PG 46 PEO­PLE AND THEIR PETS

Pets (Singapore) - - Contents -

These ba­bies and furkids are best friends fur life.

Hav­ing furkids at home might seem like a hand­ful, but these su­per­mums add a hu­man jelly­bean to the equa­tion. Here’s how ded­i­cated paw-rents Janelle Phua and Lee Jia En jug­gle pets and moth­er­hood.

BY GIL­LIAN LIM

Hav­ing fe­lines in the house was al­ways on the cards for Janelle Phua—be­fore she got mar­ried to 35-year-old ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer Ray Tan, and even when she was ex­pect­ing her baby girl, Shervelle. In fact, the 32-year-old ex­ec­u­tive wasn’t too con­cerned about how Shervelle would fare in a house­hold with five cats.

Janelle has been fos­ter­ing cats since 2012, so she knows how to keep the house­hold safe for the en­tire brood— from trim­ming the cats’ nails reg­u­larly to min­imise ac­ci­den­tal scratches to mak­ing sure that Shervelle doesn’t ac­ci­den­tally eat

kitty food or lit­ter.

As Shervelle grew older, she be­came more in­quis­i­tive about her furry sib­lings and in­ad­ver­tently grabbed their fur, rolled over them, or stepped on their tails. To en­sure the well-be­ing of her fe­lines, Janelle in­stalled cat shelves for the furry five in her liv­ing room.

What pre­cau­tions did you put in place be­fore Shervelle ar­rived?

I started telling them that there’d be a new ad­di­tion to the fam­ily soon, and I found treats and fe­line pheromone sprays like Feli­way to calm them down. An­other drill I went through was to broad­cast new­born crying sounds, and to hold a doll in my arms while walk­ing around, as if I was try­ing to soothe a crying baby. I gave all my cats ac­cess to ex­plore and even utilise the baby stuff, like the rocker, cot, draw­ers, so they wouldn’t be in­tim­i­dated by all the new ob­jects pop­ping up around the house.

What kind of relationship do you want Shervelle to have with your cats?

I hope the cats can be her life­long bud­dies, play­mates and con­fi­dantes that will be there for her through her ups and downs.

Were your cats or Shervelle ever stressed or un­com­fort­able around each other?

Not my daugh­ter. (laughs) Usu­ally she’s the source of the cat’s dis­com­fort, es­pe­cially if she grabs their fur or tails. But my cats will escape to an­other part of the house or stay on higher ground when that hap­pens.

Any ac­ci­dents so far?

They’re un­avoid­able… there were a few in­stances when my daugh­ter grabbed the fur or the tails of the cats when she was learn­ing to crawl, and the cats beat her to release her grip be­fore run­ning away. Even when my daugh­ter was sleep­ing, she fell vic­tim to cats chas­ing each other and got scratched as they ran past her.

Out of the five cats, is there one that’s Shervelle’s favourite?

Yes. Fyl­lis was adopted to be Shervelle’s cat from the very be­gin­ning. They’ll snug­gle to­gether to sleep as if they’ve been best friends for the long­est time. Shervelle loves to play fetch with Fyl­lis’ favourite mouse toy—when she finds the toy, she will go look­ing for Fyl­lis. No mat­ter how Shervelle pulls her tail or fur, this silly cat will still re­turn to her side.

What do you feel are some ben­e­fits of hav­ing pets and ba­bies grow up to­gether? I see a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in her im­mu­nity as com­pared to her peers who don’t have pets. Prior to her en­rol­ment into preschool when she was 18 months old, Shervelle was never down with cough or flu de­spite our fam­ily hav­ing a his­tory of al­ler­gies and child­hood asthma. Plus, Shervelle’s pick­ing up skills such as com­pas­sion and be­ing mind­ful of her sur­round­ings. She’s learnt that fight­ing is wrong, so she will now “scold” the cats when she sees them fight­ing. (laughs)

As a first-time stay-at-home mum and paw-rent of seven-year-old Silky Ter­rier Kairi, Lee Jia En strug­gled to find a bal­ance be­tween both of her charges. When twoyear-old tod­dler Carissa was younger,

Jia En had to be with her constantly as she was a very needy and dif­fi­cult baby. As a re­sult, spend­ing time with Kairi was a chal­lenge, and tak­ing her out for long walks was close to im­pos­si­ble. “You have to constantly re­mind your­self to give your pet some love and at­ten­tion every now and then,” she shares.

Hav­ing grown up with dogs her­self, she knew how colour­ful life could be with a furry one in the house. Be­fore she brought Carissa home from the hos­pi­tal, she told her hus­band, Qifeng, to bring a piece of Carissa’s cloth­ing home so Kairi would be­come fa­mil­iarised with her scent.

