Fido is Family

A guest blog entry by Mary Wolf (student, world citizen)

In today’s exponentially increasing urbanized and industrialized world, pets hold an integral role in helping humanity to feel like a part of the natural world around them.

The word pet can mean many things to many different people. In the context of this article, I will be defining pets as any living non-human species from the animal kingdom that co-habitat with a human household, with specific focus on cats and dogs.

The bonds between cats and dogs and their owners is extremely strong due to the fact that owners  have a longer life span than the aforementioned pet possibilities and pets can mimic human characteristics in their ability to communicate on a very low level, often taking on human mannerisms of many kinds and allowing them to be seen at times as if people.

Further, the bond between a pet and its owner is therapeutic both emotionally and physically.  In fact, this bond is so close that in a survey administered by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (2008), 84% of pet owners believe that pets make their family and home life emotionally or physically healthier, and 70% describe playing with or confiding in their pets as a relaxing or calming experience which allows them to “cope better with life and the associated stresses of our fast-paced society when they are stressed or worried” (APPMA, 2008).

Despite possible negatives associated with pet ownership, such as financial and time commitments, it seems interesting that so many Americans find it necessary to have a pet to ensure their emotional well being.  In C. Wright Mills’ Sociological Imagination he says that, “neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both” (Mills, 1959). Mills (1959) further argues that we must look at historical contexts to understand why the definition of family is becoming such a fluid concept.  Societal standards have moved rapidly in the past one hundred years from a simplistic view of the family as being a mother, father, and 2.5 children on average.  The view has now changed to that of family being comprised of those who love and support you, regardless of blood or legal ties.

So then, it makes sense that as a society we would begin to include pets in the varying definitions of family.

And even among the varying degrees of emotional support that pets give their owners, it seems certain that pets are quickly becoming rightful members of millions of American families from all walks of life. While the money spent on pets could possibly be used for what some might consider a greater good of society, such as put an end to poverty or other societal ills, people are putting their need to care for a dog before many other things. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it stems from the self based society that we live in, where we are continually trying to better ourselves and our family rather than our community, state, and/or country.

In a society based around rewards and punishment, it follows that conformity to the norm is the “best” way to live your life. As pets become more and more popular among mainstream individuals and families, those without pets may have the desire to conform to this standard. Even individuals who may be allergic to cats or dogs can purchase special hybrid non-allergenic pets, driven by a need to conform to standards of materialistic goals of society.

Pet ownership is beneficial at both the micro and macro levels of society, with an end result of furthering the socialization of pet owners.  With such a focus on this socialization process, sadly many pets are left in shelters or homeless everyday.   But millions more pets are truly touched by the relationships built with their owner, making pet ownership a necessary factor in our society.

Clearly, the ever changing definition of family fits snuggly into the socio-historical context of the breakdown of the nuclear family and the construction of a much more fluid concept of family to include friends and pets.

References:
(APPA) American Pet Products Association, Inc. 2008.  “Pet owner Industry Trends.” Website, http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp, date accessed December 1, 2009.

Mills, C. Wright, 2000(1959).  The Sociological Imagination: 40th Anniversary Edition. Oxford University Press.

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62 thoughts on “Fido is Family

  1. I can definitely relate to viewing pets as a common addition to our society’s definition of family. However, pushing my dog around in a stroller like some people do – not so much. But having grown up in a home which has never been dogless, it is probably obvious that my dog Myka is considered the 5th member of my family. She has earned her place on the sofa, has her own blanket and knows the difference between the names of other household members. She eats dinner when we do, greets us at the door, and has whimpers so distinct that we have figured out what she is trying to communicate. I feel very strongly about how pets can boost morale and aid in the comfort and emotional health of their owners. I think that it is for this reason that people choose to maintain the wellness and comfort of their pets before they concern themselves with the disadvantages to owning one. They’re just too important to us to view as burdens!

  2. I can also agree that pets are considered family. If a man and woman cannot have children, sometimes they view their pets as their children. They have to feed it, give them baths, and take them to the vet. My grandma and grandpa had a dog who was so much like a human that he took his daily naps right next to my grandpa on the bed, with his head on the pillow. A few years ago, the dog died and my grandparents do not seem as outgoing as they used to. They always would take walks with the dog and talk to him as if he was another person in the family. Pets are definitely part of family, they can sense when something is wrong or if you are happy. It’s a shame that many pets are in shelters, it breaks my heart.

