As you may have guessed from my comments, I don’t love my boyfriend’s dog. And, as owning two cats and no bedroom door (in my soon-to-be given up Flagstaff apartment) may suggest, I had more of my fair share of problems dating. However, pets are a very complicated issue. Here, my totally biased analysis of the pros and cons of having pets (or dating someone who does).
Pro: Pets are Good for Your Health and Character
Tons and tons of studies show that people with pets live longer and are healthier while alive. Additionally, pets improve people’s emotional states. Not to mention the fact that pet overpopulation is a huge problem in this country and I think that opening up your home to a rescue animal is a major testament to someone’s character. I’ve had pets since I was in college, and to be completely honest, I think that there’s something wrong with people who don’t like animals. I don’t trust them. I’m not saying that everyone has to have pets all the time–if someone says, “I can’t have an animal right now because _____, but as soon as that changes I plan to adopt a ______,” then I’m fine with it. But someone who doesn’t want pets at all? I think there’s something emotionally and psychologically wrong with that. I know that many people disagree, but there’s my two cents.
Con: Pets are Natural Cockblockers
As noted in Lance’s latest blog entry as well as some of the comments that follow, pets are natural cockblockers. Most pets, especially dogs, are very needy (cats are often this way, too, though not as frequently as dogs). They get separation anxiety. They need to be walked twice a day so it’s hard to do overnights. One of my cats has diabetes and has to be given an insulin shot twice a day. They sleep in the bed. They sit in your lap. They stare at you while you are having sex or making out. They whine or cry if you try to put them outside or shut them in a different room.
(How could you say no to this face?)
They are cuter than you and the other person plays with them instead of…you. They are expensive. They put a kink in travel plans. I get it, I really do.
Pro: Pets are an Awesome Screening Tool
However, someone’s willingness to put up with all the aforementioned cockblocking is a pretty good indicator of how compassionate they are and how willing they are to inconvenience themselves on behalf of another. That means that, if they decide to engage in a LTR and things go well, they are likely to be as completely devoted to you as they are to their pets. If you (and they) are interested in having children, they are likely to be fantastic parents because they’ve been practicing cleaning up the emissions from both ends of animals for year as well as engaged in potty training and rule setting. Whether someone likes your pets or is willing to eventually share that responsibility says similar things about them.
(Help! I need you to take care of me!)
When I was dating, every time a guy said “I’m allergic to cats,” I heard “I’m a selfish compassionless chode who doesn’t even have the balls to tell you that I’m selfish and compassionless.” I think most people who say they’re allergic are simply lying. However, even if you are allergic, there are tons and tons of options to alleviate allergies. I remember one guy that I dated for about two and a half months. To his credit, it was obvious that he was allergic. However, I remember he said to me, “I’m going to feel really bad when you have to get rid of your cats.” I said, “Why would I do that?” He gave the allergy claim and when I listed just a few of the things that could be done (after we got serious–who has this conversation after 2.5 months anyway?!) he said he wasn’t willing to do them and followed it up with, “I can’t see us breaking up over cats.”
Oh, I could…
Con: Most People Exacerbate Their Pets’ Natural Cockblocking Abilities by being Shitty Owners
However, the flip side to the whole “pets as screening tool” thing is that if a person is a bad pet owner then it really counts against them. Many pet owners aren’t willing to create “rules, boundaries, and limitations,” as Cesar Millan from The National Geographic Channel’s The Dog Whisperer constantly reminds us. Such people are either going to let you walk all over them, or alternatively, not listen to anything you say because they are busy letting their pets walk all over them. If you suggest that the animal be put away or have negative consequences when it misbehaves, they think you’re being unreasonable and they’re being cruel. Many pet owners can’t see or don’t admit that the animal’s behavior is misbehaving, claiming that “it’s just his personality” or “isn’t it cute when she does that?” You’re cast as the bad guy for your observation, and it gets even more sensitive if the person perceives it as an implied criticism of them (which, basically, it is).
There’s really not much to conclude except that pet ownership is really no different from any other major issue that affects our daily lives–religious affiliation, political leanings, on and on and on. You just have to figure out where you’re going to draw that line in the sand and stick to your guns. I’m not suggesting that anyone attack a person that they don’t agree with. However, you should figure out what you and the other person can and can’t compromise on. If your bottom lines are so different that it’s always going to be an issue, then you have to respect it (rather than fight it unsuccessfully for years) and let the other person go. What do you think? It’s been such a sticking point for me for so many years, I’m always curious about other people’s perspectives.