Nintendogs + Cats Didn’t Prepare Me For The Reality Of Owning Kittens

This week I became the owner of two adorable Calico kittens. Amity and Adora are both untold bundles of joy and mischievous little bastards who make writing features like this a tiny bit difficult. Yet I wouldn’t change them for the world -even in the past few days, watching them become more confident and express their personalities is so rewarding, yet I can’t help but feel that all the cutesy pet games I played as a kid did nothing to prepare me for the actual reality of owning pets of my own.

For one, there isn’t a single moment in Nintendogs + Cats for the 3DS where you’re asked about the possibility of pet insurance or charged £200 for vaccinations. None of the animals piss on your curtains or interrupt an important Zoom call by stepping on your computer’s reset button either. These games didn’t lie to us, but they certainly glazed over the teething troubles of bringing two adorable yet unpredictable felines into your home.

Nintendogs was huge back in the day, with the handheld console it called home capturing the casual audience much like the Switch has today. We saw myriad games focused on fashion, brain training, and, perhaps most importantly – pet ownership. I knew countless people who took time out of each day to unflip their DS and check on their virtual pets, making sure they were being fed, walked, and cared for. In reality, it was little more than a bundle of barking and meowing pixels, but the experience was so well crafted that you couldn’t help but feel entranced. But it does sanitise the real thing somewhat.

When you aren’t performing normal activities or chores, all of your pets gather in a plaza to play and grab your attention, begging to be interacted with using the touchscreen. Even today it’s a wonderful thing to witness, and even though my parents owned a number of animals when I was kid, this was the first time I could take care of one that felt like it belonged to me. I felt like a proud mother thanks to Nintendogs, even if they ceased to exist the moment I closed the system and walked away. Real animals are a bit different…

Firstly, kittens are very high maintenance. While they will soon grow into cats who will happily waltz off and do their own thing during the day, as babies they require constant attention and monitoring to make sure they aren’t chewing wires or pissing behind the curtains. Both of which they’ve done by the way, the latter resulting in me learning the hard lesson of how expensive dry cleaning is. But I still love them, and I can hardly punish children for making little mistakes they can hardly understand. I treat everything as a learning experience as Amity and Adora pick up on my own little habits and behaviours and almost seek to mimic them, making sure I’m never out of sight unless I want to be greeted with a chorus of meows.

I always found it really strange when baby dolls and other such toys were marketed to young girls as a kid, almost conditioning them to appreciate the difficulties of motherhood and what they are expected to grow into. It remains disturbing, but depicting the fantasy of owning a pet feels far more realistic, showcasing the serotonin of doting over a cute animal without any of the responsibility. As children, we are always curious to mimic the behaviour of our elders to feel like adults ourselves, whether it be through toys, media, or games like this which give us the illusion of responsibility that can easily be cast aside like it’s nothing.

Raising animals is hard work, even more so when you’ve got two of them causing chaos while you’re trying to be a gamer. But the end result is worthwhile, and something I honestly didn’t expect this medium to prepare me for. Nintendogs doesn’t make you pay for pet insurance or clean up piss though, so it’s garbage.

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