People love their pets, especially when their dog or cat is put into the role of a child. “Bella (the cat) is my baby,” a pet owner coos to friends and family. That said, in way too many cases pet guardians’ love loses its luster when they have children of their own. On babble.com, a blogger mom says it all:
“This used to be a love story. . . two cats and a puppy found their way into my home and my heart. . . I had rescued them from an uncertain future in the shelter. . .I had groomed them. . . kept them alive for most of my adult life. . .We had been warned that pets would get the shaft once the baby became the focal point of our existence. . .What I was not prepared for was the depth of my hatred for beings I once claimed to love, and how quickly the switch happened.”
According to 2010 ASPCA statistics, about 5 to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters in the United States each year. As many pets are turned in by their owners (some animal rights groups prefer the term “guardians”) as are picked up by animal control.
We feel for pets that have been “replaced” by children and, in essence, disposed of. The best of guardians see to it that their dogs and cats are sent off to relatives or friends. Those are the lucky ones. But millions are sent to shelters. A big question, of course, is do companion animals suffer about the loss of what was once their “forever” home?
Although science is inconclusive in this area, some researchers point to the strong bond between humans and dogs, which goes back some 15,000 years when the two species wandered the Earth together. If you have ever pet sat for a few weeks while the human family is away, you can probably draw your own conclusions. Although, we have to admit, we so spoil the dogs we pet sit for that they don’t seem all that thrilled when their “parents” come to collect them. But that’s not the same as being dumped into a shelter.
Indeed, both dogs and cats may mourn as deeply as humans do. Something for parents to think about is that for an animal, banishment from their human family may cause emotional pain similar to what a child feels when separated from mom and dad.
We think those who adopt and fall in love with animals before they have children should think long and hard about their motives. Is the animal a substitute for a yet unborn child? Are those who decide to become parents willing to make a lifelong commitment to their animal and realize that this creature is indeed a member of the family? Do the expectant mom and dad have the “heart” to prepare their pet for a new human addition to the family? (There are plenty of tips on the Web about this and veterinarians are good sources of info as well.)
We also believe it’s imperative that prospective parents think twice about having a dog or cat in their midst. The most compassionate decision may be not offering a home to an animal that will one day be evicted because a child demands too much time and energy.