I do not call myself my cat’s ‘mom’ or ‘furmom’ as some these days identify. I don’t consider my pet a person or anything like that. I did not birth this animal. I did not adopt through a process that would require me to make sure my entire life and home will be tailored specifically to the care of this animal (I don’t know the entire adoption process for children but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s a lot more intensive than getting a cat).
But I am still my cat’s parent.
“What?” You might ask. “How can you say you’re not a pet parent yet say you are a pet parent?”
What does a parent do for their child? They love, feed, teach, admonish, and encourage. They make sure they’re eating properly, they take them to the doctor when they’re sick, they correct negative behavior, and when the child is young or nonverbal, they have to be in tune with every aspect of the child’s life to keep them healthy. Parents have to use tough love sometimes in order to keep their child safe, they have to get good care for the kid when they can’t take care of them for a time. There’s a lot more but I’ll stop there.
What does a pet owner do for their pet? They love, feed, teach, correct, and encourage. They make sure they’re eating properly, they take them to the vet when they’re sick, they have to use tough love sometimes in order to keep them safe. They have to find good care when they can’t take care of them for a time. They have to be in tune with every aspect of the pet’s life to keep them healthy.
See some similarities? The difference being that most children grow up and are able to tell parents what’s going on. My cat can’t tell me how her day was like a teenager can. An animal is voiceless. They cannot tell you where they are hurt, they cannot tell you why they’re acting out, they can’t point out their abuser, they can’t talk out their stress, etc. The only one who can speak for your pet is you. You have to know your pet. You have to understand what their actions mean. You have to tell the vet what’s been going on in their life. You have to make judgments based on what is best for them without knowing if they like those choices or not.
There’s a cheesy quote out there about how your pet may be only one part of your world but you are your pet’s entire world. It’s usually painted over a picture of an adorable puppy or kitten to tug at your heart strings. Despite the emotional ploy to get you to share/like, this quote is true. My cat knows nothing beyond me and my family. She doesn’t have connections outside this house. She can’t choose to leave. She didn’t come here because she wanted to. This is the only world she knows. How can I willingly choose to hurt or abandon her? She can’t call the police on me, she can’t talk to friends about the care she’s receiving. And why would she? I feed her and love her and she seems happy with that. I know she’s happy because I pay attention to her. I spend time with her. Animals have relationships with their owners just as people have relationships with each other.
Committing to care for the life another living creature is a big thing. It’s not something that you should ever choose on a whim. A cat is a 12 to 18 year commitment and a dog is similar depending on the breed. That is literally like having a child. If you’re not ready to take care of an animal for the rest of its life, don’t get one.
If I am no longer able to care for my cat then it is my responsibility to make sure she is still cared for. If I knew I wouldn’t be able to take care of her for more than the next few months and I spent that time deliberating over whether or not to take her to a shelter, she wouldn’t know. I can prepare myself for that day. I can make myself feel better about the decision. I can say goodbye. She can’t. I am her whole world and when I walk into that shelter all she knows is that it’s a new, loud, scary place with people she doesn’t know and strange animal smells everywhere. She would look to me for security and safety in this new place but suddenly I’m not there. (I understand that circumstances change but at the same time I feel like it can be an excuse to drop animals off at shelters. Find a new home yourself, where you can keep in touch with the new owners to make sure the animal is well cared for.)
Do you remember when you were six and lost sight of your parent in the grocery store? Can you recall that moment of total panic while a million horrible scenarios ran through your mind? Multiply that by ten and perhaps you will feel what an animal feels when suddenly the person who was supposed to be there, the ONLY person they have known for most of their life, leaves them with no explanation.
I am not against people finding new homes for pets they can absolutely no longer care for. But I think that people should be more responsible in the first place. An animal is a commitment, not a fling. It’s a long term relationship. It’s not having a child, but it’s like having a child. You are responsible for that animal. Whether you like it or not, you are that pet’s parent, their only voice in this world. Act like it.