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Since I was a baby I’ve had allergies to all sorts of animals. Cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, cows… you name it and I’ve probably been allergic to it at some point in my life. Cats and dogs, however, have always been on my sneeze list. Perhaps that is why in my adulthood I can’t understand the whole institution of keeping pets. Why do people pay outrageous prices for “purebred” cats and dogs that are only going to fill their houses with fur, dander, and disease? Why would anyone want to let a cat who has just been outside catching who knows what sorts of critters and eating them… why would anyone let that same cat come inside and wipe it’s germ-ridden face all over their furniture? Why would they stand idly by while that cat jumped up on the counters and table where food is prepared and eaten – the cat that was just digging in the litter box? Why let a dog who licks his own crotch and drinks from the toilet bowl come over and lick your face or, even worse, your child’s face? It just disgusts me.

By no means am I one of those idiotic PETA people. My anti-pet attitude has nothing to do with the animals needing to be freed or given human rights. I am simply baffled that pets are treated for many intents and purposes as an extension of the family. They are allowed to sleep in the same beds, eat at the same tables, sit on the same couches, and eat from the same spoons. They are allowed to ride on motorcycles, visit hospitals, tag along in purses, and when they die they are buried in the cemetery next to their owners’ plots or cremated and kept in fancy urns over their owners’ fireplace. It’s creepy. I’ve seen tee shirts, license plates, gilded statues, professional portraits, and lockets with replicas of pets. There are even people who have their dead pets stuffed and sewed up by the same taxidermists who mount trophy deer and prop dead bears in lifelike semblance. I’ve seen people leave their estate to their pet over their own children.

I don’t know what I’m missing. Are we as humans really so lonely that we have to create false friendships with cute animals to replace healthy interactions with other human beings? Are we missing some element in our day to day relationships that can honestly be filled by a semi-intelligent beast that does tricks for beggin strips?

I understand the draw to animals. They’re cute. They’re dependent. They make you feel needed and wanted because we’ve domesticated many of them to the point where they probably couldn’t live in the wild. It’s a good feeling to be wanted, and I totally get that. But I think the negatives completely outweigh any positives. ¬†With cats alone you expose yourself to toxoplasmosis, salmonellosis, bartonellosis (cat-scratch disease), fleas, roundworm, hookworm, ringworm, cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis, and rabies. Not only you are exposed to these, but every child and adult who enters your home is exposed as well. That’s not calling into account all the dander the animal is freely flinging all over every surface of your home. Did you know that dander can take several years to clear out of even the most meticulously-kept home, leaving anyone who visits or moves into that home with allergies at severe risk? It’s the same with your car or any other surface the animals touch. Your clothes that you wear to the store, to a school, to church – everyone around you is forced to put up with the dander and the smell of animals stuck in them. There have been many times where I have had an asthma attack simply by sitting down next to someone who has been around a cat or dog.

If all the dander, smell, disease, and dependency of pets isn’t a good enough deterrent for keeping pets, then the fact that they’re very expensive might be my best argument in this day and age. Dog food, cat food, shots, antibiotics, surgery, vet bills, spaying and neutering, registration fees, kennel fees, and all the associated health costs to the people involved with them. In an economic crisis such as we find ourselves in, where many people are living paycheck to paycheck or being evicted from the only home they’ve ever known, how can people still afford to keep pets whose sole purpose is to fill some sort of comfort void that they as a person are afraid of seeking from another person or activity? I won’t even go into the people who have to get allergy shots or watch their children suffer from allergy-related illness constantly in order to keep pets. I think it’s rather strange that there is a general consensus that the “crazy cat lady” with thirty cats is… well… crazy. Yet the family with one or a few cats is considered normal for keeping the same sort of useless animal in lesser quantities.

I’m not writing this in order to put anyone down who keeps pets. I’ve tried the whole pet thing with many different types of animals. I could never form an emotional attachment to any of them, no matter how much I tried. I forced tears when they died or I had to get rid of them, but I can’t remember being genuinely sad as I am when I lose a human friend or family member. I think I was more sad to have NOT formed that special bond with them that everyone else seems to be able to form. My pets have always been just… animals. Now I will no longer even make an attempt to keep pets. Maybe it’s ME who is missing some essential human quality that allows the keeping and loving of an animal for purely pet purposes. Maybe I am the one who is crazy.

We’re looking forward to having a menagerie of critters on the homestead. Chickens for eggs and meat. Ducks for eggs, meat, and down. Cows for milk. Rabbits for pelts and meat. Some of them might retire as breeders, never making it to our dinner plates, but that doesn’t mean they will be invited into our home to live out the rest of their days. Baby chicks will live in a box in the kitchen, as I’ve always raised them, until they are big enough that they can jump out and wreak havoc on my clean floors. If we get an orphaned or bummer baby animal, it will live inside until it can survive as livestock is meant to survive: out in the barn. Someday we might even have enough livestock to warrant a guard dog. It, too, will live outside and not be treated as a member of our family, but as an animal with a purpose. I really liked my little ram Caligula, who would paw at me for treats, follow me like a lost puppy, and roll over onto my lap to get a good belly scratch… but he was still just an animal. Once I was done breeding him to two generations, he would have been sold as breeding stock to some other family.

Call me a fool, but I’d rather bestow friendship and love on other people than waste such powerful emotions on an animal. Am I crazy?

March 2012

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