    1. I do agree that often times people do come to see pets as part of the family, as I often do with my dog, but I think this can at times become more of a detriment than it is a help. Almost all pets, especially those that people come to love most, have life spans significantly shorter than most humans. A parent burying a child defies nature and is something no person should face, yet people come to subject themselves to such torture in viewing pets as children.

      1. Although I do see your reasoning Nick Radice, I believe having a pet is more beneficial than a detriment to families. After a hard days work at school or at the office people can come home to a place where a dog is waiting for them. And how will that dog react? It will be full of excitement and love, making their owner feel special and give them the thought that there is something in this world to live for.

      2. I believe family is whatever you percoeve it to be. It can be friends that you’ve known for a while, it can be anyone that you feel is family. I have more friends that I feel are more family to me then my own father is. My father was never there, and I dont consider him my family. My pets are more considered my family then he is. I just think it depends on the tyep of person you fee closely connected to and that if they would do something for you that you would do for them. Maybe sometimes everybody just needs love, dogs, lizards, friends, anything. Everybody needs love in this world to survive.

  3. What an awesome article first off! I have such a deep love for my two dogs, Ginger and Noah. Ginger is a Lasso Apso and Noah is a German Sheppard/Akita/Chow mix and they love each other as much as my boyfriend and I love them. I treat them as if they are my children and they do everything with me, even laundry. They know when I am sad and comfort me; they are excited when I feel excited. They look at me with a “Thank you” in their eyes every day. Our dogs keep me going and every kiss I give them comes from my heart and soul. I got Ginger during a very difficult transition in my life, so we have a special bond. Now Noah has come in and I am blessed with double the love. We take wonderful care of our dogs and yes financially they strain us, but I will do anything for them. Noah was diagnosed with Myositis, a facial muscle disease a year ago and we were so scared he wouldn’t get better. He was our baby! He now has to be on a small dosage of prednisone for the rest of his life and responded well to the medicine so well. But, the love we share keeps our family comforted and strong. Animals are wonderful animals sent to us and we have to love them, they’re so cute! As I sit here right now righting this looking at them, they are laying by the fireplace, Noah 100 lbs. with Ginger 18 lbs. laying on top of him keeping warn in the winter weather with her brother. Oh, so darn cute!

  4. That is so true about the pets and their families, they really so become a member, and not just a pet. It’s especially funny when some people live at home alone with a pet (most of the time a dog), and after a while the pet and owner start to look similar to each other, Which brings me to something else. I find it awkward sometime when we call the person who has a pet “the owner”. I know that the person shells out money, buys, and pays for their animal, but if it really is “part of the family” then couldn’t we think of a better word to use?

    And Cheryl, that is so cute about you and your dogs. My boyfriend is kind of like that too. He has a dog named Sabina that he just absolutely adores! I’m not a big dog person all of the time. I like them and think they are cute, but I mostly like the little ones. He makes me love Sabina more everyday, because he shows me all of her cute and humanlike qualities. It’s just so funny and cute.

  5. I completely agree, pets are family.

    Recently I tried convincing my father that we needed another dog due to the fact that my dog is rather over weight (becase she was abused and left tied to a tree when she was a pup) and could use a playmate. He on the other hand has tried convincing me that it is not a mental illness and that the dog will lose the weight in a short while. However, I feel pets like people learn from their experiences which is why she steals food and is always on guard when she is eating. Even though, she has been with us for 5 years now, this has not changed. In a way it reminds me of my grandmother who was raised in the Great Depression and to this day thinks 25 cents can buy you the world and everyone, even me, is secretly stealing from her.

    Pets are more like people then we know and while they may not live as long, or speak our language, they know and show affection. They are the only thing that will love you more then they love themselves.

  6. I agree that pets are family! My family has almost every pet possible with the exception of a monkey or alligator! I love my two cats Lex and Luke. We adotped them awhile ago. I got in the habit of referring to my cats as “mews.” Now, all my friends and family recognize that when I say “i love my mews,” I’m talking about my babies! Yes, babies. I think that pets are not just animals with owners. If we are to consider pets as family, then I chose to call them my babies and I am their Mommy! It’s more fun that way.
    I think the special thing about having a pet is that at the end of the day they will always be at home. You learn their personality traits and most of the time the pet’s character remains the same. You can depend on your pet to listen to you when you get home. They will provide comfort for you by just being there. With people you never really know what kind of mood their in or whether they’re going to be there for you. With a dog or cat you can almost promise yourself that your baby will be there at home, after a long day, waiting to cuddle!

