Whether you admire your fur little one or think your pet is the coolest roommate in the world, one thing is for sure: pets are part of the family! And we are not the only ones who think this way: science supports us.
How Animals Joined The Household
The human-animal relationship has been important since the first animals were domesticated (look at you, goats). A long time ago, when animals were treated as tools used for eating or working. Chickens cooked eggs and meat, horses and bulls transported people and heavy loads, and dogs and cats were hunters.
When the ancient Egyptians invited cats into their homes to keep mice and snakes away, they were quickly defeated by their (adorable) predators. While they adorned their cats with gold and jewelry and gave them seats at banquets, it took a while for the rest of the world to catch up.
In Europe and the United States, people have had dogs and cats for centuries. They were used as hunting dogs, cats that hunted mice and companion animals. However, people tend to think of animals as property. Although many pet owners had a great affection for their animals, they were not considered as something close to a member of the human family.
It wasn’t until after the industrial revolution that people stopped worrying so much about survival and really let themselves relax a little. More and more people have begun to see pets more as friends than as workers. Once they had a little more time to spend at home with these pets, that relationship became deeper and more loving.
How Pets Became Family Members
Nowadays, people have more freedom to choose the life that makes them happy. For some people, it’s a 2.5-year-old boy and a white windowsill. For others, it’s life traveling non-stop with their dog best friend in tow! All these options mean more types of family structures than ever before.
The number of children people have has remained unchanged in the United States since the 1970s, meanwhile, the number of pet owners has tripled! As of 2018, more than 60% of American households have pets, and dogs and cats are the most popular. The American veterinary medical association has proven that pets are an integral part of American families: 85% of dog owners and 76% of cat owners say they consider their pets to be real family members. (There are no surprises, are there?)
We all have a unique relationship with our pets and this extends to the way we treat them in our family! A study by sociologist Andrea Laurent-Simpson shows that each of us sees different roles for his animals. Parents with children are more likely to think of their pets as just another “toddler”, which makes many of them proud pet parents! Children who grow up with their beloved pets usually describe them as “brothers” or “best friends.”
This feeling of “best friend” extends to many matures who have not settled in a normal nuclear family. Many single matures consider their pets as their companions, who are their confidants and cheerleaders at every break-up and promotion. Some people choose not to raise children, and pets can become their least laborious children in these happily childless families.
Whether people live in single-parent families, have bonded with their extended families, or maintain relationships only with themselves and their four-legged best friends, it is obvious that pets have become an integral part of our family! They make us happy and we do.