Are Your Pets Your Fur Babies?

Fur babies. A lot of childless women are tossing this term around these days. For some reason, it makes me cringe. God knows I love my dog, but is she my baby? I sure feel like it when I’m taking her to the vet or standing on the deck at dawn saying “Go potty. Come on, please go potty.” I am responsible for the care and feeding of this creature. But I’m not her mother. Her mother was a Staffordshire bull terrier. I’m quite aware that at 5 ½, Annie is a mature dog who will soon pass me in the life cycle, get old and ultimately die while I’m still hoping for many more years of life.
My dog is my dog, my companion, my responsibility, but not my child.

I see a lot of people treating their animals as their children. An article called “Fur Babies—An Alternative to Having Kids?” on The ‘How-To’ Dog Blog addresses this fur baby situation quite well. Writer Amanda Huggett Hofland admits that she and her husband might be using their two cats and dog as practice children while they decide whether or not they want to have human children. She talks about people who throw parties for their pets, dress them up in little clothes, tell them stories, and call themselves “mom and dad.” Although it seems crazy, she finds herself doing these things, too. But are pets a valid alternative to having children?

The blog post quotes experts who raise some interesting questions about the pet-human relationship as a substitute for having babies. Ultimately it’s not the same, they conclude, although there are many benefits to be had from owning pets.

I agree. I don’t know what I’d do without Annie. But I also know that I can shut the door and go about my life without her whenever I choose, something I couldn’t do with an actual baby. I also know that right now we’re both covered with flea bites, thanks to her thick fur. Dogs are great, but dogs are not kids.

Somehow in my mind, the folks who dress dogs and cats in baby clothes are doing exactly what we did as children; they’re playing with dolls. Except these dolls are living breathing animals. What do you think? Do you treat your pets as substitute children? Is it crazy or a good way to fill the void?


5 thoughts on “Are Your Pets Your Fur Babies?

  1. Hi Sue, I am an animal lover and the guardian of an 18-year-old dog and 2 cats. I used to refer to them as my “furbabies” or “children without thumbs,” but ironically that was before my biological clock set in and I actually desired a baby. At 43, married 10 years to the love of my life, who had a vasectomy during his first marriage and has three grown children, I no longer refer to the animals in my care as “furbabies.” I do consider them part of my family but do not consider them a substitute for having a child. Although I was guilty of it myself during my younger years, I now feel sad for animals whose guardians treat them like humans and don't let them satisfy their basic instinctual needs as a dog or cat or any other creature for that matter. I have strong protective feelings in regard to using animals for human entertainment, so compared to the average person, I am probably more extreme in my views of this subject. Thank you for your website and Childless by Marriage book. Our lives are very parallel in many ways, although I am not as educated or accomplished as you (yet). It was interesting to read your book and hear the same thought processes, although reading it didn't push me to “find a way to be a parent no matter what,” so at this time, I have chosen the childless life. Will I regret it? Probably when it is too late to do anything about it.


  2. Hi Debbie. Thank you for this comment. We do have a lot in common. I agree that animals should be allowed to be animals and not be forced into becoming our faux children. Your dog and cats are lucky to have you as their guardian and friend.


  3. Yes I did. Guilty as charged. I noticed that looking back through previous posts yesterday. And sometimes I even call myself Annie's mom, but only when I'm talking to her, not when I'm talking to humans. I know in my head that she's not my child, but sometimes I slip into the parent role anyway.


  4. While I know realistically that I am not my dog’s mother, she does satisfy some of the need I have to nurture something. It is not possible for me to nurture my own child (and even though I do nurture other children), my dog allows me to feel needed. I can come home and have something to lavish my love upon (aside from my husband). We refer to ourselves as Mom and Dad when talking to her but not others. So, no I don't think of her as my child, but she does fill SOME of that void in my heart.


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