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Why Pet Owners Can’t Help Treating Their Pets Like Children

Updated on May 9, 2011

I’ve oft written about the experiences I’ve had since taking in two stray cats. Up to the point where we got the two cats (a brother and sister who had been abandoned and literally walked through our patio door one nice evening) my family had only had one pet during my formative years. We had a dog that was a Cockapoo that was a gift for my brother when his asthma prevented him to continue the horse riding he had loved so much. He named the dog Apollo Skylab and we had him for a long time. I was completely unprepared for owning cats but over the course of the last five years of having them I feel as though I’ve been a responsible and pretty damn good owner. But as I crept more and more into that dangerous water of becoming one of “those” pet owners who talk incessantly about their animals and think everything they do is adorable, I resisted as much as possible and stayed in the shallow end of that pool. But a recent event got me to thinking why we pet owners just can’t seem to help ourselves. Why pet owners can’t help treating their pets like children – Don’t Get Me Started!

As my life got taken over by cat toys, rollers of masking tape to remove their hair from everything I owned (a futile but much needed task because within moments it can get completely out of control until your whole life is covered in fur) and catering to their likes and dislikes in their food, the room temperature and everything else I discovered that while I didn’t see them as my children, I treated them that way. In a way you can’t help yourself because they seem like a baby, so helpless. After all, they can’t tell you what’s wrong or what they need(though I know some people are convinced that they communicate in a non-verbal, ESP sort of way, the bottom line is that they can’t actually speak to you and say, “No, I don’t want that food, it sucks, I don’t care that it was on sale.” Instead they simply look at you with what seems a disgusted sneer and then scratch around the food bowl as if they’re covering it up like a turd. Sure, you get the message loud and clear but they didn’t really “speak” to you.) And like a baby, they need you to feed them, brush them, love on them so that they can become decent full grown pets, right? So it’s easy to see how the lines become a bit blurry.

And like parents my spouse and I sometimes chastise one another for not “parenting” as the other thinks he should be parenting. “If you keep letting them wake you up in the middle of the night to pet them that’s all they’re ever going to do, you don’t expect them to know that you have to work tomorrow and stop on their own do you? You’ve taught them to wake you up when they want attention so that’s what they’re going to do.” This is a common comment from my spouse when I tell him I’m exhausted in the morning and it’s the cats’ fault. Just writing that makes me cringe but you (and more to the point, I) have to admit it sounds awfully “parenting” to me.

But recently I discovered just how far I’ve slipped into the abyss of cat owners who think of their pets as their children. Due to the fact that our cats started their lives (we think) outside, we’ve always allowed them to be indoor/outdoor cats. The male is a big cat that is the most needy cat you’ve ever met in your life. When he’s inside he has the need to be on my lap all the time. Sometimes I find myself trying not to sit down for fear he’ll see me sitting and immediately jump into my lap. The female cat is very tiny (runt of the litter we think) with an alien-like look that often gives me the feeling that she’s disgusted with me. But they’re very loving cats that spend a lot of time on our laps and purring loudly. Well the other day I was outside and there was our male cat outside too. He was just strolling about and as I got closer to him I noticed that this cat who can’t stand to be anywhere but on my lap when inside was ignoring me when he was outside. That’s right, he wouldn’t look at me (even when I called his name) and he just scooted about in front of me as if he had no idea who I was and that’s when it really started to sink in. I had become the parent of a teenage cat. I immediately felt as though he was embarrassed by me and that his acting like he didn’t know me was to “save face” in front of his cat friends. Can any of this be founded in reality? Absolutely not. But I certainly felt that way so all my efforts over these past years were in vain. All the promising not to do holiday cards with pictures of my cats on them or entering them into the “cute cat picture” contests was in vain too. Without a doubt and with much humiliation, I have to admit it, I’ve become one of those people, one of those people who consider their pets to be their children. Let’s just hope my cat grows out of this current phase he’s in soon so that I can get him into a good college. I’m going to go be sick now. Why pet owners can’t help treating their pets like children – Don’t Get Me Started!



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    • Michael Jay profile image

      Michael Jay 7 years ago

      I love this interesting hub of yours! I love pets and I am one of those people who can't stop treating pets like children. LOL!

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image

      Carmen Borthwick 8 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      I love it... talk about don't get me started... I promise my cat Xena that as soon as I (mommy BTW) gets home we'll go outside and play. My husband, and most others, call me the crazy cat lady. I love reading your hubs, keep them coming!

    • MikeNV profile image

      MikeNV 8 years ago from Henderson, NV

      I love cats. One day the biggest of our cats went outside and brought in a mouse he had just caught and killed. We let him know not to do that... and he didn't again. They understand voice tones if not the words it seems. So the next day the little male kitten promptly went out the front door found the mouse and brought it back and presented it to us. We couldn't express to him the same displeasure because he was just too little. Very cute that he was mimicking the behavior of the older cat. People and pets develop emotional attachments. My cat would whine like a child if I didn't give him the exact food he wanted. Over time I would have to just walk away... this was the signal that he was not going to get his way. Then but only then would he eat what I put out for him. If I stood there he would look at me wanting his favorite until I left, then he would eat.