  7. While cats, dogs, or any other form of pet can not speak I do believe that they in essence become a part of one’s family. Like GYBS said, they are your babies whether you wish to call them that or not. While pet owners do not literally give birth to their pets they do often times adopt which in many ways is like adopting a child. Even though it is much less of a waiting period, the adoption process in adopting a dog requires a background check to ensure the pets safety.

    However, with the economy on the downside many pets are losing there homes because their owners cannot afford to keep them. This I feel is completely unjust because it is not the pets fault but the people’s and often times the shelters these “family members” go to are not no-kill shelters.

    So for all those animal lovers out there I’m asking you what would you do if put in the position; little to no money and you can’t afford the rent. Would you leave Fido in a shelter, set him free, or what’s your solution?

    1. I for one have to say that my dog, Angel, is indeed my baby. When I was better off financially, I spoiled her. But she in many ways came first. And if the worst case scenario happened and I couldn’t afford the rent and we were actually evicted. My car would be home for both Angel and I. She goes where I go. Long before my husband was in the picture, my Angel was taking care of me and keeping me emotionally safe. I owe her at least as much as trying to protect her within the means I do have.

      1. I, like you Bonniejean, feel the same way. When I got my first cat Sammy, he was my baby and I spoiled him. He was my first pet and in many ways I depended on him. I got him when I was in middle school and was rather insecure about my weight as well as other things. So, I found it reassuring to know that he would be there when I got home to talk to, even if he couldn’t talk back. I find pets very theraputic because they’re very faithful and unless you leave your door open they will always be there when you come home. Tragically Sammy passed away a few years ago and I felt more broken up about it than when my uncle died. In many ways I feel terrible about this, but I never really knew my uncle and I truly felt that Sammy was my baby in some aspects.

        So is it wrong to care so deeply for a pet as though it were family? Or is it okay to love an animal above other humans even if it can’t speak to you?

        Also I’d like to add My mother works at Marklund (a home for handicapped kids) and when we had my dog Cassie we used to take her to visit the kids which seemed to make everyone’s day.

        So my other question is why do you think it is that animals can be so theraputic for people? What is it about them that we, as humans, cannot do for our own kind? Is it that they truly can keep a secret?

      2. I do agree that owning pets is much healthier and ultimately makes the owners happier. There is something to be said about the responsibility of caring for an animal that depends completely on you. In return the owner receives unconditional love from their pets. Pet ownership is really a perfect example of Mills’ Sociological Imagination, one must give to society in order to receive from society, and in this case it is a micro level of society when considering the family. It is something only pet owners understand. Those who do not own pets consider them animals, but those who do completely understand that they are member of the family.

  8. There are a lot of days when I wish I didn’t have a dog, but not because I dislike dogs. I just happen to have a dog that runs around the neighborhood whenever the gate is left open, whines for attention (always when I am watching TV), and still occasionally chews up socks, gloves, pens, etc… Yet every episode is usually forgotten about by the next morning and I am glad to have a companion. I agree that pet ownership is beneficial to society. For example, the loss of a pet can prepare a child for the experience of losing a friend or family member later in life. I know some people may feel the loss of a pet is just as hard to deal with as an actual human being, but I think it is much easier to get over losing a pet, because pets can be replaced, although it is an emotional experience.

    1. That’s a good point that I haven’t given too much thought, that losing a pet to a kid could prepare them for losing a friend or family member. I remember when my first cat ran away when I was in third grade. A day after losing him I was in a class trying to take a test but I just couldn’t concentrate, I kept thinking of my cat and I was devastated. Even the teach called my mother because I was acting so strangely. This was the first time in my life I experienced a loss like this. I cannot say for sure if this loss in my life helped me learn, but the more I think about it the more I believe it might have because it showed me a part of life that I haven’t seen and kind of opened a door to reality for me. The one thing I disagree with is pets can be replaced. Although you can get another pet, you will never be able to replace the memories or bonds of your lost friend with a new one. Instead you make new memories and bonds with your new one while remembering the one you lost.

  9. I agree that pets are part of a family and that people get pets to have company and to add to their family. When I had a dog she was like my sibling because I played, slept, ate with, etc. When she passed away my family and I were heart broken and it took my mom and I months to get over it. Animals can bring a lot of love into a home. When pets are around their home long enough it is almost like they feel your feelings with you. I think people getting pets are a good thing but also people who do not have time for pets should not get them. Pets need attention just like children, maybe not to the same extent but they still need love and attention too. I hate seeing people who get animals and can not take care of them or do not have time to give them. All in all pets definitely have become a big part of many families and are apart of those families.

