I’ve lived away from home as a university student for three years, going home every few months during the breaks. I love seeing my family, it’s great to catch up with friends, the home-cooked food is delicious and it’s amazing to be in a warm house. But what I really look forward to, what I get most excited about… Is seeing my dog. I know it sounds silly, but it’s true. I love him that much! However, it’s got me wondering that maybe this relationship is completely different for him. Maybe he sees me as an absolute weirdo who goes away for months, then comes back and occasionally feeds and walks him. Does he even love me in return? If you have a pet – are you troubled with the same thoughts?
Most people have a pet at some point during their lifetime. Whether it’s a cat, dog, fish or rabbit, pets bring companionship that boosts our happiness and adds meaning to our lives. It isn’t hard to believe that most pet owners think of their animals as actual members of the family.
But pets do more than sit their looking cute. They promote both mental and physical health that can significantly improve our lives. People with pets typically have lower heart rates and blood pressure than those without, a result of the additional movement owning a pet requires and the stress relief their company provides. Furthermore, pets can improve a range of mental health conditions, from anxiety and loneliness to depression and low self-esteem.
However, an ethical question has been raised lately, one that has got me really confused. Is it okay to keep house pets? It is not a chosen life for the animal and it’s not what nature intended. While we may love our pets and treat them as well as we can, is this a life they can thrive in? Our animals cannot tell us whether they are happy being pets. When you think about it, we bring our pets into our lives because we want them, then we dictate what they eat, where they live, how they behave, how they look, even whether they get to produce their own offspring. Do we have the right to make that decision for another being?
Now I love my dog, I really do. Even as I write this article, the thought of leaving him to fend for himself and “make his own decisions” makes me upset. But I have to remind myself that the only reason he would be in trouble in the wild is because he hasn’t been raised to live there. He doesn’t know how to fend for himself like a wild dog in their natural habitat would, and that’s because we have spoiled him rotten as most owners do. So, while today’s generation of pets aren’t ready to leave home, would it be possible to make the next? Is this something we should want? Do we want wild cats and dogs all over the place?
Personally, I don’t want that. But at the end of the day, it’s not my decision to make. It is a difficult question to answer, as the animal cannot give its own opinion – but would they really want to live in a house with only a couple of opportunities to go for a walk or a run each day? Would they really want to eat dried food or kibble only? Would they really want to be unable to produce their own offspring? I think not. What do you think? More importantly, what does your pet think?
Critical Thinking Questions:
- What do you think? Should we keep pets? Why/Why Not?
- Is there a way to decide what life is better for the animals? If so, how?
- What would happen to the world if all the house pets were suddenly let into the wild?
Practical Thinking Questions:
- Describe the ideal day in the life of a pet and then of an animal in the wild. Which one do you think is preferred?
- What would be the negative effects on humans if they were to live without pets?
- If you have a pet, go give it a belly rub or take it for a long walk! Treat your pets as well as you can.