Pet "parents" - when & how did this become a thing?

Carolla

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I guess my age is showing. I've been seeing more posts (elsewhere, not here) about 'pet parents', 'fur babies' etc. So when did we humans cross over from being pet 'owners' to being pet 'parents'?? Seems to me most people buy their animal or avian or fishy pets ... so the 'parent' thing just seems weird. Yes, I get that our pets are important companions, part of the family etc. but this just seems so odd to me, and something that comes with whole additional layers of expectation. I've owned many pets, and loved them all (well, mostly) but never considered myself to be their 'parent'. Is this a creation of the pet industry? (as in "you want the best for your child" kind of motivation/guilt?) A longing by some people to have different relationships? Sigh. Interested in your thoughts about this.
 

Mendalla

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I mostly see this in couples with no children so that the pets become their substitute "children". I suspect that it is broader than that, but that's what I have seen in my own life.
 

BetteTheRed

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I have two critters (a 9 year old tortie point Ragdoll cat and a 9 year old foxhound/husky/maybe also some WTF dog), and live alone, so they definitely provide "relationship" for me. I didn't "purchase" either of them. I have never purchased a critter per se, although I have made the "suggested donation" to a non-profit rescue on occasion. These particular two, the latest in a long line of fluctuating critter population in my house, are both Kijiji critters.

I do not feel like I own these critters, but I do feel responsible for them in a way that I don't for my now-long-adult children. The cat being a totally indoor cat does not have regular vet visits unless I have a concern, the dog, being rather more needy and problematic, is at the vet often more than yearly for shots, etc. They are appropriately fed and cared for, for life. I have certain behavioural expectations in return, largely around "open-ness to a positive reward sort of relationship" and "control of evacuation" (until extreme old age; my last kitty, Eliot, a Siamese-ragdoll cross with the bluest of eyes and the most persistent of voices, died in her 23rd year weighing almost nothing and fairly incontinent, but purr-y and hungry and friendly to the end).
 

ChemGal

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Yep, people with no kids or before they have kids - so the older age where people become parents is a factor too.
Fur babies is nothing new to me, I've seen the term used commonly for at least 15 years. I find it a bit annoying.
I did used to refer to an aunt and uncle without kids as the dog's mom and dad, but I was also a kid at the time. Add in the fact no other aunts/uncles grandparents had a dog or cat and it was a bit of a special situation. (Grandparents did have a dog at the farmhouse which was a secondary residence for them, but I don't even think they owned the dog, I think it just showed up, it was outside and I don't think they every brought it to their main house).
 

Mrs.Anteater

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My daughter in law would call their dog exactly that, fur baby. I call him my “grand dog”. He actually behaves very un- doggish in the sense that he doesn’t bark when people enter the house, only when he wants to go inside and sit on the couch. He also sits on people’s lap, which is not so comfortable for the human since he is a middle size dog.
I do think it has something to do with childless couples, I suspect it is a term that has come from facebook/ internet.
 

BetteTheRed

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My dog is a pretty badly-behaved large dog. It limits my social interactions (she can't be boarded or anything), which suits me just fine, as it excuses my own disinterest in enforced "hospitality".
 

KayTheCurler

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We have a little white furball dog that is sometimes called a fur baby. My partner is far more involved with it than I am - he talks to it a lot.
 

BetteTheRed

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I have never owned a small dog, and have no idea if I could successfully interact with one as an actual companion in life (I obviously can interact with other critters on a casual basis IRL). Smallest dog I ever had was a beagle.
 

ninjafaery

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I have very strong opinions about all of this which would have me virtually run out of town.
I agree with you Carolla.
 

Carolla

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Yes Ninjafaery - I think in some circles it would definitely be a risky topic!! So I refrain from eye rolling or commenting on fb & in some social circles.

Bette you make a good point about 'donation' - that was actually how we got our own dog - donation to a charitable organization (so we even got a tax receipt - go figure! Same with my Dad & dtr who adopted rescue dogs - but it was quite a process to go through to qualify.

Seems the 'parent' thing is mostly applied to dogs & cats. I've not heard anybody refer to their pet snake, or pirrhana, or guppie, or bird in quite that way - although "my baby" is sometimes used - but I've also heard people use that to refer to their human loved ones ... are we on that equal of a footing?
 

ChemGal

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Yes Ninjafaery - I think in some circles it would definitely be a risky topic!! So I refrain from eye rolling or commenting on fb & in some social circles.

