Why I Dote on My Feline ‘Fur Baby’


The tendency to treat cats like babies or children is a common phenomenon among cat owners. Anthropomorphism, or attributing human traits and emotions to non-human entities, allows us to relate to our feline companions in a way that fulfills an emotional need. However, this practice raises questions about whether it benefits the cat or simply satisfies the owner’s desires. Exploring the motivations and implications behind feline anthropomorphism can provide greater insight into our relationships with pets.

Desire for Nurturing

Some pet owners treat their pets like babies because of a fundamental human desire and need to nurture and care for vulnerable beings. This innate nurturing instinct often leads people to feel fulfilled by caring for creatures who rely on them for food, shelter, affection and protection. According to research by the University of Exeter, pet owners form a psychological attachment to their pets that satisfies deep-rooted desires to love and nurture a dependent (Psychology Today). Pets evoke feelings of being needed, which can provide comfort and purpose, especially for singles or couples without children. The vulnerable and affectionate nature of pets allows owners to express caretaking behaviors.

Unconditional Love

One of the main reasons people treat their pets like babies is because of the unconditional love they receive from their furry friends. Unlike human relationships, a pet will show you affection at all times without judgement, reservations, or ulterior motives. As the NIH article explains, “Pets also provide non-judgmental social support. They are happy to see you when you come home from work or school. They cuddle with you when you’re not feeling well.” This non-judgmental affection can provide great comfort, especially for those who struggle with anxiety, depression, or loneliness. The companionship of a pet can fill an emotional void and act as a surrogate family member.

Additionally, pets provide constant physical affection through nuzzling, cuddling, and petting which helps release oxytocin and lower stress levels. The HelpGuide article notes that “Stroking a cat or dog helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Pets also provide tactile stimulation that provides comfort.” Unlike human relationships, you can always count on your furry companion to snuggle up without needing anything in return.

Like Caring for a Child

There are many similarities between caring for a pet and caring for a young child. Pet owners often establish set feeding times, cleaning routines, and training regiments for their furry companions in ways that mirror parenting an infant or toddler.

For example, new pet owners learn to feed their dogs or cats on a regular schedule, just as parents feed infants on demand or per a timetable. Keeping a consistent feeding routine provides the structure and predictability that pets, like babies, need. Owners make sure pet food and water bowls stay full and freshened, similar to how parents prepare bottles or meals for a child.

Cleaning up after pets parallels the messes created by human babies as well. Dog owners potty train puppies and deal with accidents, comparable to diaper changes and potty training toddlers. Cats use litter boxes that must be frequently scooped and cleaned, much like changing dirty diapers. Pets and children both can create laundry from dirty bedding and clothes.

Additionally, many pet owners invest time and effort into training their animals, teaching commands, manners, and household rules. This mirrors the parenting efforts to shape good behavior in children through instruction, repetition, rewards, and discipline. Just as with kids, patience and consistency are key when training pets.

While not exactly the same, caring for pets and caring for young kids share many similar responsibilities and time investments from their human caretakers.



Taking Care of a Pet is NOT the Same as Caring for a Baby

Filling an Emotional Void

For some people, pets help fill an emotional void caused by loneliness or empty nest syndrome after children move out. The companionship of a pet can provide comfort and reduce feelings of isolation. However, pets should not be viewed as a complete replacement for human relationships.

Loneliness affects people of all ages. A survey by Cigna found that 61% of respondents reported feeling lonely, with the highest rates among young adults ages 18-22 (Cigna). With busy work schedules and transient living situations, forging connections can be challenging. Pets offer steady companionship and affection that helps alleviate loneliness.

Similarly, empty nesters can feel a deep sense of loss when children leave home. The departure of children from the daily household leaves a void. Pets can provide comfort and daily structure. However, pets do not fill the complex role of human family. Relying too heavily on pets for emotional needs may indicate an underlying issue.

While pets can temporarily fill an emotional void, human relationships are ultimately more fulfilling. As the article “Pets Are No Substitute for People” states, “We all need a friend just like us. Someone with whom we can have deep, meaningful conversation” (Boundless). Pets provide wonderful companionship, but human relationships are essential for mental health.

Anthropomorphizing Pets

One reason some pet owners treat their cats or dogs like babies is that they anthropomorphize their pets, or attribute human traits, emotions, or intentions to them (source). When people anthropomorphize pets, they essentially give them human-like qualities in their own minds.

For example, if a cat meows insistently for food, its owner may assume the cat is “asking” for food or is worried about being fed. But in reality, the cat is likely just responding instinctively to hunger cues. Anthropomorphism like this can lead owners to misinterpret normal animal behaviors.

Anthropomorphism also explains behaviors like buying pets human-like clothes or toys, using “baby talk”, celebrating a pet’s birthday, and allowing them to sleep in human beds. While not necessarily harmful, anthropomorphizing animal companions can distort our perceptions of them.

Pet-Centered Home

Many pet owners adapt the layout and design of their homes to better accommodate their furry companions. This may involve setting aside entire rooms just for pets, like creating a dedicated dog room with amenities like raised beds, toy storage, and easy-clean floors and furnishings (Pinterest). Pet feeding and grooming stations can be incorporated into kitchen or mudroom layouts. Built-in nooks, ramps, perches and climbing surfaces allow cats access to different areas. Flooring and fabrics are chosen with durability and easy cleaning in mind.

Interior design elements like decorative pet beds and bowls reflect owners’ affection for their pets. Walls might feature gallery walls showing off pet photos. Overall, the home’s layout and décor place pets front and center as cherished family members.

Expense of Pet Care

Pet care can be extremely expensive, with high costs for food, medical care, toys, and other accessories. According to a Safewise study, the average annual cost for a medium-sized dog is $1,843, while cat owners spend around $1,174 a year [1]. These costs can quickly add up, especially if a pet has any health issues requiring medication, special food, or surgery. For example, ACL surgery for a dog can cost between $1,500 and $3,500 [1]. Cats and dogs both require regular vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, heartworm testing, and spay/neuter surgery. High-quality pet food and treats are also expensive. According to research by People Magazine, the average pet owner spends over $4,500 per year on their pet’s basic needs [2]. With all these ongoing costs, it’s clear that pets require a significant financial commitment, which some pet owners may not fully anticipate.

Social Acceptance

The trend of pet parenting is becoming more socially acceptable and mainstream. According to surveys from Symrise, 95% of pet owners in the U.S. consider themselves “pet parents.” Pet spending has also quadrupled over the last 20 years, showing that pet owners are willing to invest more on premium products and services for their pets. This increased pet parenting indicates it has become more commonplace to treat pets like family members.

Pets are also living much longer due to advances in nutrition and veterinary medicine, allowing for stronger emotional bonds over time. The American Animal Hospital Association reports that in the 1980s, the average lifespan for a dog was 7.2 years and for a cat was 7 years. Now it’s closer to 11 years for dogs and 12 for cats. With pets around for so much longer, pet owners are more likely to humanize and treat them like their children.


In conclusion, there are many reasons why people may treat their cats like babies. The most common reasons seem to be a desire for nurturing, seeking unconditional love, enjoying caring for the cat as if it were a child, filling an emotional void, anthropomorphizing pets, creating a pet-centered home, the high expense of quality pet care, and the increasing social acceptance of pet parenting. Treating cats like babies appears to be a growing trend, especially among millennials, as people forge increasingly strong bonds with their pets and prioritize them in their families and budgets. While certainly not a replacement for human children, pets like cats can fulfill important emotional needs for many people. Understanding the motivation behind pet parenting can help explain this behavior that may seem unusual to some but provides great meaning and fulfillment to others.

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