You might have seen dogs wearing cute outfits or relaxingly sitting on their strollers. Some would think it’s adorable, while some would think it’s ridiculous. The reality is that the relationship between humans and dogs is somewhat blurred nowadays. It is no longer a relationship focused on a caretaker and his dog. Now, dog owners are treating their dogs like their own babies or children or otherwise called as fur babies. What’s the reason for this rise in interspecies families?
We Are Caretakers
Researchers Nicole Owens and Liz Grauerholz conducted a study to explore how pet parents viewed their relationship with their pets. In this study, 59% of the participants own dogs, 18% own cats, while 39% take care of both.(1)
The results showed that one group does not consider themselves as pet parents. Instead, they are caretakers. Other words used to describe their relationship to their pets are “friend,” “companion,” and “roommate.” They don’t call themselves mom or dad, and the role they play is more of caring and nurturing their pets.
The study also discovered an interesting point. The group that sees themselves as mere caretakers were mostly part of animal rights movements. For them, keeping a pet for the owner’s happiness is immoral. It degrades animals into things. They believe animals have their own rights, and pet owners shouldn’t “own” them as this gives entitlement over the pets.
We Are Proud Parents
The group who sees themselves as pet parents had different views. Having children and the age of their children were significant factors to their outlooks.
One of the findings showed that parents who don’t have human children yet see taking care of pets as a training phase. They believe it’s a way of preparing them for the responsibility of having children. Pet parents also said that their ability to care for their pets helped them with their younger children. However, they admit that raising a child has a different dynamic and requires more involvement.
While some make it a point to compare the differences between how they care for their pets and young children, there are participants who described the similarities. They shared that they parent their kids and their pets the same way. If they spoil their kids, they spoil the dogs, too.
Parents who have older children, on the other hand, are more focused on the joy they feel when they care for their pets. The study concluded that this is the group who will find interspecies family highly rewarding.
To Each His Own
People have different views on caring for pets. You may think that treating them as babies is too much, and yet for some people, they think it’s totally fine. People can be judgemental over this. However, each pet owner connects in a unique and special way with their pets. Some may feel more emotionally connected, especially if they rely on their pets for comfort. Some see their pets as mere companions or friends. To each his own.
What matters is that we all celebrate the human-animal connection and build a positive and healthy relationship together. Pets and humans can continue looking out for each other and caring for one another in their own ways.