Bette you make a good point about 'donation' - that was actually how we got our own dog - donation to a charitable organization (so we even got a tax receipt - go figure! Same with my Dad & dtr who adopted rescue dogs - but it was quite a process to go through to qualify.

Seems the 'parent' thing is mostly applied to dogs & cats. I've not heard anybody refer to their pet snake, or pirrhana, or guppie, or bird in quite that way - although "my baby" is sometimes used - but I've also heard people use that to refer to their human loved ones ... are we on that equal of a footing?
I called my Mom once and let her know she was a great grandma the first time the fish had babies.
 

Seeler

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Carola, Ninjafaery -- can I both agree and disagree?
Pets have been very important in my home, both when I was growing up and while raising a family. We almost always had a cat and off and on we would have a dog. Our most recent dog was a Labrador retriever named Pepper. Now Seelerman and I are pet free but Seelergirl has a cat and grandson has a dog named Chloe that lives at his father's house.
Although they were part of our family, I can't remember ever speaking about them, or even thinking about them, as though they were human –
the cat was always 'our cat'not 'fur baby'and the dog was 'our dog'although we sometimes told her that she was a good dog, or a good girl. Yes, we talked to our animals to as though they understood – and often they did.
That said, we have a grand cat, and a grand dog (although I seldom see Chloe and I miss her).
Whether I would feel differently about a cat or dog if I didn't have children I don't know. Companion would probably be a better description of my relationship with the dog.
 

Mendalla

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Companion would probably be a better description of my relationship with the dog.
I haven't had pets since I have been an adult, but that's how I tend to see them, too. Wonder if there's a bit of a generational split somewhere along the line or if it's just an individual personality thing.
 

BetteTheRed

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I haven't had pets since I have been an adult, but that's how I tend to see them, too. Wonder if there's a bit of a generational split somewhere along the line or if it's just an individual personality thing.
I think some of it depends on how close you are, figuratively or literally, to a farm. Farmers do not sentimentalize animals. I have a lot of farmer friends.
 

Mendalla

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I think some of it depends on how close you are, figuratively or literally, to a farm. Farmers do not sentimentalize animals. I have a lot of farmer friends.
I am a city boy through and through and don't really have any farmers close by in my family tree either. Mostly urban middle class types like teachers, doctors, and businessmen.
 

Mrs.Anteater

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I had a good friend and neighbour who always had dogs and cats and no kids. Actually, she considered junior as a “ grandchild”. The animals were extremely important to her, even more so after her husband died. She didn’t call them fur babies, but she called herself “ mama”. She wasn’t the healthiest person and her health and mood went downhill once both cats died one year and the little dog the next. Pets are extremely important to many seniors and maybe it would be better if there would be humans that took their place instead and lived in but since that doesn’t seem to be the case- thank god for pets.
 

ninjafaery

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Can I agree with the companion part? My issue is abstract (anthropomorphism), but I certainly agree that there is valuable benefit to humans. And yes, we like "cute" animals and don't seem so affectionate with other species.
I think dogs and cats are "domesticated" in that a French bulldog, for example, could not survive without human intervention, as most pets are.
It's a separate issue, but it bothers me to see any sentient being "beg" or wear tutus etc. I doubt we'd allow that to happen to us.
 

Luce NDs

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Can I agree with the companion part? My issue is abstract (anthropomorphism), but I certainly agree that there is valuable benefit to humans. And yes, we like "cute" animals and don't seem so affectionate with other species.
I think dogs and cats are "domesticated" in that a French bulldog, for example, could not survive without human intervention, as most pets are.
It's a separate issue, but it bothers me to see any sentient being "beg" or wear tutus etc. I doubt we'd allow that to happen to us.
Imagine crazy folks in long flowing robes ... greater fabrications that the irony will not avail ...
 

Naman

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Corolla, I do not hang around WonderCafe so much any more. However this thread is making me very thoughtful. I was born in 1941 in a farm house. The farm was a generational place for children and livestock. My socialization involved bonding with my family and an assortment of farm critters as well.
 

Carolla

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ah Naman - so nice to see you drop by - best Thanksgiving wishes to you and yours.

I agree - I do think we form bonds with animals - and some of them may do so with us too. I'm guessing those bonds may be somewhat different for those living in rural areas, on farms, where I sense a lot of respect for natural order and sometimes a clearer sense of utility & responsibility - eg keeping a cat to control rodents, or a dog to help with protection, herding, or others to produce food, keeping one warm in cold weather, etc. Purposeful jobs to do, rather than as indulgences for the humans.
 
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