  10. For me pets are like family members. We love our pets the same way we love our children and care for them as we care for our children. From my family my mother used to have all different kinds of animals but mostly cats. When I came to Chicago I missed my family and my pets and then I decided to have a cat here. My cat PLUTO when he came he was one year old equal to my daughters age. But he died when he was thirteen. After that I had another cat Named Tipu Sultan. In fact in our religion when a person is cruel hearted it is said to have a pet animal and take care of that pet. Pets make your heart softened, full of emotions and love because what they do is they give love in return. That’s the only thing they can return and that is love !!!

  11. I completely agree that pets are family. I believe it is also that pet-owners are beneficial to society. Owning a pet promotes responsibility, love, caring, and selflessness, which the world could use more of, in my opinion. I can relate to the view that pets can help cure a cruel heart as Amber states. Pets are also beneficial to health of the owners and others. According to the CDC: pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness while increasing your opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, and opportunities for socialization. http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health_benefits.htm

    1. I agree that pets are part of a family and friends as well. People and animals (pets) that we love and share intimate bonds with can definitely be considered family but where does that leave blood relatives? Is there a point where blood conquers your friends or pets that you consider family? Vice versa? I feel that it does depend on situations but in the past blood always came first.

      1. In my opinion blood holds little meaning to who you consider family. I have blood relatives I’ve never met and they are technically considered “family” or “relatives,” but to me they are just strangers. The friends that I have and even their families are considered family more to me than relatives I’ve never met or barely ever see.

    2. I totally agree with Alysses that pets are important part of the life and most of us treat them as family members.But it is heart breaking for me to see that sometimes you have to put down sleep to your own pets as they are getting old.My neighbours dog was named Spooky and he was almost the same age of his daughter,but unfortunately they dont care that much for him and Spooky roam about here and there.But as he was 12 years old they decided to put down him to sleep .That was very depressing for us too.While taling him to the doctor he diecided to let him meet us too but when he told us that he is going to put him down to sleep i and my daughters cried so much that he didnt take him that day .We all loved him so much but later he did took him witout letting us know and that was very very sad news for us too!!!

      1. Pets are definitely a big part of a family and I agree with you Amber that it is sad when someone has to put down a pet because it’s like someone dying in the family. However, many people put down their pets because they are sick and either they cannot afford the payments to cure them, or they are too old to go through the treatments. Putting them down is actually helping the dog or animal suffer less because they do not have to live with the sickeness for long. I think it is more tragic seeing a dog suffer than putting it down. I know it would be very hard because my two dogs are like babies to my mom and I do believe she loves them more than her kids sometimes, but one has to do what is right for their pets.

      2. It was sad for me to read your post about having to put Spooky down. I have never been allowed a pet because my dad is allergic to any and every animal out there but I’ve grown to love one my best friends little puggle, Buster and I can’t imagine having him put down. It’s truly heartbreaking. I have a question; was Spooky in pain or simply in the way? I feel that it seems more humane to allow a pet to die naturally (w/pain killers if they are suffering). When someone takes on the responsibility of a pet and invites a pet into their home to become a part of their family they should be treated as just that, a part of the family.

  12. I believe that pets are definitely a part of the family. Fifteen out of the twenty-one years of my life I have had a dog. We have always treated our dogs as one of the family, my mom even goes as far as dressing them up for Halloween. In the winter, they also get sweaters. I feel like I show my own dog more love than I do my own family. It’s nice having someone that can’t judge you, they just love you unconditionally.

  13. In our society and our culture pets are definitely considered a part of the family. Many may question why and state its not right or normal but i would challenge them to step back and think about this. Why wouldn’t a family/person want someone that is always excited to see them, who is always there to listen (even if they dont say anything back :]), who loves them unconditionally and the only request they have is to love them back. Personally i have 2 dogs and I love seeing them everyday. I love when they greet me at the door and I feel as if they bring a lot of joy to my family. I believe our society has become so “pet friendly” because people are always going to let you down, thats life. But your pet wont, he will always be there for you at the end of they day. He doesn’t care who you are or what you look like or what you’ve done. He just loves you. Who wouldn’t consider them part of the family?

  14. I think that that is the big pull towards pets Kristinec33. The fact that they do love you unconditionally. I feel that they also show forgiveness and caring. Pets are important in teaching how to care for others and show compassion. I am also guilty of dressing my dog in sweaters when she was with us! She was cold and the did help. I miss my dog every day! I am just now feeling ready to rescue another dog after two years. We are acutally looking at petfinder.com today for a new addition to our “rescue crew”.

