Thursday 11 April 2024

Cat and dog ownership is about pleasing people not the cats and dogs

Of course, in cat and dog ownership the caregivers often do their best to keep their pets happy. And that sentence appears to contradict the title. What I'm saying, though, is that the ultimate goal of a cat or dog owner is most often to please themselves; to find support from their companion animal. That's often the primary objective when people adopt or purchase/adopt a pet.

Human centrism as depicted by an AI computer DALL-E 3.

History


This primary goal shows itself in how pet ownership has developed over hundreds of years. If you turn the clock back in let's say Britain and look at cat ownership then, cats were allowed much more freedom to behave naturally. There were more community cats in Britain hundreds of years ago.

To allow cats to behave naturally is to please them. Of course hundred years ago there were no veterinary services and therefore cats had a shorter lifespan. They would have been ill more often which makes cats unhappy. 

They would been fed human scraps rather than specially formulated cat food. All these were negatives to cat contentment but at the heart of cat caregiving in the early part of the 19th century cats were allowed behave more naturally compared to today. That's the point I'm making ultimately.

Jumping forward to today, then, although cats and dogs are healthier in some regards today they are, arguably less content. I'll highlight some specific points to support that statement.



And I'm going to refer to an environmental historian who provided advice for an article on The Guardian newspaper online for some pointers on this. Their name is Troy Vettese. Troy said:
“If people really cared about animals, we would only engage in rescues and helping animal sanctuaries’ wildlife rehabilitation – things that we find fulfilling, but that also help the animal. [Instead] we only like relationships where they are easy, where the pets are well maintained, where we can hire a dog walker, where it impinges as little as possible on our life and we are extracting as much emotional support as we want from them."
He regards the relationship as very selfish. It is indeed human-centric. The cat-to-human relationship and the dog-to-human relationship very much centres around what the human wants and desires and gets. Of course, there is a wide spectrum of types of relationship with some being far better than others but that is the underpinning process.

Pandemic


The human-centric nature of pet ownership became very apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic. Cats and dogs were adopted because people were in lockdown. They wanted company. They adopted animals for themselves. They thought less of the long-term future and how they would cope with cat and dog caregiving which resulted in surrenders to rescues and sales on Facebook when the pandemic ended. Another signal of the human-centric nature of pet ownership nowadays.

This led to many reports of shelters being overrun with abandoned pets. The RSPCA were one example who complained about this.

Expansion


In America, pet ownership has expanded a lot as is the case in the UK and I suspect in other developed countries. A report on the pet industry in the US states that 70% of US households have a pet. A massive upscaling of pet ownership.

Indoors


But in parallel with that there has been a definite trend towards keeping cats indoors full-time which is good and bad. I have said in the past that people keep their cats indoors full-time primarily for their benefit; for their emotional well-being to prevent them being anxious about their cat when they go outside. Most people don't keep their cats inside to protect wildlife. They keep them inside to feel better themselves. But they don't enrich the indoor environment which leads to an unnatural environment for the cat and a less contented life.

And it is said that dogs have "less and less freedom to move around the world and be dogs". Those are the thoughts of Jessica Pierce, a bioethicist.

Breeding


And then we can turn to cat and dog breeding. The cat fancy didn't exist before the late 1800s and the same applies to dogs broadly speaking although dog domestication started 20k years ago compared to cats at 10k years ago. 

But since then, selective breeding has created some dogs and cats with extraordinary appearances which are unnatural and frankly unhealthy. Purebred cats and dogs inherit more illnesses than random bred cats and dogs. That's a result of selective breeding. And selective breeding is about pleasing owners. It's a human-centric process. And when you breed animals you kill more shelter animals. Another process which points to pleasing people rather than doing the right thing for companion animals.

Objects


Jessica Pierce claims that people nowadays are more likely to treat dogs and cats as objects than they were in the past. This is evident in the selective breeding argument above. Selective breeding is a moulding of a cat or dog so they have an interesting appearance while almost ignoring the health consequences. You couldn't get more human-centric.

Family members


And we know that cats and dogs nowadays are very often treated as family members. Like little people. Like kids. Like toddlers and people buy them clothes sometimes and dress them up. They do this to please themselves but not their cat or dog. And sometimes perhaps rarely dog owners have an artist paint a portrait of their companion animal and hang it over the mantelpiece. Just like a family member.

Starter kids


The business side of the pet ownership industry has burgeoned. And people are having pets rather than children. They sometimes adopt a cat or dog as a starter child. This has upset the current Pope who wants Italians to have children rather than adopt a pet.

The process is one of converting an animal to a human. If you treat a cat or dog as a human you are not really respecting the animal and doing right by the animal. There should be a focus on what an animal needs to be content which means creating a world fit for the animal in which they can express their natural desires.

Overindulge


And people sometimes overindulge their animals which has resulted in what veterinarians describe as an 'obesity epidemic'. Once again this is about people wishing to be nice to their pet resulting in overfeeding and a lack of exercise for their companion animal. Human failings based around but humans want to do and not what is right for their animal.

Emotional support


Pierce claims that often people tend to adopt a dog as a support animal, and emotional aid. She says this is not good for dog health and claims that veterinary literature reports that the level of dog anxiety is "off the charts".

People are asking dogs and cats to fulfil a human need and looking for unconditional love. This appears to be humans controlling their pet to the point where they are only allowed to give unconditional love. If they were allowed more freedoms with they give it?

Focusing on cat and dog needs


Another thought is that even when cat and dog owners are very thoughtful and conscientious they intend to underestimate the needs and desires of their companions. It's difficult to say it but the domestic cat is a top predator. They need to prey on animals to be content. It is their raison d'être. It is the centre of their lives. Bang them up in they home full-time and they can't do it and they become unhappy. They lack mental stimulation and opportunities to do what they want. They sleep all the time. They eat for pleasure. They become fat. Sometimes they suffer from separation anxiety when their owner leaves them alone all day.

Boredom


Vettese believes that "the boredom of animals is intense." He is referring to parrots stuck in cages bored out of their minds and stressed. But the same can apply to many indoor cats.

The captivity of cats is an issue. The full-time indoor MO makes them zoo animals in effect. And we know how bad zoos are the wild animals and the domestic cat, at heart is a wild animal.

Adopt from rescues


One thing we can do better is to adopt animals from rescue centres only. In line with this, many American jurisdictions are preventing pet shops from selling animals such as cats and dogs and forcing people to adopt them from shelters or the pet shop can be an extension of a shelter. The concept of breeding cats and dogs and then buying them is very human-centric and treating them as objects such as a new car. Dog and cat breeds are about appearance because humans are fascinated with appearance.

Ownership and caregiving


There is a distinction between owning and caring for a companion animal. The concept of ownership is wrong in terms of fostering good cat and dog caregiving. Ownership fosters or reinforces a problematic attitude towards animals and renders them as a property whereas caregiving fosters treating animals as animals. Respecting them more.

Failure


I have argued that cat domestication is a failure when considered overall. A thought. Too many feral cats. Each feral cat is a sign of failure.
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P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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