After moving into our first apartment, my husband and I adopted a kitten. We visited a few different shelters and rescue groups before choosing our little gray and white ball of fluff. He was so small that he could be weighed in a food scale. But he didn’t make a sound when he received his first round of shots. Instead, he gave the vet a distinctly dirty look.

“Well you’re a little tough guy,” my husband said with a laugh. We named our kitten Sonny, after the character in A Bronx Tale. We bought a litter box and a few toys and took him home. He settled in instantly. We talked about giving Sonny a dog friend someday.

And now – 13 years and two children later – “someday” appears have arrived. Both our girls are fascinated by animals, and my older daughter says she wants to be a vet. They understand the work and the fun of life with a pet. We’re applying to get our future dog from a rescue as well. We want to provide a home to an animal that needed one. And as I talked to my daughters about the adoption process, it struck me: adopting an animal is a very Jewish thing to do.

Make a shidduch:

Adopting an animal from a rescue is a multi-step process. There’s a formal application, an interview, a home visit, and, of course, the whole household has to meet their future pet. It seems intense, but the intent is to match families with animals best suited to them. Rescue groups, shelters, and breeders want to help forge a bond that lasts a lifetime.

Hospitality: It’s kind of a big deal.

In the Torah, it’s noteworthy that Abraham gave strangers water and food. In biblical times, hospitality had to be a way of life. There was no Waze app or gas station attendant for travelers to ask for directions. Without food or water, lost people could die in the arid landscape. Today, stray animals wander through a desert of human indifference, waiting for someone to open their door. Families that take these animals into their homes and lives are extra special.

Kindness and empathy are important

“Cat” was the third word each of my daughters learned to say. I wanted them to learn that Sonny was part of our family. We reminded them not to pull his tail or hurt him in any way. And even these little lessons had their foundation in Judaism. The Torah forbids animal cruelty. We are not allowed to be the cause of an animal’s physical or psychological pain, a principle known as tza’ar baalei chayim.

Appreciate all the creatures on Earth

My daughters and I volunteer in the cat room of an animal rescue. Our job is to help the felines get used to human interaction, which will hopefully help them get adopted faster. On our first day, my younger daughter discovered the cat she was petting only had one eye. She jumped back, surprised and a little scared. I told her the cat had been hurt before, but we could help her feel better. I pointed out all the cat’s wonderful qualities. When we returned, my daughter wanted to visit this cat first. “She is so soft, Mama! And she’s nice. She likes me! She’s purring!” Abby, the one-eyed cat, taught my daughter the importance of Kavod Habriyot – the appreciation of all God’s creatures.

I know I am an imperfect parent. When I look back at my children’s childhoods, there will be decisions I’ll regret. But raising my children in a home with rescued animals will never make that list. There are too many life lessons – Jewish life lessons – they can learn through the experience. Moses was chosen to lead the Jews out of Egypt after his compassion for a lost sheep. My children don’t have to grow up be the next Moses (though that would, admittedly, be cool). I’m already proud of them. Both of them are already compassionate. They want to help. They are loving to humans and animals alike. This is one thing I know I’m doing right.