  15. For me, my dog is my baby, as well as a part of the family. I own a very large (110+ lb) German Shepherd who is an excellent dog. I use him as a therapy dog that goes to nursing homes as well as veteran housing.

    Sarge will accept me no matter what I do wrong or if I come home past the time I said, there will be welcoming cries of happiness from him ( I did say baby). The devotion that an animal can show a person is often in question. A main reason of why I needed to live at home and not on campus was because of him. After 3 weeks without seeing me, he became depressed and stopped eating. My mom had to hand feed him and even then he would not each much. As soon as I would come home he started eating normal. Sarge is constantly following me around the house and keeping an eye on me to make sure that I am okay.

    With Sarge being a therapy dog, he is great to have around the house. My grandma suffers from both Dementia and Alzheimer’s. He was able to recognize when she was going to have a stroke and notify the family. He sits by her when he knows that she is sad and allows him to pet her. As a VERY lazy dog that would rather lay down, he will stand or sit so that she can reach him. He also is the only dog out of 4 that will bring the ball to her and release it without problems and the joy that is in her face is something that brings tears to everyone’s face.

    Having a dog in my household…is not just a dog…but an extremely important part of the family.

  16. I agree that pets are becoming a huge part of society. I especially agree with the statements about the pets being helpful emotionally and physically to their owners. I have a dog of my own and though she can be crazy and seems to only want to be around you for the treats sometimes, I know this isn’t true. She can tell when I’m upset and will try to drag me outside to play with her and get my mind off of things. After a while of playing she will just sit by me outside as I think, bringing me comfort and security.

    She’s more than just a pet though. In times of stress she will often be the only thing that brings a smile to faces of my family.

    She’s more of a best friend than just a pet.

  17. I too see my beloved dog as a member of my family. I sometimes feel like I am closer to her than certain humans in my family! Whenever I am away from home and feeling stressed (or just bored), I think of her. My brother also loves dogs—it’s one of the few things we have in common. My dog thus also helps me bond with my brother, as well as other dog owners I meet. I’m certain I would be a lot lonelier without a dog in my life.

    1. I felt the exact same way when I had a dog. I too felt closer to her then some my friends. She was definitely another member of our family and I was absolutely devastated when we had to put her to sleep. To this day I have yet to get another dog and my house is definitely lonelier without one which I hate.

      1. There is one thing that I disagree with the author about. The author of this article said, “The bonds between cats and dogs and their owners is extremely strong due to the fact that owners have a longer life span…” I believe that no matter how long an animal lives you create bonds with it that will last a life time. Long after a pet is gone you can still reminisce of the time you have together happy or sad. I don’t believe that a death breaks the bond you had with your pet or any person for that matter. Not because I believe that you will see them in heaven, but because their time with you will always live in your heart and they in mind will always still be with you.

  18. I find a very big ethical problem that others seem to either ignore or not even think about. To have a pet is almost akin to my own mind a slave, whether not that slave has personhood is inmaterial but the fact that you can purchase another living being say like a dog, a cat or some other animal from breeders or pet store just seems wrong. I think this says a lot about human nature in general, individuals bought and sell other human being to this day even in our country in the form of sex slaves, organ babies, drug mules and so on, and full form slavery of individual still exists in a lot of countries.

    So while we have abolished slavery in this country, I we as individuals have to look of slavery beyond just human slavery but also the use of animals around us for our benefit. I’m not saying that we should be all vegans, but I do think we need to look at our usage of other animals in how we live our daily lives whether they be pets or animal testers we all are connected in some way.

  19. I agree a 100% that pets are part of the family. In my family during my up bringing we always had a dog. I feel that my dogs were more than just pets, they were just as close to me as my own brothers. My first dog after having for seven years of my life was suffering from leukemia, we had to be put down. This event tore me apart emotionally because I was really attached to him. even through pets can’t speak verbally, they speak they find other ways to communicate. In fact, when I am in a bad mood my dog is the only family member that can change my negativity to positivity just by simply being energetic and joyful. So as I grow old i will always adopt a dog into my life.

  20. I definitely agree that pets are a part of the family. I have two boxers and a cat and the way my male dog looks at me when I come home from work or school is just the best thing in the world. He doesnt care how his day was or if I had a good or bad day he’s just so excited to see me walk through the door and it’s the best feeling in the world. Even when he has done something wrong, I yell at him at first, but to see his tail still wag after a nice throat burning scold it’s impossible to stay angry at him. So again I do agree with this this I love my dog and definitely consider him part of my family or even closer than that.

