Why do people say that getting a cat or dog is the first and proper step to starting a family for a couple? That having a pet is “practice” for having babies?
I mean, if your cat or dog turns into a total jerk, is that because you two failed as parents, or because maybe that particular breed of animal is prone to certain behaviours/temperaments? If your dog tends to run away a lot, does that mean you shouldn’t start a family because your practice-pet didn’t work out so well?
Personally I find it a bit irritating when people try to compare your pets to your potential parenting skills. I get the idea behind it (usually good natured too), but there is no way we humans are going to treat our animals exactly the same way we’re going to treat a baby.
Baby animals are practically born ready to walk and run, or find food for themselves (or a teat), whereas a human baby is possibly the most defenceless creature of all time and pretty much can’t do a single thing for itself except fill up its diaper. Basically, we’re not going to put a dish of food out for a four-month-old baby and expect it to go find it on its own like we would a kitten or puppy.
So why say one is practice for the other?
Telling someone, “Ooh you got a puppy? That’s good practice for a baby!” is also kind of patronizing, as if we’re dumb enough to think that raising a puppy is legitimately going to prepare us for a baby. NOTHING is going to prepare anyone for a baby. You can raise 15 puppies and 32 kittens and maybe even a goat and never be prepared or ‘practiced’ enough to raise ONE baby.
The only thing that is good practice for having a baby is already having a baby, so by the time you have Baby Number 2 you kind of know what you’re doing, while the 15 dogs run around the yard terrorizing the 32 cats and the goat in the backyard.
I’ve looked at my cat and his tendency to bite people and think, “What could I have done to stop him from doing that?” like a responsible parent would ask themselves. Then I’m like, “Oh wait a minute, he’s a cat,” and carry on watching Survivor like a rational human being.
There’s nothing I could have done to stop my cat from biting. He’s a cat and some cats bite; and even more cats are jerks, and we all know how trainable they are in general. I could have coddled and soothed and babied that cat all his life and he’d still bite me all the time, so you know what? It’s not my parenting skills – it’s because he’s a cat (and possibly half feral), and not a child.
In a sense, yes, having pets can be an indicator of how you and your partner might deal with a kid down the road, like how you respond when a pet digs up one of your houseplants or shreds all your pillows in your living room or poops on your duvet again.
Perhaps how you choose to punish your pet can foreshadow how you’ll discipline a child, and so on and so on.
So maybe, just maybe, with a pet you can gauge each other’s patience, sternness, or compassion in a family-like setting. In those very broad, general ways, sure, having a pet can help partners see one another’s potential as a parent.
Just don’t call having pets “practice” for children, because if that’s the case, some of us are going to be really good at spray-bottling our kids or rubbing their noses in the carpet.