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Photo courtesy Eda Kamal

Did they know it meant goodbye? The impacts of surrendering a pet

By Eda Kamal, December 11 2023—

Around six years ago, my family drove to Petland one evening to purchase two budgies — one for me and one for my little brother. That Monday, I printed photos of my new pets to show everyone at school. I was so proud that my parents were entrusting me with the ownership of a pet after I had begged for one my whole life. Granted, the birds were a settlement. I’d been begging for a cat since I was conscious (and probably before), but my parents were not entirely enthused by the amount of work an animal like that would generate. In our minds, and from the rudimentary amount of research I could conduct at that age, budgies seemed like a “smaller deal” than a cat, and all was well. I named them, lovingly decorated their cage and would let them walk around the house sometimes. For most of my middle school experience, my birds made home a better place for me to be. When the house was empty, their music would fill it, and cleaning out and redecorating their cage gave me a sense of responsibility and fulfilment. 

Due to some lack of knowledge on my and my parent’s parts, two birds quickly turned into six. Raising baby chicks in my house (during the winter) added a lot of responsibility, stress and financial strain to our lives, but we were able to juggle it. The birds would take care of each other and were truly a happy little family within themselves. Soon after, my baby brother was born. Six birds, three kids and four adults including two seniors in the house was a lot to sustain. Towards the transition from middle to high school, I also began struggling a lot with my mental health and interpersonal relationships. I couldn’t give my birds the love, attention, or care they needed and deserved. I couldn’t stand to see the innocent animals lack what they needed because of my inability to take care of them or myself. As a result of the building stress, in January 2020, I surrendered my six beautiful birds to the Calgary Humane Society and they were quickly picked up by new families. The only bad part was the birds were mostly separated and their family was split. I cried about that for a long time. After this experience, the concept of pet ownership was put on a shelf for me. I didn’t think I was ready for or worthy of that kind of bond and responsibility again. 

However, the nagging desire to own a cat always remained, even when I owned the birds. I don’t know what it is about felines, but I’ve always felt like having one around the house would boost my motivation and self-image with their own natural confidence. I craved that specific kind of connection for my entire life from before I knew how to speak. Every time I visit a friend or relative, I find the cat before even meeting the person. To say I have always loved and wanted a cat would be a stark understatement — but the way I had to let go of my birds made me feel undeserving. Over the last few years, I focused on steadily working on my mental health and relationship with my family and friends. The amount of growth I’ve done is unimaginable, and for the entirety of 2023, I’ve been asking my parents if we can welcome a cat into our home seeing as I’m living at home for university. They were just as hurt as I was by what happened with my birds, and the wound remained quite fresh, but I watched as their refusal morphed into entertaining the concept into genuine consideration. As if it were a dream, I sit now surrounded by supplies for the cat I’ll be adopting in the next few weeks.

Photo courtesy Eda Kamal

To current or future pet owners — letting go is visceral, it hurts. I would honestly rather have given away a hand than my birds. But years ago, when I surrendered my birds, it was the best choice for their wellbeing. I could not in good faith continue to spiral mentally while they were in my care, because I would begin neglecting their basic needs. If the animal in your care is suffering, or if you don’t see yourself being able to take care of them, it may be worth looking into options that will allow them and you to hurt less.

Looking back, I don’t believe that I gave up on my budgies — I think I gave them an opportunity to flourish when I could no longer care for them. Letting go was the best thing I could do on their behalf. Letting go gave me the space to grow and become someone who had the emotional, mental, and financial capacity to adopt a cat after conducting an actual acceptable amount of research and spending many sleepless nights debating how it would end. I know I can commit this time. I have faith in myself. I know when my cat is purring in my lap, all the heartbreak and tears will be worth the growth required to come to this point. 

This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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