  21. People in my opinion, need to realize that a pet is a commitment as much as a child but that doesn’t mean that people should treat the animal as such. It’s is great to show affection to something other than a another human. But sometimes people go alittle over the top with this kind of thing. Not to mention the people that market pet clothing and other items people buy for their pets. To me it is just a grab at our hard earned money and a way to keep us in debt.

  22. I feel that yes you should take care of a pet if you get one. It should be taken very seriously. They are a living creature. They have feelings. They want to be loved. They depend on you to feed them and to keep them safe. Take them for shots and vet visits regularly. It is much like taking care of a child. I see people use pets to replace that gap. I understand they need that for this purpose. I also see those people that go way over board with their pets. Dressing them and putting them in strollers. Now that to me is going over the top. I love my 2 dogs very much. I take good care of them. Of course my kids were suppose to but we all know how that goes. So I accept I have dogs, three kids and a husband.

    1. I agree that dressing them and stuff is over the top, but unless its obstructing them in some way I don’t think it’s anything to get upset about. There are too many animals out there that are being abused and living horrible lives. Like you said if you get a pet you need to take care of them. Sadly there are irresponsible people out there that can’t even provide basic needs for a pet but still get them and mistreat them.

  23. It was said in the article that the pets, specifically cats and dogs nowadays, are considered to be a part of the family and share an extremely strong bond with their owners; however, I am not completely agreeing with this statement. Even though I do not own a pet, but I do know many friends whom owned the pets both in the US and back in China. Some of these friends did see the pets as a part of the family, but some of them did not. As was told by one of the friends, the pet “is just a tool for entertainment”. After all, many of my friends only saw the pets as a tool of entertainment in the leisure; they wouldn’t see the pets as a member in the family since such privilege is only restricted to the human beings, instead, they saw pets as things, as properties, like the old-time southern slaves. They were merely tools of the owners, and a component part to fulfill the “masters’” needs.

    1. We tend to forget that animals were use as workers. They had jobs to carry out daily. They would help the family with carrying things that we now use machines to do. These animals were not welcomed into the house. Children were laughed at when they spoke of loving animals. The children were taught to separate their selves from the animals. I am glad that now days we do accept animals in the house as family. I do believe that animals have they place at times. I don’t allow my dogs to sleep in my bed. I do teach my dogs to guard my house and kids. They are still friendly and enjoy doing their job. Animals are natural born workers.

  24. Pets are definitely part of the family, whether you family is big or small. But I can see why a small family would be particularly drawn to having a pet – especially as a form of companionship. Think of an elderly widow(er) or divorcee. Or of a single young person who is alone in his or her house after a long day at work. Or a married couple who doesn’t have children. Pets not only offer companionship, as you mention, but they also offer a very meaningful “chore” to do: caring for another living thing whose life depends on you.

    If a person has love to give, but few, any, humans in their house who they can love, then they can show their love to their pet through various activities: walking their dog, cleaning the litter box. providing regular food and water, providing special treats, snuggling up on the couch together, scratching behind your pet’s ears, caring for them medically through vet visits, spending money on them. The list goes on. Yes, one can go outside the home and find other humans to love. But if someone craves the very “normal” right to have someone to love and care for inside their own home, then a pet is a very healthy way to meet that need.

    1. Elderly people do depend on animals. It helps them to have to someone to bond with daily. It’s a unconditional love. This is good because a elderly person is usually tired and having no energy to give any longer. An animals fur can be soft and warm. The need to reach out to feed a treat gives the will to live. Affection is shown from animals for you being you no strings attached.

  25. I agree pets are family. When you have a pet it’s interesting how at first they don’t mean much. Until you spend a lot of time with them. I think our pets mean the most to us,because even though they can’t talk they can listen to us. Some people aren’t able to have kids and having a pet is like a kid for them. It’s interesting how loyal pets can be to people. I also agree that pets do a lot for people at a micro and macro level. Having a pet really does lower stress levels,and helps to forget the world for a little bit. Our society is very judgmental and I feel that our pets aren’t. They love us just the way we are. That’s why they are so important in our society today.

