I’m a pretty laid-back dude. There’s not a whole lot that irks me for more than a moment or two. But sometimes, some thing just rubs me like a Native American burn (can we agree to not be PC for this one?). Lately, the splinter under my fingernail has been people referring to their pets as “kids.” As someone who has had both kids and pets, some of them at the same time, I can definitively say that, animal behavior notwithstanding, kids are not pets, and pets sure as hell aren’t kids.
One would think that this should go without saying. And yet, the proliferation of people I know (and people I don’t know) talking about “spending quality time with the kids” when they actually mean “scratching my animal behind the ears for a few minutes before I burn a casserole” tells me that it does not, in fact, go without saying.
I’ve heard people muse that having a pet is like training to be a parent. Having a pet in no way prepares you for having a kid. There is no stage of any pet’s life when you will carry it about, wipe its butt when it poops, feed it with a bottle, and stay up all friggin’ night with it when it yells at you for no other reason than that it’s still awake.* And that’s just the first few months. Your animal is not going to steal your credit card, get into weird hobbies, or elope. It’s like saying that the Cozy Coope you drove as a kid prepared you to drive a Chevette.
Comparing the responsibility of caring for an animal with that of caring for a human is laughable at best, insulting at worst. Would you ever consider leaving your kid at home while you go on vacation, just having a neighbor come over once a day to make sure that your kid has enough Teddy Grahams and Sunny D? Would you be ok leaving your kid tied up in the yard for the day while you’re at work?**
Beyond just the practical, you’re not really going to stress out about making sure your animal is a good person. Er, animal. You might spring for obedience school to make sure your dog doesn’t maul the mailman, but you won’t be worried about him lying to you if he does. After the first year of parenting when most of the challenges are just keeping your kid from maiming himself in unpredictable ways, the single greatest parenting challenge that persists for the rest of your life is keeping your kid from making Bad Decisions. Again, if you think that this translates to your animal, you might be overestimating your pet.
I might be a bit old-fashioned in some things, but if you own a pet, you are its master (or mistress). Or owner. You are not a pet-parent. You did not contribute any DNA to the production of this animal***. You are responsible for its well-being and to make sure it doesn’t hurt anyone. You have no concerns about its cognitive development, its spiritual journey, its friends, its life milestones. It’s not your child; it sleeps on the floor.
This is not to say that there are no similarities at all. You’ll have to clean up after them. You’ll have to feed them. You’ll have to make sure there’s at least one place in your house where they can be without destroying anything irreplaceable. They will destroy something that is irreplaceable, anyway. But again, even the aggregate of things mentioned and unmentioned is of a lesser quality and inferior affect than the disgusting, demanding, destructive child you will love more than your own life. Parents are willing to die for their kids. If you’re willing to die for your Schnauzer, your priorities are WAY out of whack.
Look, of course you can call your animals whatever you want. Call them kids, call them pets, call them The Duke and Duchess of Furrington. Just know that people-parents roll their eyes at pet-parents because we’re in it and there is no comparison. Just none.
*Pet ownership pro-tip: if you’re doing these things for your pet, you’re doing it wrong.
**I cannot back this up with anything, but I feel certain that there is a depressingly non-zero number of people who would answer this in the affirmative.
***If you did, under no circumstances do I want to know anything about it. Or meet you. Or know you exist.