So, I had an idea a while back to put this little bit up here and play a game with it. It's an column for an online pet owner's magazine in a fantasy setting. It's also up in fantasy for actual critiques, but I thought it might be fun to do an audience-participation game where people write comments for the comments section that in-universe would be right under this article. People seemed to like the idea when I floated it in the lounge, so here it is. Spoiler So you're thinking of keeping a fae? They're not normally the kinds of animals we like to cover here, but since the change fae are quickly becoming a popular pet (if that's really the right word) across the country. If you've found a fae living in your home and have decided to keep them, here are some things you need to know. Wait, why is the cat guy writing a column on fae? Good question. I normally write columns on cats, so it seems like an odd choice. Well, the reason I normally write cat columns is because I run a kitten rescue and foster home. I am still a practicing veterinarian, but cats have been my specialty for a long time because of my volunteer work with them. About two years ago, I had a mother cat and half a dozen newborn kittens dropped on my doorstep in a pet carrier. I didn't realize they had a friend until the next day, when I found her curled up with the litter. She's lived here ever since, and since she wouldn't let me give them up she brought me up to nine pet cats. She was about two years old already when she found her way to me, and she's four years old now. From what I've been able to gather, fae and human years are about the same. Their high intelligence, long lives and ease of maintenance makes them attractive options for new pet owners, but there are some difficulties that need to be addressed before bringing one into your home. Does all this apply to fairies and pixies? Fairies yes, pixies no. Fairies and fae are the same species, just different breeds. Pixies are a separate species, and are quite a bit smaller and less intelligent. Pixies require different care, and I am not the one to speak about it because I have never owned a pixie. Basic care and preparations: Fae can fly as early as they can walk, usually before their first birthday. It is very important to remember this when caring for them, because like with cats there is no such thing as something being "out of reach". Food, cleaning chemicals, sharp objects and firearms must be put away, not just put up, because fae are even better at getting to high places than cats are. Worse yet, fae are smart enough to open cupboards and drawers, the only limitation being their small size and lack of strength. They have a hard time opening doors with knobs due to their size, but a lock is the most effective way of keeping them from getting into things they shouldn't. If this isn't an option, put things in a middle drawer, one high enough they need to fly to reach it but not high enough they can reach it from the counter top, as they cannot apply enough force to open most drawers while flying. If there is no such drawer, the top drawer is still better than the bottom. With older fae, however, you should use the same defence you should with older children, and that is trust. They WILL get into anything given enough time and determination, you actually can't stop them, so keeping something locked and making sure they understand they aren't supposed to get into it (and why) is the best way to make sure they never want to get into it enough to try that hard. Just as importantly, remember to close all windows. Fae are curious and like to explore, and if you leave a window open for them they will fly out of it. I found this out the hard way, with my little friend deciding to explore my back yard while I was at work. That said, this only applies if you don't trust them outside yet. Fae are not indoor "pets", they like to go outside and once they're old enough they should be allowed to, at least with your knowledge and preferably with your supervision at first. Eventually, they should be able to go out on their own. One noteworthy issue with fae is pesticides. Fae, like elves, have a biology somewhere between mammals and insects and many insecticides that have little or no negative effect on humans can irritate them or even make them sick. If you live on a farm, this is especially important. Fae are carnivores, so there's no risk of them eating your crops, but pesticides will give them rashes and if ingested accidentally it can make them sick. Some pesticides are even capable of causing their hair to fall out if it touches the roots. Thankfully, I was unable to find record of any fatalities, and the worst problems I could find were with neonicotinoids, which can cause brain damage and seizures. If you want a fae, do NOT use neonicotinoid pesticides. You also should never give them caffeine, as caffeine is mildly toxic to them, causing disorientation, tremors and indigestion. While there seems to be no long-term consequences to giving them caffeine, the short-term consequences are unpleasant and messy. So, what does my fae eat? This is pretty straightforward: Meat. Some plant products are digestible to them, nectar and honey seem on the top of the list along with mashed fruit (such as jam or tomato sauce) and cooked vegetables (especially mashed potatos and cabbage), but meat is the most common food source for them. Fae have a powerful immune system and their bodies are inhospitable to parasites, so raw meat is less of a concern, but for safety's sake you should always cook their food anyway. Remember that most plant matter is indigestible to them, but this doesn't always mean it'll cause them problems. Fibre is indigestible to us, but that's why we eat it, and it's also why cats and dogs eat grass. As for specific kinds of meat, fae are naturally insectivores, from what we've heard from elves. Elven information is highly questionable, however. It's elven information that claims that pixies are made through fae/fairy miscegenation, and we know for a fact that's impossible. Obviously the traits will vary between individuals, but my experience and the information available elsewhere says they like red meat and fowl and are not fans of seafood at all, which likely relates to their natural hunting behaviour, as an animal their size with their limited capacity for flight would likely hunt small mammals and flightless birds more than anything else. Their distaste for anything that comes out of the water, however, probably also comes from their hunting behaviour, as I can imagine their wings would make fishing difficult. Just remember that when feeding your fae, try not to include too much plant matter and make sure that what little they eat should be washed, and preferably cooked, fruit and vegetables, never grains. Grains often retain pesticides even when cooked, and some grains irritate their digestive tract naturally. Never give them alcohol, not because it is especially toxic to them (it isn't) but because they are very small and it takes much less alcohol to make them sick than you might expect. Worse, alcohol derived from grains often still has traces of pesticide in them, and that will only make more of a mess. So, what about other pets? Fae are good with cats. That isn't just my experience, what I've been able to find online says the same thing. Fae and cats are about the same size, and for some reason cats don't seem to ever see them as prey, so they get along about as well as two cats would. This is especially true if they are introduced to one another at a young age, as mine were, as the cats seem quick to treat the fae as a flying kitten. Given that cats already are believed to perceive humans as large, two-legged cats, this isn't really that strange. Dogs, on the other hand, can be a problem. The defining factors are the dog's temperament, and size. Fae are extremely uncomfortable around large dogs, at least at first, and are inclined to run from the dog. Most dogs will attack anything that runs away from them, and the size difference makes this unacceptable. However, the biggest threat is not that your dog will kill a fae, it's that the fae will kill your dog. This is the worst thing about fae, if they are afraid that your dog might kill them, they are more than smart enough to kill it. The key is to make sure they aren't that afraid in the first place. Introduce them to eachother with some separation, so the dog can't reach them and they don't feel tempted to run. Let them know they will be meeting your dog ahead of time, and make sure your dog is good with both small children and small animals. If your dog is not good with small children or small animals, you may have to make the choice of which one you want to keep. Small dogs are a different matter. Like with cats, they are friendly with small dogs, as long as the dog is their size or smaller and isn't aggressive. Some dogs at this size are still a bad idea, such as terriers, but unless they are attacked they won't be violent towards them, and even then are unlikely to take it as far. Just remember that they have many traits of both small children and small animals, and dogs that are good with one but not the other are a bad fit for them. Remember, this isn't the fae's fault. It's not the dog's fault either. Some animals just don't get along, and it's unreasonable to expect that to change just because they're your pets. What about children? This depends on the fae and the child, but for the most part there's no issues with fae and children. I have a six-year old, and they act more like brother and sister than owner and pet, which is one of many reasons why I'm not sure "pet" is the right word, even if everybody else has settled on it. I've heard it said that fae are probably the best "pets" to have around children, and it's true, but as near as I can tell that's as much because they're not really pets as it is anything in their temperament. What about living space? This is a hard question to answer, and largely depends on the fae. More solitary fae will like their own housing, like cat trees and large fairy houses, but more affectionate fae generally prefer to be close to you, your children or your pets. Most fae will vary between these, wanting their own living space but spending most of their time with others. My little one is in this third category. We were lucky enough to have the money to make her a little custom house, complete with a bedroom and everything, that she can retreat into whenever she wants. This is the best option. Houses for them can be purchased online as well, but custom ones are more reliable as fae and pixies are different sizes and the online ones might be mislabelled. Make sure and get the size right before you buy. It's also important that you don't use a doll house, the doors don't actually work and closing the doll house would trap them, so you'd have to leave it open and that doesn't provide them the same sense of privacy and security. What about clothing? Fae can and probably should wear clothing, but it has to be made for them or at least adjusted for them. Proper fae clothing usually has button-up or zip-up sides and gaps on the back, these are both to accommodate their wings. Clothing that is loose can also work for coverage as long as the holes are present and in the right place, but that makes it difficult for them to fly and they are likely to remove, and lose, such clothing. Fae don't like skirts for the same reason, they also create too much drag when flying, so try and get them pants. Shoes are extremely valuable to protect their feet from cold, but when it's hot they will refuse to wear shoes and heavier clothing, make sure you have something suitably light for them or they will be flying around naked every time it gets hot. Education? If you want to educate your fae, it won't hurt anything. It can also be fun, and may even be helpful. Some owners don't like their fae being able to read, because of how curious and nosy fae can be, but that argument is about as bad for fae as it is for children, and the solution to that issue is the same for both of them. Some owners also insist fae aren't smart enough to learn, but this isn't true either. Fae have a reputation for being scatter-brained that largely holds true, but they aren't stupid and even if they are less intelligent on average than humans it isn't by that much. Unfortunately, there hasn't been many studies into exact intelligence in fae, and we're all painfully aware of the uselessness of measurements like IQ, so we can't say for sure how intelligent fae actually are, but if you treat somebody like they're an idiot, it doesn't help them become anything else. So, how do I go about getting a fae? The problem with this question is that you, for the most part, don't "get" fae. Fae come to you, usually when they're very young, or you find them on accident when they need help. If you do want a fae and don't have one, you can get one from a pet shelter but it should be a young one, a baby if at all possible, as adult fae will reject being taken by people if it wasn't their idea. I'd even argue that pet shelters shouldn't keep adult fae, specifically for that reason. You also shouldn't take a fae from a shelter if it still has parents unless you know they want to go with you and their parents want to give them up. Treat it like adoption, it's not an adoption if they and their parents want to stay together. You should also never buy fae from a store, the conditions in which those fae were produced for sale are almost always inhumane, their parents are kept only to breed and they were taken from them against their will. If you care at all, you will boycott any store that sells fae and tell others to do the same. But if you happen to find a fae in need, or if one comes to you, or there's a lonely one in a shelter, they deserve a loving home, and if you can give it to them, you should. Next week, I'll be back to talking about cats.