  26. I most certaintly agree that pets are part of the family! They love you unconditionally and I feel like they know when something is wrong, or bothering you. It’s weird to say but I feel like a pet understands a person. Their so loyal and whenever you need them, they’re always there for you. It takes a lot of dedication and time to have a pet, but it’s defintely worth it. I’ve grown up with a pet all of my life; it’s a good way to experience something new and having a companionship with an animal. On another note, I agree with Mills that pets do a lot for people at the micro and macro level. When someone has a pet, or knows they’re going home to something that wants to see them and is super excited, it can lower everyone’s worries and stress levels about life. It’s good to have something you love that loves you just as much in life.

  27. I love pets and totally agree that they are a huge part of the society. I have had three different dogs growing up and they have given me the most joy of coming home after long days of school. I love coming home to my dog, and just sitting on the ground playing with him and petting him. One of my aunt and uncle has four dogs, and they treat them as their own children because they could not have children. They are always there emotionally for the owners and I do agree that they are a huge part of this society we live in today.

  28. I love this article, partially because I love my pet dog. But mostly because it speaks for every pet owner out there. We all consider our pets as part of our family, we treat them as though one of our children. I believe that the reason that pets have been added to society’s definition of family is because pets today have such a huge impact on society at both the macro and micro levels. Compared to back then, the socialization process is a lot different because animals are such a big part of our lives now.

    1. Yes, it’s true. When I was young and would visit my grandfather’s farm, he would always have a dog. The dog was a family friend and definitely not considered family. The dog had a purpose. She was used for alerting when someone would come over and hunting. She was never allowed in the house and would eat only leftovers. That is how things are in the old country and on the farm. Here things are different and our dog is definitely part of the family. Pets are therapeutic and society exemplifies that often on a macro scale.

  29. I strongly agree with this article because I am an animal lover myself. I like where you said, “the bond between a pet and its owner is therapeutic both emotionally and physically.” This is true on many levels. For me, having pets has gotten me through most of the struggles in my life. You can pretend they are another person and tell them your troubles, or just cuddle with them and they’ll never say anything bad about you. I think. A physical example would be a guide dog for blind people. According to guidedogs.com, roughly 10,000 people use guide dogs in the US and Canada. Having a way to get around and not having to be permanently handicapped or stuck in your own home is such a huge thing. I can’t even imagine the impact animals can have on handicapped people or ones with disabilities. And like you said, many people consider families the ones who love you and are there for you, not just people who are blood related to you. So this does go to show that animals really are family.

  30. I was excited to find an article such as this. I fullheartedly agree with the positives of pet ownership, having pets myself and not being able to visualize healthy life without them. I was actually expecting higher rates of pet owners agreeing that pets make for a healthy household, seeing as 16% may own pets and disagree they are beneficial.
    With pet ownership turning into a norm, we can see the conformity you’ve mentioned with a definite increase in pets finding families. This is not only great for the new pet owners and new homed pets, but also for human and animal relationships as a whole. Within the last couple decades animal rights has seen various steps forward, leading to justice against animal abusers and tools to take down commercialized animal fighting and breeding.
    The more we as society include pets in our life, the better our society will be.

    1. I’ve heard that mean people are mean to animals. I have to say that it seems to be true. Animals do not pretend. If they stay away from them its for a resoan. My in-laws used to have a cat and it would always come by me and play. When my brother-in-law would show up the cat would run and hide. He probably did something to the cat or the cat just sensed that he was mean. Pets are calming and show unconditional love. How can someone not appreciate that?

      1. I agree with stefan0201. I feel that animals can sense kindness within an individual and it is a great way to get a read on someone. I also agree that animals show unconditional love and help create a calm environment. Personally, if my dogs don’t like someone, I feel like I shouldn’t like them either. I feel like dogs have a 6th sense as it comes to reading the good or bad intentions of an individual.

  31. This was an amazing article and I can’t help but agree with it 100%. When an animal is in someone’s life for the better part of a decade, that animal ends up becoming like a member of the family. The bond that is created with it’s owner is really special. My mom will refer to our dog as my brother and even her baby. A pet just brings a whole different aspect into the household, that sometimes can fill a gap if it feels like there is one missing. If more people were to have pets in their households maybe they wouldn’t always feel so alone in life.

  32. I have three children and wanted to get a dog. My wife, never having a dog, was opposed. It took some time and she came around. Max is now 2yrs old and the wife loves him more than anyone. When she goes to sleep at night Max has to go (willingly in his crate that is in our room). He has been a great addition to the family and has only brought us closer. Pets are definetly family!

    1. Stefan, that is great news that your wife finally came around to accepting your plea to get a dog. Dog’s are awesome members of the family. I actually have 3 dogs and I couldn’t be happier with them. Dogs are so loyal and they are one of the few animals that will always love you more than they love themselves. I say you get a friend for Max!

