—maybe I’ve petted a cat in the wrong zone before!

  3. I think its relatively easier to keep pets in Nigeria than say North America because we don’t have too many laws regarding pets. Plus a lot of people don’t take seriously the vet-pet relationship around here.

    About pet groomers, you would most likely be referring to dog groomers in Nigeria. I would assume business is relatively good depending on what part of Lagos you are. It’s a pity you don’t have vets for any pets other than dogs(and maybe cats).

    Anyways, I think you should keep a pet- if you can. Keeping Zizu makes me understand and love nature more. When I think about his intelligence, I am constantly reminded about how much we don’t know about what we see around us.

    • You make a great point, Seye: all Canadian provinces and territories have animal protection laws and if charged, someone breaking the law can serve jail time for acts of cruelty toward animals (e.g. not feeding your animal for long periods of time).

      The pet-vet relationship in Nigeria may be the way it is because there are that many who are true pet owners in the sense of having an animal that has full reign of your home. Because of that there’s a bit of a distance between owner and animal such that should the animal fall sick, there isn’t that same level of desperation to try anything and everything to help the animal like I see here. But like you said the end result is that there isn’t easy access to a bird expert, for example.

      Aww, I’m glad that Zizu has had a positive impact on you—it makes me almost consider getting another fish.

  4. I grew up with at least a dog at a time in my home and the only thing we had to do with the dog was feed it and give it a bath once a month * I think*. We never walked our dogs, the dog walked by itself, and came back home at meal times. Having my own home now we are talking about pets because my kids are at the age when they think having a pet is cool but I know they are not ready for the responsibility involved with keeping one. To curb my daughter’s craving for a dog, she gets to babysit my neighbors dog sometimes so she can get a taste of what it feels like to take care of a pet.

    • Did your pet dog sleep indoors or outdoors, Okeoghene? It’s a good idea to let your daughter get a taste of having a pet without committing to one right away: the reality can sometimes (not always) be different from the romanticized version in one’s head!

  5. I am not into pets. It is like taking care of another baby in the house. I grew up with guard dogs, when the last one died 5 years ago, my parents didn’t get another. My kids also wanted a dog, by the time, I gave them the rules of taking care of it, they don’t ask again! The cost of maintaining a pet here, as I have seen is expensive!

    • I cannot imagine having five children plus a dog to handle so I don’t blame you, Nitty! You and Okeoghene think similarly: if your kids come to you again with a desire to have a pet you should see if you have a neighbour who has a pet that your kids can have a trial with!

      Yes the cost to keep a pet here is significant—it’s why some opt for pet insurance so that if very large costs come up (i.e. surgery) it can be covered.

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