For the first few weeks, the hy­per­ac­tive pooch was wary of the obliv­i­ous new­born babe and seemed con­fused. “She’d of­ten hide in the cor­ner of the room and it re­ally broke my heart to see her like that,” says Jia En. “It took about a month or two for Kairi to be­come com­fort­able with Carissa. But now they re­ally en­joy spend­ing time with each other. Carissa loves to play pre­tend, so Kairi will some­times be Carissa’s food taster when she’s a chef, or her pa­tient when she’s a doc­tor.”

De­scribe the first in­ter­ac­tion that Carissa and Kairi had.

I al­lowed Kairi to sniff Carissa the mo­ment I brought her home from the hos­pi­tal. Carissa, be­ing a new­born, was asleep and un­aware of what­ever was go­ing on. Kairi was ex­cited yet rather ap­pre­hen­sive.

She wasn’t too keen on in­ter­act­ing with Carissa af­ter that first meet­ing so I gave her space and time un­til she was ready.

Were you ever wor­ried that the two might not get along?

I wasn’t wor­ried about Carissa be­cause I my­self grew up around dogs. I was ac­tu­ally more con­cerned about how Kairi would feel with a new ad­di­tion to the fam­ily as she had al­ways been my “baby”. (laughs)

What did the rest of the house­hold think? Thank­fully, both sides of the fam­ily didn’t have any­thing neg­a­tive to say. My side of the fam­ily have al­ways been dog lovers, and my in-laws are very easy-go­ing peo­ple. They give us the free­dom and space to par­ent Carissa the way we want, which I am very thank­ful for.

Were there any ac­ci­dents?

No ma­jor ones. There were a few times when Carissa would ac­ci­den­tally step on Kairi’s paws, but Kairi would just walk away. I al­ways keep a close eye on them when they’re to­gether, and I of­ten re­mind Carissa to look out for Kairi when she’s run­ning about lest she ac­ci­den­tally steps or trips over Kairi.

How can you tell they like spend­ing time with each other?

They’re al­ways very com­fort­able around each other and Kairi likes to be in close prox­im­ity of Carissa—es­pe­cially when Carissa has food. (laughs) Carissa also oc­ca­sion­ally asks for Kairi when she wakes up in the morn­ing or when we’re out with­out Kairi. Some­times she’ll look for Kairi just to give her a pet on the head.

Were there any in­ter­ac­tions be­tween the two that sur­prised you?

Kairi went for her ster­il­i­sa­tion surgery just a few months back and be­fore I went to pick Kairi up from the vet, I re­minded Carissa not more than twice to avoid touch­ing Kairi when she’s home as she’d be in a lot of pain. I didn’t know if Carissa un­der­stood, but I was pleas­antly sur­prised when I brought Kairi home and Carissa re­ally didn’t touch her! She just kept telling me, “Kairi see doc­tor. Kairi pain pain.”

The next day, she asked me if she could touch Kairi and when I said yes, she was so gen­tle with her!

Do you plan on get­ting more pets? Def­i­nitely! In fact, I’m al­ready plan­ning to get Carissa a pet of her own when she’s older. Some time back, I told her that I’d get her a guinea pig when she’s older and she replied with: “Thank you, Mummy!”

Please share three tips on how to suc­cess­fully run a house­hold with both ba­bies and pets.

1. Al­ways su­per­vise your furkid and baby when they’re play­ing to­gether.

2. In­volve your pets in your day-to-day ac­tiv­i­ties with your kids as much as possible, and vice versa. Your kids will learn a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and your pets won’t feel like they’re be­ing ne­glected. 3. Be a good role model to your kids. Al­ways treat your pets the way you want your kids to treat them—with gen­tle­ness, love, and re­spect.

Janelle, Shervelle and Ray with their fe­lines (from top, left to right) Chaffy, Bucky, Olive, Fyl­lis, and Ey­oru. JANELLE PHUA, 32, EX­EC­U­TIVE RAY TAN, 35, ED­U­CA­TION OF­FI­CER SHERVELLE TAN, 21 MONTHS BUCKY, 9, DO­MES­TIC SHORTHAIR CHAFFY, 9, DO­MES­TIC...

Qifeng, Jia En, Carissa and Kairi LEE JIA EN, 30, STAY-ATHOME MOM HO QIFENG, 32, CHEM­I­CAL EN­GI­NEER CARISSA HO WEN TING, 26 MONTHS KAIRI, 7, SILKY TER­RIER

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