      1. We were really thinking about getting one more dog. It is amazing how smart and attached to us he is. He will not eat if we are not home. Our house is the bus stop and Max moves the drapes so he can watch the kids every morning. It’s amazing how smart he is. Truly man’s best friend.

  33. Great article. I am a firm believer that pets do in fact help tie families together and help create a healthier environment. I agree that there a many positive effects from owing a pet, but only pets that you can interact with. I personally don’t see how a pet, such as a fish, can bring you satisfaction, other then helping another living create thrive with life. Owning a pet and calling it family also creates an example for our youth to understand responsibilities in life, especially when caring for another living-being. I can personally say that owning a dog is beneficial to my mental health. For example, if I’m having a bad day I will often turn to my dog to walk, pet, and play with, as that calms me down.

    1. They say watching fish swim around is relaxing. I have to agree though that a dog is the way to go. My wife was opposed originally but she loves this guy more than anyone. My oldest son was scared of dogs, even small ones, and he really warmed up to our Max. A great addition to the family.

  34. A very large amount of people have pets and enjoy pets as this article states. When was having an animal of a different species in your family considered socially acceptable? Hundreds of years ago there’s evidence of co-habitation with humans and animals. Maybe it’s because they cant speak that sometimes animals get more respect from people than other humans. Maybe because they can’t disagree with you and no matter what, your pet is on your side and gives loyalty and friendship. Something could be learned from respecting and loving animals in translation to respecting other human beings in society.

  35. I completely agree 100% that pets should be considered family. I also believe that pets make the home environment healthier. Having a pet around the house helps create a bond not only between pet and human, but also between human and human. It is a great way for a family to bond, by taking the family pet for a walk, or to the dog park, or even to the backyard to play fetch. I feel that it helps create emotional stability. Also, by having children grow up around pets, it helps encourage them to treat animals with respect. There is so much talk about animal cruelty and abuse and I feel that by having a pet be part of a family is way to eliminate the abuse seen in today’s society on animals and other species.

  36. Reading this article made me want a pet more than I already did before. I like the fact that this article about pets is under the ‘family’ category of this website. I have never had a pet in my life, so I can’t really say that I know the closeness shared between a person and his/her pet. However I do understand what the closeness would be like. I’ve read that owning pets can significantly increase a person’s mood. I believe this because I have a friend who is very attached to her cat. My friend and I will be out, instance, and she will want to go home early because she misses her cat that much. I remember I used to think, ‘how can an animal who doesn’t speak make such an impact on a person?’ I still don’t know that feeling, but I definitely do have a better understanding of how pets affect people after reading this particular article.

  37. This article, in my opinion was very well written. I once wrote a paper on the definition of family and how subjective it is. The meaning varies from person to person and can be drastically different. I am proud at our society’s acceptance and openness to altering the definition from what may have been considered family (a Nuclear family) only one hundred years ago or so. Family can be defined as friends, ancestor relations, church community, etc. and that is wonderful. I myself have never owned a pet, however I respect that definition of family that a pet owner might make. Inspired by others, I hope one day I too might gain that bond with an animal and accept him into my home!

  38. As an adoring owner of three loving cats, previously four, I can deeply relate to this article as a whole. I’ve grown up in a family that has had multiple cats our entire lives. Although, keeping up with feeding times and cleaning a littler box used by three animals is a bit stressful and tedious to do at times, it is well worth it at the end of the day. I can see where this greatly contributes to viewing our animals as our “children” per say, because they require a lot of looking after from time to time. As one of our cats is nearing fifteen years old, I can say with great confidence that he is viewed as a member of our family. Much of my childhood was spent with him around. Also, previously, one of our older cats who was probably about ten or so, had passed away and I can say that the intense sadness we all felt that morning was very much alike to one that would be felt if it had been a human. My family has always been very partial toward cats, sometimes they are a lot to handle, especially when you have as many as we do, but they’re always affectionate and loving when need be and they do a wonderful job of ensuring that we have something to giggle about throughout the day.

  39. I fully support the idea that pets are family. You form a special bond with them. While they are not human, they can still provide you a source of comfort, joy, or entertainment. We had an Irish Wolfhound in my family for 7 years. When he died, I was devastated. I hadn’t cried that hard since my grandfather died when I was in 7th grade. Even though he was a dog, I still had a very strong bond with him. Just like a real family member, he was always there for me. He was always there to greet me when I got home. He was always there to make my day better. That is what a family member does. That is why, to me, pets are family.

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