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'Pets are not children, so stop calling them that': the article dividing the Internet.

An essay titled ‘Pets are not children, so stop calling them that,’ published on New York Magazine‘s The Cut just under a week ago, has sparked fierce debate the world over.

“These are confusing times,” author M.A. Wallace begins, before launching into the most unsettling concept of all: “the new idea that having a pet makes you a ‘parent.'”

At first, the essay seems like your typical rant about annoying things people do on social media, but it quickly turns into a clever argument that left many readers, including myself, with far more feelings than we anticipated.

Wallace writes that while people calling themselves pet ‘parents’ might seem benign at first, it soon becomes clear that “they’re not just being playful.”

“They sincerely believe that what they’re doing is parenthood.”

Raising a child and owning a pet are fundamentally different, argues Wallace. Image via iStock.

So, what's wrong with that? Why does it matter how people choose to define their relationship with their pet?

Well, according to Wallace, "it can’t mean nothing that, just as we’re confronting a terrifying kaleidoscope of unprecedented societal change, millions of people are happily, willfully confused about the difference between having a pet and raising a child.

"Parenting is our connection to the future, the means by which we attempt to influence what tomorrow’s world will be."

Oh. Essentially, Wallace is saying that by insisting our pets are our children, we're retreating from the world. 

That's heavy.

Parenting our pets is a delusion, Wallace says, that allows us to somewhat avoid thinking about what tomorrow's world will look like. Pets are consistent. They grow, but they don't develop. We can (to some extent) predict their behaviour. The time you spend with your pet will almost always be the same. Your pet won't learn to walk, or talk, or to be independent, like a child does.

Moreover, Wallace points out that your pet ALREADY HAD A PARENT. An animal parent, who, given the opportunity, would have taught your pet how to operate in its intended environment.

Listen to Mia, Holly and Jessie discuss whether pets are children on Mamamia Outloud.

"That parent was another animal who [would have taught your pet] how to find food, where to find shelter, and what to avoid that might kill it. What you have to teach your pet is how to relate to the human world (mostly how not to eat shoes, hump legs, or ruin carpets)," the author continues.

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"This is the paradox at the heart of having a pet: We love them because they aren’t human, then spend their lives treating them like people."

Wallace then pushes the argument further, writing, "We project onto them what we wish we could see in ourselves and others. We don’t really want them to be animals — wild, free, ultimately unknowable — we want them to be like us, but more static and predictable. Something we can control."

This, the author claims, makes owning a pet fundamentally different to raising a child. You can trust pets - but you can't trust children. Pets grow - but children develop. Children are cunning and devious and try to change the world around them. Pets don't.

"Pets are extensions of us," Wallace claims. "We keep them to meet our needs, not theirs."

"Your pet ALREADY HAD A PARENT." Image via iStock.

"You can’t 'parent' a pet because you aren’t teaching it how to leave you and become an independent being."

It's a surprisingly sophisticated argument for a seemingly trivial issue. And this is likely why it's struck a chord with people all over the world. The article has attracted over 800 comments on the website alone, and dozens of responses have been published on several other sites.

The reaction, however, is unanimously strong. While some comments insist, "Animals are not humans. Its NOT the same," others are deeply hurt by the piece of writing. One woman called the article "brutally effective click bait," identifying herself as "an infertile woman who spent the weekend sleeping in a barn taking the temperature of a sick horse every two hours."

Still others say they "feel sad for the author," who, as a side note, appears to be using a pseudonym. "Pets have obviously never been anything but possessions for him/her," reads one response. "S/he has never bonded with a cat or dog or other four-legged soul, let one be a comfort while s/he cries, or rejoiced in the quiet company an animal friend offers."

Whatever your reaction, 'Pets are not children, so stop calling them that' is an essay that demands to be engaged with.

What's your response?

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