Some controversy was stirred when, a few years back, M.A. Wallace wrote a rather passionate article in The Cut on why “it’s wrong” for pet owners to call themselves and view themselves as “pet parents”. While there was a little bit of an agreement, many pet owners felt the opposite – that they do in fact see their dogs and cats as their babies, part of the family.
Now, the “Live and let live” maxim should always be applied when dealing with people’s opinions on the Internet. With that in mind, we are certainly not going to tell M.A. Wallace what to believe and what not to. However, having the opposite opinion, we can certainly take a look at the 7 reasons why we think it’s okay to call yourself a “pet parent”.
1. Pets may not be children, but that doesn’t mean you can’t love them as such.
Children are generally much harder to take care of than most pets are, especially cats and dogs. Children, toddlers and babies require all-day care and attention just to survive. From that point of view, it’s definitely understandable why some parents may get irritated by pet owners who call their cats and dogs their “children” – it diminishes their efforts.
Nevertheless, our pets definitely require love, care and attention as well. Just because they require “less” is not a good enough argument. People that love their pets as children generally take much better care for them. In fact, if you view your pet as just “a thing that needs to be fed”, it’s fair for others to be concerned on whether you’re taking a good enough care of your dogs and cats.
2. Your pet certainly loves you and sees you as a parent.
Regardless of how you view your pet, if you love them, you can be certain that your pet sees you as a parent figure. Birds, in particular, are known to imprint on the first creature they see after they hatch.
And if you’ve had a dog or a cat love you, you don’t need any scientific justification on whether they adore you as a parent, as the family’s “alpha,” and as the most important being in their lives.
3. Science supports your instinct of viewing your pets as children.
Speaking of scientific justification, there are some studies out there that support the idea of pets not only loving us as parents, but also behaving as our children and triggering our parental instincts.
Anything, from cats’ adorable mewing, or puppies’ irresistible eyes, exists with the single evolutionary purpose of poking our parental instincts. With that in mind, it’s perfectly reasonable for you to not only feel as your pets’ parents, but to also act as one and call yourself one. Especially since there’s no harm in it.
4. In many ways, pets can give us even more than children do.
I don’t mean to compare pets and children, and put labels or evaluations on them. Pets are great and so are children, each in their own way. A pet will never grow up into an adult human being and will never support you financially in your old age or give you grandchildren – well, not human grandchildren, anyway.
Pets certainly do things that children don’t or can’t. While we love our children and they can be great sources of psychological support in our lives, therapy dogs and cats exist for a reason too.
Look at how this dog is helping a man with dementia, for example. Or how this blind therapy dog is helping thousands of children, just by loving them. All this isn’t to say that people and children can’t love us or help us out, but pets certainly have their place and role in our society too. So, why not love them for their amazing contributions to our lives?
5. Loving all life equally, regardless of species, can be regarded as a higher value system.
A lot of people recoil at the sight of such philosophical arguments, but there’s a thing to be said about life’s value and our pets. Only a couple of hundred years ago it was justified to enslave people from other races, nationalities or ethnicity, and even today racism continues to be an issue. Who’s to say that two hundred years later, something like “species-ism” won’t be viewed as immoral too?
There’s no need to go too deep into the philosophical argument, but the simple fact of the matter is that our pets are living, thinking and feeling beings. It's likely they need just as much love, care, attention and appreciation as children do, and humans are already much more compassionate towards creatures than they were a hundred years ago.
When a professional chef cooks a meal, they often use the cliché that “love is the most important ingredient for a well-cooked dish”. The same applies to how we treat and live with our pets. Just feeding your dog and taking him out for a walk isn’t enough to give him a happy and fulfilling life, and neither is it for a pet parent.
6. Loving your pet as you would a child can fill your life with more happiness.
Loving your pet as you would your children doesn’t just make your pet happier – it makes your life better as well. The feeling of simply taking care of a furry toy at home is much different than the feeling of loving and caring a four-legged member of your family.
It’s precisely the feelings we have for our pets that makes caring for them worth it. Enjoying to play with your dog or cat, snuggling with them, or just chilling with them on the couch – these are just some of the reasons why we adopt pets in the first place.
7. It’s your pet and it’s your life – you can call yourself whatever you like.
The bottom line is that your life is your own and how you view your pet is your business too. You can love your pet as much as you want to and you can view yourself as your pet’s owner, parent, sibling, cousin, friend, or anything else you want (though “lover” and “arch-nemesis” are probably ill-advised). Do not be embarrassed.
People or parents like M.A. Wallace may find it weird or think of it as “harmful” for our social lives, families, and anything else, but it’s each person’s job to determine how they view the people and animals in their life. People caring for dogs, cats or other animals certainly shouldn’t be faulted for loving them.
ANOTHER OPINION: Yes, You Can Call Yourself a “Dog Parent” and Here’s Why