The many websites about cat and canine pets and the exploding business of catering to these four legged friends of men, women and children make me wonder why our population czars, forever fretting about falling fertility rates, don’t consider this strategy:
Make babies a new category of pets and people will queue up to have the bundles of joy eating out of their hands! And bring to life again the use of “pet” as a term of endearment, something I’ve not heard anyone using for years.
But that’s wishful thinking.
Most people who acquire an animal as a pet probably want a relationship where the other party is uncritical — or at least doesn’t have the faculties to express that criticism — and is also totally dependent, for food, care, in short survival. It’s an uncomplicated straightforward exchange. I’m your pet, you take care of me! In return, you’ve the pleasure of being my owner.
With babies, however, they grow up and no matter how well-trained or conditioned by their “owners” will somehow imbibe other influences, from books and interaction with society. And will strain at the leash, sooner or later.
They could become critical, sometimes severely so, of the hands that nurtured and fed them. They could become independent, to the extent of cutting off all ties with their “owners”, especially when owners grow old and become as needy and helpless as a pet.
These are some obvious reasons why some people won’t think twice about becoming pet-owners but take so long to decide on parenthood that be4 they realise it, they have one foot in the urn.
Less obvious, and often unstated, reasons are that when pets outlive their cuteness date, they can be packed off to SPCA to be put to sleep. They can be abandoned or sold or given away. No such exits for parents who get tired of a bawling baby or a tempestuous teen!
Me, I stick to soft toys. They are far easier to get rid of than either pets or kids. My last batch was donated unceremoniously to a Sri Lankan temple off Serangoon Road during the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami when I heard on the radio that kids in affected countries needed soft toys to help them overcome their trauma of losing families and homes in one fell wave.