This post is by TheNotMom team writer Laura LaVoie:
Many non-parents refer to their pets as children, or furbabies, or other terms that indicate a familial relationship. Many parents find this practice nauseating, suggesting that the thought of a human having a parental relationship with an animal is actually a problem with our society.
I belong in a camp that is firmly in the middle.
We have a cat. She turned 12 on April 29th. She cordially requested cheese in lieu of cards or presents. We’ve had her since she was 13 weeks old, and she is more than a pet. Intellectually, we understand that she is not our child, though we do find ourselves referring to each other as her Mommy and Daddy when we’re talking to her. We have no idea why, but after more than a decade it is way too late to stop doing it now.
Is the question really “Are our pets a replacement for children?” Or, are we asking the wrong question to begin with? Some people simply have more of an affinity for animals and less of it for children. I know plenty of families with kids and pets who feel similarly about their own animals. So, why do I sometimes feel judged for my choice to have a pet and not a kid?
I am not talking about some game my mind is playing where I think people are talking about me behind my back. No, some people have actually said this to me.
An animal can fill a very special place in our hearts, but with a caveat. I am not looking for my cat to replace anything. She isn’t a substitute for a child. She is my cat and I love her as my cat. She is affectionate and full of personality. I have a hard time sleeping at night if she isn’t curled up with me. (Don’t tell my allergist.) She is my companion and I wouldn’t know what to do without her, but she isn’t a child. If I had wanted a child, I would have had one.
Psychologists don’t believe there is any real harm in treating pets like children. As this article points out, “The blatant puppy love much of America is displaying does not spell the end of society as we know it, and the pet-obsessed are not pathetically off-kilter humans in need of intense therapy.”
So, I am going to celebrate with my birthday cat and continue having deep philosophical conversations with her. It is an injustice to think of her as a replacement anything, so instead I will continue to think of her as the best cat ever.
*Laura’s heartthrob is a Sphynx cat, a hairless breed.