Has your pet been trying to communicate something to you when you are feeding it?

The Torah takes feeding pets very seriously. So much so that we’ve got to feed our animals even before we feed ourselves. That means that if you’re really hungry and it is feeding time for Sebastian, you’ve got to take care of your pet first.

I know that it sounds like this was made up by the ASPCA but in fact, the Talmud (Bava Metzia 32b) teaches us this halacha. It is one of the Torah’s many rules that accentuate Judaism’s sensitivity to the needs of animals.

One interesting caveat: This rule only applies to eating and not to drinking. This is why the biblical Rebecca served water to a servant before watering his camels. So if you are thirsty and so is your gerbil, you can grab that Coke first. [Mishna Brurah (167:40)]

Of course, this only applies to animals that are relying on us for food. It is not your obligation to feed stray animals – and certainly not before you eat.[Shu”t Shvus Yaakov (vol. XIII, §13)]  

One last but very important point. Feeding your animals only takes precedence over your eating. But feeding your children or your guests should come before your pets are given food.[Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 2:52) and Piskei Teshuvos (167:15)] In other words, our role of caring for animals should never take precedence over our responsibility to care for other human beings. The rules of halacha convey basic values that should forge our perspectives.


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