We all love our dogs and cats, and we all see them as our babies to some extent – even if we aren’t prepared to admit it. Look, I’m a pet owner as well as a vet. I have my own feline child substitute. I can totally relate. I even brought him a Christmas jumper last year, for Christ’s sake (he passionately hates it, by the way).
And, as a vet, I’ve been there a hundred times: it’s a routine midweek morning of consults. I call the next patient in. “Lola please”. An early-fourties singleton wearing a Disneyland Florida T-shirt rises from the plastic waiting room chair, smiles, and heads towards me, pram in tow. Mildly confused, I look around for the four-year-old pug which my consult list has led me to expect, because right now, it seems that this lady and her young child are without an animal.
And then I clock that the dog is, in fact, in the pram.
What follows are five more subtle (but also far more common) signs that your pet is in fact your child substitute.
If it doesn’t sound like you, then it definitely sounds like somebody you know – and you should absolutely send them this.
1) Your Pet Has Their Own Wardrobe
Look, I am at the first to admit that my cat owns a jumper; I already confessed my sins.
But If your dog or cat has their own section of the wardrobe, their own chest of drawers or frankly any more than two jumpers or coats (both of which should be practical, in order to be excusable), then you are taking things too far.
Likewise if you catch yourself planning individual outfits for Fluffy or Rover, then you may have crossed a line.
And (this should really go without saying) if your pet owns a single pair – well, set – of shoes then honey, you’ve fully hopped, skipped and jumped over that line, long ago. It’s time to step away from the ‘Apparel’ section of PetSmart. Your dog or cat will thank you for doing so.
2) You Let Your Pet Sleep In Your Bed
For fuck’s sake, buy him a basket.
I come from a farming family, OK? Cats (and dogs) at my Grandmother’s house lived outside, or (assuming they had proven themselves in the art of not-pissing-overnight) were sometimes indulged with a couple of old blankets on the kitchen floor. The rest of the house and especially the bedroom were strictly pet-free zones.
I realise this will be an unpopular opinion, but you will honestly never change my mind on this one: pets don’t belong on the bed. Not only is it uncomfortable and itchy sleeping with all but the most hypoallergenic of dog breeds, it is in fact also quite unsanitary. Here’s why: your dog or cat does not wipe their butt after going to the toilet. Nor are they washing their feet when they get in from a walk. And a significant minority of dogs and cats carry worm eggs on their coats (even if they are routinely wormed). Can you get worms? Absolutely! Again, I come from a farming family. I can personally vouch for the fact that you can (and, as a child my brother and I both did) catch worms from a pet!!!
And now, as an adult, I personally don’t want sh*t or worm eggs in my bed. And if you value good hygiene, nor should you.
Sleeping with your pet in the bedroom will also help sap any romance whatsoever from your love life. Trust. Dog especially tend to find then whole situation particularly confusing, and – mistakenly assuming you are in need of assistance – man’s best friend will often try to help, or (worse) to defend your honour. I have genuinely had an owner report to me that her gentleman caller ended up making an A&E visit for a dog bite resulting from this exact scenario. The chihuahua involved believed her owner to be under attack, and understandably sprung into action.
Literally nobody’s preferred meaning to the term “doggy style”.
3) You Pack Your Pet Snacks
I’m not talking about grabbing a handful of training treats, or a bottle of water and collapsible bowl when heading out on a walk. I’m taking lunch boxes, bento boxes and full on picnics. Dog moms, y’all know who you are. And yes, we are all quietly judging when you bring pupcakes and frozen yogurt treats to the park. Mostly because we’re jealous, and we’d like one to give our dog too, please.
Note: the cat version is preparing your feline favourite a Christmas stocking. I know you know who you are.
4) Your Pet Goes To School (And Does Extra Curricular Activities, Too)
Heck, he’s probably qualified for the Duke of Edinburgh at this point.
Now, look: firstly, I think it’s perfectly acceptable – desirable even – that you should take your dog to some form of puppy training classes. Having good recall and a basic degree of obedience not only makes your life easier as a pet owner, but it’s also vitally important for your pet’s safety. If you can’t consistently succeed in getting your dog to return to you when called, what are you going to do when the day comes that he or she slips their lead, or a wasp stings you and you accidentally let go of the rope? What if there’s a road nearby?
And secondly, you will never hear me talking down about therapy animals. Even therapy dogs and cats dressed in jumpers, bow-ties and matching booties are 100% fine with me; after all, that little fluffbag probably just made somebody’s week. So if your canine kiddie has a side gig as a therapy dog, I am never gonna come at you over a little bit of innocent anthropomorphism.
But if he or she has a schedule which boasts agility on Mondays, extreme frisbee club on Wednesday and Krav Maga on Fridays, then you’ve probably got to accept that you’ve become a grade A pet parent.
5) And Finally…Your *Actual* Children Are Resentful Of Your Pet
Maybe it was that one time you forgot to pick Emily up from dance class because you got talking to the groomer about Django’s dandruff. Or perhaps that year they went without a summer holiday because Muffin had to have knee surgery. Or the weekends you spent cooking home-made artisanal dog biscuits instead of fairy cakes.
Whatever the root cause (or causes), if your human offspring are jealous, you’ve probably crossed the line into Pet-Is-Baby territory. It could be time to rethink your priorities here, sister. Or not. Personally, the cat will always be my Number One.
Share this post with a fellow pet parent, or a baby hamster will be held hostage…