There’s a relatively new term flying around and I LOVE it! The term is “pet parent”; not owner, or master (man I hate that one!), but parent. Many of you have probably heard it before, but I still run across pet lovers who haven’t, and I’m on a mission to change that. So what is a “pet parent” anyway. Well, to me, it’s a person who is responsible for raising a well mannered, socially adapted, emotionally confidant, and physically healthy animal of another species. I mean, that’s what parents do for their human children right? So isn’t the term fitting?
Society has really come a long way in how it views animals. In my life time alone, which really isn’t that long, I’ve seen zoos change from sparsely vegetated concrete habitats to full ecosystem immersion domes; and where leaving your dog outside on a chain used to be okay it’s now illegal. I remember when people used to think I was crazy for calling myself Mommy to my pets, and now “fur baby” is real word. It’s amazing! And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the change!!! But what’s in the change anyway, parent vs owner, a rose is a rose right? Not exactly. I think there are a few real differences between a pet owner and a pet parent.
Is your pet another piece of property, or a living thing that depends on you? It’s your point of view. You own your car. You own your house. So you wash them, keep up with regular maintenance, and hold some amount of pride in them, but you don’t love them. If you don’t feel like driving your car, you don’t. If you run your tank empty it’s mostly an inconvenience, do you feel ever bad for your car? Pet ownership is the same feeling. You may keep up on regular vet visits, and go for a walk now and again, but the pet is there for you, not the other way around. And pets can easily get in the way of vacations, busy schedules, or TV time. Just like a car, a couch, or work of art: your needs come first.
Pet parents on the other hand see their pets like children. Their needs and desires are top priority. Would you leave the knife drawer unlocked with a toddler in the house? No. Would you decorate your house with poinsettias with a cat in the house? No. And you wouldn’t ignore obsessive ear tugging from a baby or a dog. Just like you respond to every whimper, cry, and clue from a child, you respond to all your animal’s signs.
Pet parents fully understand the responsibility of owning a pet. Thankfully our culture is starting to embrace it as well. Pet’s responsibilities go far beyond scooping poop and buying flea medication. As a parent I am responsible for my pet’s overall physical and emotional health. Under my care I have the ability to raise a sweet functioning member of society or a dangerous nuisance. I have to understand that new toys, puzzles, and play time are crucial to their happiness, and that a proper diet and exercise routine is the foundation of their health.
There’s a big difference between liking your pets and enjoying them. This year I was challenged to tell someone “I love you” by replacing it with the words “I enjoy you”. I’ll be honest, I thought it was ridiculous and I skipped that day of the challenge (28 day MOPS challenge anyone?), but more and more I am seeing the significance of these words. When I say I enjoy my pets, it means I enjoy the time I spend with them and every part of them they bring to our relationship. I enjoy Gus’s soft head butts and extra loud purring. I enjoy Max’s full body cuddles and his energy when we’re together. And I don’t enjoy them just sometimes I enjoy them all the time (okay I have my moments, but don’t all mothers). This “I enjoy you” view is what pushes pet parents to plan dog friendly vacations and buy jewelry for their cats and share a bowl of fruit with their hamsters.
I think this is the fuel behind it all. When your pets are your children you love them no matter what. There’s a poster at my work that says “I am not an until pet” and then it goes on to list all the until… I move, have a baby, get bored, get married, and so on. I will admit, I’ve gotten pretty mad a Max. When he’s gotten into the trash for the third time that day, or when he takes us 3/4 of the bed and refuses to move. I’ve gotten mad at the cat for peeing on my laundry. But I’ve also gotten mad at my daughter for breaking my camera, and I love them all anyway. There is nothing that could make me stop loving my animals or stop striving to give them all they need, because they are my children, my fur babies.
Take away – What can you do to be more of a pet parent
- Plan regular enrichment for your pets
- Use positive training and reinforcement
- Socialize your pets
- Spend quality time with them
- Pay attention to diet
- Promise to love them no matter what
So what do you think. Are you ready to start calling yourself a pet parent? Maybe you’ve been doing it for years. Leave a comment with your thoughts!