Most species of domesticated cats and dogs have evolved over time alongside humans. They are actually dependent on human companionship for the survival of their species and have no other “natural” habitat in which they would otherwise thrive.
However, the existence of the lap dog, the house-bound cat never allowed outside because they’re a danger to native wildlife, or the dog confined in a dog cage (as I’ve horrifyingly seen practiced commonly in the USA), are not natural conditions to these species of animals evolved over millennia, but a recent change to what could be viewed as natural to a dog or cat, a lifestyle forced on them for which they are not at all adapted.
Dogs left alone for most hours of the day while their owner works suffer depression. Caged birds shed feathers and chew at their flaking skin. All species of fish die (let’s just face that fact out right) very prematurely when kept in bowls. Can you even imagine being a cat whose entire existence occurs within the confines of a small house?
Yes, animals kept as pets provide endless therapeutic and joyful benefits to their owners, but the ethical considerations for the kept animal are terrible to contemplate.
Working dogs on farms are a far better representation of how dogs have actually naturally evolved alongside humans, enjoying endless exercise, working with purpose, having constant companionship with their human pack, and being treated to solid food and shelter from the elements.
If you visit any third-world or developing nation you can’t help but trip over a wirey, muscular street dog of indeterminate breed dozing in doorways, scrounging through rubbish for chunks of meat, and trotting happily down dirty beaches nosing unsuspecting British tourists. These dogs are usually very friendly and seemingly perfectly happy. They exist within the world of humans but are by no means confined by it. This is how dogs have evolved, living within tribal communities with no singular owner but enjoying the readily available friendship, food and shelter provided by their human companions. Rabies and overcrowding in human cities turning humans against these street dogs are their only real threats.
There are many dogs, cats, rabbits and other ill-treated, neglected, forgotten, abandoned pets living on death row at numerous pounds and animal prisons around every town and city. From an ethical perspective, rescuing one of these animals stands as the humane option to offer them sanctuary, providing the new home is better than the alternative.
But what is better for an animal? To be left at home alone for hours? To be trapped inside? To be offered only short walks on a leash as freedom? The vast majority of pet owners have no idea how to meet the needs of the animal they have brought into their home. They don’t research the species. They believe the animal should conform to the human way of life with no regard to what the other animal needs or wants. We keep pets, believing that we love them and consider them part of our family and cry great wads of tears when they die, but we don’t really treat them like family, do we? We stick them in kennels when we go on a holiday, leave them alone all day, refuse them freedom beyond the gate, keep them on leashes, never really figure out what they might need.
I believe there are some pet owners who have put a lot of effort, thought and research into their pets and do provide the right environment, remembering that most of these species couldn’t exist without humans. If you really want to be a sensible pet owner, you should really ask yourself if you have what it takes.
Do I have any pets? Not currently. I have in the past. I have been a shitty fish owner (I tried really hard but had no idea. I suffered extreme hypertension watching my fish die one by one). I had dogs, and I could have done a hell of a lot better by them despite how much I loved them. I had a cat who got run over. I believed I was a great animal lover who could provide a lovely home, but the truth is I really didn’t have a clue and I wasn’t able to offer the right environment for them to live and thrive. I don’t have a pet now because I can’t offer them what they need, especially when 100% of my attention goes into my children. It particularly shits me when families already overrun with their kids decide to throw a pet into the mix, like the pet stands any chance of having their needs met.
Just think, a lot, before you add a pet to your mix. And if you already have a pet, don’t just get shitty at me, but think about what you can do to better meet their needs.That’s all.