I don’t have any human children. Just my partner and, of course, Kit and Fen. I love my little pack just the way it is. I’ve personally never felt like my little family was incomplete due to the lack of little humans. I don’t feel like I use my dogs to replace human children, either, as childless couples with pets are so often accused of. I know that my dogs are dogs, and love them all the more for it. After all, you can’t put a kid in their crate when you need a little bit of ‘me’ time, and I’ll never have to worry about saving to send my dogs to college. Kitsune, my papillon, turned 14 last December, and, despite being a teenager now, he hasn’t told me a single time that he hates me!
What’s in a name?
I assume because of Mother’s Day, I’ve been reading a lot of pet articles about whether or not it’s acceptable for pet owners to call themselves “pet parents”, or to refer to themselves as their pet’s “mom” or “dad”. What do you think? Do you refer to yourself as your pet’s parent, owner, or something else? I’d love to read your response in the comments below. I know this can sometimes be a hot-button issue, so please keep it civil!
When we still lived in the city, I pretty much became known as “Kit’s mom”. People in our neighborhood could seemingly remember Kit’s name, but not my own. It’s ok, I get it. He’s a lot cuter than I am! Being referred to as Kit and Fen’s mom has never been something that’s bothered me. Owner, or some similar sentiment, always felt so cold to me. I own a lot of things, but I don’t spend countless hours taking care of them. Worrying about them doesn’t keep me up at night, nor does snuggling with them bring me the same sense of calm that snuggling with Kit and Fen does. My dogs are not things, they are living, breathing beings. I never felt like ownership adequately described the relationship I have with them.
I’m not alone in this, either…
There’s no doubt about it, a large majority of pet owners consider their pets to be part of the family. A survey conducted by YouGov back in 2019 reported that a whopping 88% of American pet owners consider their pets to be members of their families. An older survey, conducted in 2011 revealed that 58% of American dog owners reported that they refer to themselves as their pet’s parents. 35% said that they refer to their dog as their son or daughter, and 10% of surveyed dog owners said that they celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day with their dog(s). The term “pet parent” is pretty mainstream now, appearing everywhere from vet offices to product promotions.
However, apparently not everyone feels that parenthood extends to the furry members of our family.
The biggest argument against referring to the furriest members of our family as our sons or daughters is that it is apparently demeaning to some people. Even some pet owners seem to feel that referring to pet owners as parents is a bit cheesy, and/or isn’t respectful to parents who care for actual human children.
I’ve seen some mothers of human babies argue that there are facets of motherhood that pet owners will just never experience. Their babies growing up and going to college, or getting married, for example. But do those things define motherhood? After all, not all children go to college, or get married, and we would never say that a mother of a child who decided to remain single is in fact not a mother. The experience of motherhood is something that is beautifully unique to each mother.
A parent is a hard thing to define.
When a dog has puppies, we refer to that dog as a mother, despite the fact that her babies are dogs and not humans. People who adopt human children are still considered to be mothers, despite the fact that they didn’t give birth to the kids they are raising. So dogs can be mothers, and humans who have never given birth can be mothers. How far of a stretch is it to consider people who care for dogs to be moms? I guess it depends on who you are asking.
Human or animal, caring for others can be hard.
Whether you are a mother, a dog mom, a pet owner, etc., dedicating ourselves so fully to the care of another living being can be tough.
So those of us who aren’t fully satisfied with being considered pet owners are left with a dilemma. At the risk of sounding a bit silly, or possibly stepping on some toes, do we refer to ourselves as pet parents? Although pets are technically considered property, “owner” doesn’t seem to do much to convey the bond that can exist between people and their pets. After all, you can own a car, own a television, but caring for another living creature is a whole different ball game.
Does it even matter what we choose to call ourselves? Sure, we may sometimes sound a bit corny, and occasionally some people may take issue with what we choose to call ourselves, but in the end, if our pets are happy and healthy, and we’re not actually hurting anyone else, isn’t that all that really matters?
Some people choose to care for pets. Others have children. Some have both, and some fall into their rolls rather than actively choosing them. No matter how we come to care for our charges, no matter how our relationships with them differ, we all have something in common. Our hearts reside not in one body, but two (or more). We love another living being, and because there often aren’t words to describe the love we feel for our charges, we call ourselves mothers. I think that’s a similarity we should embrace and celebrate.
Live and let live. Pet guardians choosing to refer to themselves as their dog’s parents really shouldn’t diminish the relationship anyone has for their human child. It’s just a word, and at the end of the day, there are much much more important issues we should be focusing our efforts on than what other people choose to call themselves. Comment below! What do you call yourself in relation to your pet(s)?
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