Why Pet ‘Parents’ Need to Stop Pretending They’re Actual Parents

"If parenting was judged on a scale of 1 to 10, raising an animal is about a point 5."

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The following story was submitted by a Fatherly reader. Opinions expressed in the story do not reflect the opinions of Fatherly as a publication. The fact that we’re printing the story does, however, reflect a belief that it is an interesting and worthwhile read.

Dear Pet Parents,

Hi. How are you doing today? Well, I hope. Listen, we need to have a talk.

It’s come to my attention that you are a young, responsible, loving individual that has taken on the responsibility of pet ownership. I can only imagine how excited you were the first time you saw your little ball of fluff, snuggling and petting it, playing with its little paws. I have no doubt whatsoever that the love just washed over you. You took it home, filled its food and water dishes, and maybe even dressed it up in a little outfit. Then you began enjoying the playful little scamp.

Eventually, you took it to its first vet visit, shelled out money to cover flea and heartworm medicines, and then smiled as your little one hung its head out the window on the drive home. It was at that point that I’m sure you thought to yourself, “Wow, being a parent isn’t so hard. My little baby makes it easy.” Only one, teensy-weensy, minor problem with that thought: That’s not parenting!

My dear friend, if you let an actual child hang its head out the window during a drive, you would be pulled over and arrested. If you fed a child from dishes placed on the floor, you would get the stink eye from everyone sitting in the restaurant. If the only clothes the child wore were knit short-sleeve sweaters with no pants, then that child would quickly end up the subject of much derision on the playground. Don’t even get me started on letting it sleep outside all the time.

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So you see my friends, pet ownership is not exactly the same as “parenting,” as much as you so desperately want it to be. I don’t say this to be mean. I just think you need to be set straight. Why?

Because I used to be you.

I’ve owned a dog. I’ve owned cats. Before I actually had a real child, I was under the mistaken impression that caring for these animals was simply the first step in the preparation of real parenthood. I was wrong. So, so wrong. Owning a dog or a cat is nothing like being responsible for a kid. You can’t walk a child around the neighborhood completely naked or play ‘fetch’ with them in the yard. You can’t let them eat off the floor (well, you can but…). And if you let them sleep in the same bed with you, good Lord, get ready to never hear the end of it from people who oppose co-sleeping. It’s just not even close. Other than the fact that new puppies also wake their owners up in the middle of the night, there is simply no comparison. If parenting was judged on a scale of 1 to 10, raising an animal is about a point 5.

“How can you say this?” you ask as the rage within you builds, “I’m responsible for a life! Who are you to question?” It’s funny you ask, because my answer to that would be to actually ask you some questions:

  • Can you leave your house anytime you like, day or night, at the drop of a hat, with your “baby” completely unsupervised?
  • Can you stay out as long as you want or even overnight somewhere as long as you left some food out for said “baby?”
  • Can you get completely wasted when it’s just you and the “baby” in the house?
  • Do you walk it on a leash (actually, cancel that one. I see leashed kids all the times these days. It’s not necessarily a bad idea).
  • Do you get a regular, full-nights sleep with the “baby” in the bed with you?
  • Do you allow your “baby” to defecate in the yard or a litter box in the laundry room?
  • Do your baby’s toys consist or a ball of yarn or chewed up old tennis ball?
  • Do you put your baby in a cage to sleep at night? (Okay, so a crib is kind of like a cage, never mind.)
  • Did you pay for a procedure to guarantee it didn’t make you any “grandbabies?”
  • Was there a one-time $25 to $100.00 fee to bring it home?
  • Do you squirt it with a water bottle or hit it in the nose with a rolled-up newspaper to correct it?
  • Does it do what it’s told without talking back?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you are either a pet owner or Kate Gosselin, or at least some other really, really terrible parent who’s more relevant.

So friends, just keep in mind that you have a long way to go until you can actually claim the title of “parent.” It’s a long, arduous, sleep-deprived, blood, sweat, and poop-stained journey to get there. Come to think of it, this is probably why you should just stick with the pets. They are so much easier, the love is unconditional, and you never have to argue with it about eating its ^&*%ing dinner.

Good luck, though!

All the best,
Jeremy

In loving memory of Darwin and Gertrude, for whom I had to find another home when it turned out that my firstborn was deathly allergic. That’s the other difference. Unless there’s something really, really wrong with you, you don’t get rid of the children for the sake of the animals.

An overgrown man-child and connoisseur of geek culture, Jeremy Wilson is striving to raise his two sons to become more responsible, self-actualized men than himself. So far they are not cooperating. You can read more of his writing at fatherhoodinthetrenches.com