October 28, 2006

Pets as Kids?

When someone suggests that my cats are my children, it raises the hair on the back of my neck. I don’t like child-substitute thinking. There is a huge difference between pets and children and it's a stereotype that often gets placed on childfree people. It is a sign of a pro-natal society and thinking, thinking that assumes something is missing.

"Oh you have pets, they’re your children,” said the realtor in a condescending tone.

“No, my cats are my pets.”
Imagine how the comment above would cause emotional pain for someone who was really trying to start a family.

A parent/grandmother friend of mine wisely points out that children grow up, go to college and sometimes move out. Pets just stay and stay and love you unconditionally until they die. I am not looking forward to this last part. I have an older cat and his kidneys are starting to fail. It is sad to see him declining.

This same friend recently forwarded a funny letter written by a pet owner called “Dear Dogs and Cats.” Normally, I groan when something like this lands in my email In box, but this one was quite entertaining. I particularly enjoyed this quote:
If you don't want hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. (That's why they call it "fur"niture.)
I try to warn people that I have cats before they come over. (Some people should warn about their children – ha, ha). Some of our friends actually bear their suffering allergies just to accept our dinner invitations. When friends come to dinner with their children, the cats hide under the bed. Only my cats are child-haters, not their owner - really.

My point, and I do have one, is that adults with children enjoy pets as much as infertile couples and childfree Purple people do.

[Photo: Foot Job by Miss Lucy, and yes, it felt great.]

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alphagirl said...

Best wishes to your Miss Lucy..I have a 16 year-old kitty as well, and I know he has more days behind him than ahead of him.

Not too sure I agree with the last part in regard to people with children enjoy pets as much as childfree and childless folk do. As a former shelter volunteer, I had to deal with a lot of parents trying to relinquish pets because of "The baby has allergies", "we're moving," and my personal un-favorite" We're just too busy now that the baby's here."

Pets are a lifetime commitment, and they are family members; they are capable of forming loving attachments with their guardians. I see too many instances where parents shunt the pets aside once the children arrive. Sure there are exceptions to every rule, but not enough in this case.

Robin said...

My cats are a part of my family and my cats are my children. Are they the same responsibility as children? Not even close. I don't have to pay for clothes, braces or college. I can leave whenever I want for days and they'll be fine. I don't have to change my life around for them. Still, I have a bond with them, a very close bond. They are not a replacement for children in my mind, they are just these little animals that are a part of me.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have had to set people straight regarding the *pets as kids* aspect, as it pertains to me. While I love my cat/dog and care for them very well, they are not my children, plain and simple. I can't claim them on my taxes and, oh, how I WISH they were covered under my health insurance plan. LOL!

It's funny, most of my friends who never had pets before they were parents, now, have them. One couple, with three very active children, adopted one of my cats, after my Mom came to live with me. Tabby brought out the worst in Mom's allergies. I didn't think twice when they offered to take her in.

Personally, I think it's about the type of person you are. Some people shouldn't have pets, just like some people shouldn't have children.

Elise said...

It's just another way that people have of saying that not having children (of some kind) is absolutely unthinkable. If they can see parenthood as something other than a choice, then they don't have to consider what other ways their lives might have gone had they not taken the path they did. The people who didn't see it as a choice --- the ones who just a had a vague "that's just what you do" feeling their whole lives --- are probably the ones most likely to call pets "children".

Children *are* a choice, and becoming a parent is a tradeoff --- perhaps the largest one that exists. Why can't most people see this?


Robin said...

As I see it I adopted my cats and I am the closest thing to a parent they will ever have. They need me and know me as the one that they go to when they want/need something. It may not be what most people consider being a "parent" but in the ways that matter I feel it is.

Teri said...

AlphaGirl - Um, Lucy is my friend's much younger cat, and we were only flirting. This represents her blogging debut!

Your experience up close and personal at a shelter that takes in unwanted pets is enlightening and sad at the same time.

Robin - Yes, my cats are part of me and my family unit, but I draw the line at calling them my children!

DivaTT - Funny that you mention health insurance and your pets. I just signed up for monthly premiums to cover my aging cats. Wish I had done it sooner. My older cat's pre-existing kidney condition is not covered because I waited too long.

Elise- I propose a bumper sticker:

Kids: Think it Over

Of course, that would be evangalizing a little. Don't want to be mistaken as advocating a choice to be childfree, only to think it over. I think there is a book title along these lines.

alpahgirl said...

And those "Mmy kid...." bumper stickers aren't evangelizing somehow?;) I used to have a "Thank you for not breeding" bumper sticker on my car until someone tried to peel it off.
Robin: So true about the kitties! I grew up around pets, but when I got my first cat when I left home, my mom reminded me"You are her whole world. She will depend on you for everything and will give it back tenfold." So very true!

It strikes me as sad that those of us who love and take care of our pets cannot reap the tax benefits, whereas as parent who neglects, abuses and otherwise mistreats their child(ren) can still claim the $1500.00 per child write-off, no matter how badly the child is treated.

Teri: Excellent idea on the pet health coverage! I missed the boat as well, but my aunt got insurance on one of her dogs when he was a puppy. He had to have both knees replaced last year, and the ins. picked up the majority of the cost! Whew!

twiga92 said...

I may be an exception in the childfree world in that I do refer to my kitties as my children. For instance, I have a sweatshirt that says "My children have fur". I don't consider them children-substitutes as they are much, much easier to take care of than kids are. But they are my babies and I love them to death. They return the love and provide much affection and joy.

alphagirl said...

Hi Twiga92:

I kinda see it the same way. I have no shame about referring to my kitties as my babies. I figure we are all guardians to someone or something, be it kids, pets, a garden, etc. I don't take offense at all when my also-childfree boss asks, "So how are the kids?"

My kitties bring me much more joy than a child ever could. they ask very little(no Xmas greediness to put up with) and give it back tenfold. They are the perfect "kid" for my temperment and lifestyle, and I can't imagine life without them. In my eyes, pets are the embodiment of unconditional acceptance.

Teri said...

Hey all, thanks for weighing in on the subject. Feel free to post cute furbaby pictures this week...in keeping with our theme!

Anonymous said...

I have 4 cats and 1 dog and 2 boys. A full family. Are my pets my kids. No, they are my pets. But, they are part of the family and we are very close to them. This is what a relationship of family is to me. I would never give up my kids and I would never give away my pets.

Teri said...

Hmmmm, is that spam? Do NOT click on the link word relationship in that last comment. It is a gigantic Google Ad for dating online. I don't like it and plans are underway to make a move away from Blogger.com which is owned by Google. Not good.

I do believe the Anonymus poster is a real person, and I thank you for your comment (whoever you are, please pick a cute blog handle, come on, it's easy and CREATIVE...just select Other instead of ANONYMOUS)!

Anita D said...

You've hit on something very close to home here.

A friend of mine saw a picture of me looking down at my dog who was laying upside down and said, "Girl, you need to start having babies."

No 1. She had no idea of my circumstances. I could have been a women trying so hard to have children with broken dreams. Thank God I'm not. I choose to be child free.

I know I love my cat and dog to bits and I spoil them but I don't view them as child replacements. I often say, I can spoil Missy (my border collie) because she won't grow up to be Prime Minister.

Teri said...

Yeah, pets and kids, Purple Women know the two are really different. I think that it makes childed others more comfortable around us to think we are fulfilling an urge, or something that is lacking.

It is really hard for some parents to think we are so very different from them -- their choices.