Pets Are Part of the FamILY
Whether you gush about your fur baby or think your pet is the coolest roommate ever, one thing’s for sure: pets are part of the family! And we’re not the only ones who think so—science backs us up.
How Animals Joined The Household
The human-animal relationship has been an important one since the very first animals were domesticated (here’s looking at you, goats). Way back when animals were treated like tools used for food or labor. Chickens made eggs and meat, horses and oxen moved people and heavy loads, and dogs and cats were hunters.
When the ancient Egyptians invited cats into their homes to keep mice and snakes at bay, they were quickly smitten with their (adorable) predators. While they decked their cats in gold and jewels and gave them a seat at banquets, it took the rest of the world a little while to catch up.
In Europe and the United States, people have kept dogs and cats for centuries. They were used as hunting dogs, mouse-hunting cats, and companion animals. Still, people tended to think of animals as property. Although many pet owners had a great deal of affection for their animals, they weren’t regarded as anything close to a human family member.
It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that people stopped worrying as much about survival and actually indulged in a little bit of relaxation. More people started adopting pets to act as friends instead of workers. Once they had a little more time to spend at home with those pets, that relationship became deeper and more loving.
How Pets Became Family Members
People have more freedom nowadays to choose a life that makes them happy. For some people, that’s 2.5 kids and a white picket fence. For others, it’s a life traveling non-stop with their canine BFF in tow! All those choices mean more types of family structures than ever before.
The number of kids people are having has stayed the same in the United States since the 1970s—meanwhile, pet ownership has tripled! As of 2018, over 60% of American households have pets, with dogs and cats as the most popular picks. The American Veterinary Medical Association proved that pets are an integral part of American families—85% of dog owners and 76% of cat owners say that they consider their pets a bonafide family member. (No surprises there, huh?)
We all have unique relationships with our pets, and that extends to how we view them in our family! Sociologist Andrea Laurent-Simpson’s research shows that we each see different roles for our animals. Parents with children are more likely to think of their pets as another one of their “babies,” making many of them proud pet parents! Children who grow up alongside beloved pets usually describe them as “siblings” or “best friends.”
That “best friend” feeling extends to many adults who haven’t settled down into a conventional nuclear family. Many single adults consider their pets their ride-or-die companions who are their confidants and cheerleaders through every breakup and promotion. Some people choose not to raise children, and pets can become their less labor-intensive babies in these happily childless families.
Whether people are in single-parent families, merged with their extended families, or keeping things tight with just them and their four-legged BFF, it’s clear that pets have become an integral part of our family unit! They make us happy, and we do our level best to keep them happy—because that’s what you do for the ones you love.