If you own a pet, I suppose every day is National Pet Day in some capacity. That said, the official holiday is today, and that's enough of an excuse to give my two sweet cats extra treats (as if the one needs anymore).

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski

Right at the onset of the pandemic, I took in two beautiful orange brothers. I affectionately named them "Siskel and Ebert," after film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, two of my biggest idols. It was a happy coincidence I took them in at a time where lockdowns and a whole lot of nothing defined the majority of our lives.

With many local establishments closed, and events indefinitely delayed or outright cancelled, it was beyond comforting to know I wasn't going home to an empty apartment.

A recent survey conducted by the National Pet Owners Survey found that about 90.5 million families own a pet of some kind. That's up from 56% in 1988. It's not of great surprise that a dog ranked as the most popular pet owned, with over 69 million owned in the US alone. Cats come up second with a little over 45 million owned, with freshwater fish rounding out the top three at just under 12 million.

My first cat, Simba (1998 - 2014).
My first cat, Simba (1998 - 2014), rocking the obnoxious Batman dog-tag I gave him.

I've been a cat lover since I was a child. I remember being hellbent on getting one when I was four-years-old, and then crying when the local shelter told my mother that they were leery about adopting one to a family with a toddler. Long story short, my mother got her way, but not without something of a fight. That's how my first cat, Simba, entered my life — where he remained until he passed in 2014.

Pets are an indispensable part of many of our lives. Regardless of our mess-up(s) at work, our perceived shortcomings, or aspects of ourselves we don't like, our dogs, cats, hamsters, fishes, horses, or reptiles couldn't care less. They're still as excited as ever when you return home.

I sometimes jokingly berate my two cats when I leave the house at 5:45 AM for work every weekday. "Must be nice not to have to earn a living and pay taxes," or something to that tune, is my usual quip. Sometimes, they're messy. Sometimes, they're destructive (my cats managed to knock over and break my TV just a few weeks after I adopted them). And vet visits might have you feeling like you'll need to take out a loan.

But even when I'm frustrated at my boys, I'm frequently reminded that without them, or pets in general, life would be significantly less beautiful. The only people who don't grasp the connection that can be formed by a human and an animal are, to me, people who have never owned one nor put forth the effort.

To me and the millions of other pet owners, I know that we know. Because anytime we have had to leave them at the vets overnight, we can all tell you how eerily quiet the house is that evening.

Hug your pets. Especially on National Pet Day.

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