Why we love our pets

If you want to see something amazing, Google: “gay people and their pets.” There are hundreds of photos and short essays on why we love our animals so … and I don’t just mean dogs and cats, there are horses, ferrets, tortoises — you name it!

Why are we so in love with our pets? If you are not a pet lover, this article may make you gag. But, if so, think about it: What’s not to like about pets? The most popular pets are dogs and cats, but some of us have fish and birds and some of us have horses, snakes, lizards, newts and more. In general, pets are loyal, playful, friendly (depends on the pet you choose) and they’re good listeners… they DO “get” our emotions and often respond (anatomy permitting).

Pets give us great opportunities to practice love. People are harder to love, I think. We’re so unpredictable and moody, we’re not always glad to see you when you come home — especially if you’re late and didn’t call. Pets don’t care if you’re late or you look like hell or you want to vent about your awful boss. They love you as you are, listen to your (boring) stories and may even nuzzle against you if you shed a few tears over a date that didn’t work out or a lousy job interview.

Pets are great ways to get out of the house and be out in nature: dogs, cats, horses and many other animals like to be outside, and encourage us to join them.

Pets help us to be social. Many psychological studies confirm that single people living alone typically have better mental health if they have a pet. When I worked as a therapist at a local hospice, we had some lovely people who brought in “love dogs” for everyone to pet. I have seen research that shows that petting animals lowers our blood pressure. We also allowed people to bring their cats into their hospice rooms because research showed that people who have their animals around them heal faster. Need more reasons to appreciate pets?

If you’re shy but want to meet more people, you might consider getting a dog. Walking a dog is a great way to meet people. Dogs are very attractive to people who like dogs (most of us?) and make conversations easy to start and maintain (just focus on the dog, not how nervous you are talking to that cute guy/girl). Friendly dogs are like magnets, and the dogs usually like the attention too.

Pets let us experience being responsible for another being. It’s a good way to stretch yourself and see what you’re ready for. A low maintenance pet (like fish) may be a good start. A big ole dog who needs space and wants to be walked and petted and paid attention to is another level of commitment. Pets can’t tell us they need to go to the doctor (not in spoken English, anyway), so we have to pay attention to them and learn their cues and body language.

For some of us, our pets are a crucial part of our life, and any potential partner would have to be okay with that. An example of this is the website www.PetPeopleMeet.com. As they say in their ad, “Meet single pet owners. Free to join. 1000s of pictures of Beautiful Single Pet Owners.” I checked it out and they had both opposite- and same-sex match-ups. A website like this exists because — for many of us — a potential partner would have to love our pet as much as they love us. We and our pet(s) are a package deal!

And what about pets as substitute children? Is it true that, as stereotypes about us GLBT folks go, that our pets are substitutes for “real” children? I think this is stereotype isn’t about our sexual orientation as much it is about personal preferences. Many straight people prefer pets to kids, and many GLBT folks have both kids and pets, so let’s not buy into that stereotype.

In my biased opinion, pets are not substitutes for anything; they are enough just being their wonderful selves. Children are a whole other phenomenon. Not better, just different. At least, this is what my cat tells me …

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