A HOME THAT SPAYS TOGETHER
John Cowan on getting a pet – or baby
John Cowan on getting a pet – or a baby
I often say things that confuse people. A couple of times, I have bewildered some child by
saying, “I can remember when you were a kitten.” What I was alluding to was that I had
known her parents for a long time; they, like several young couples I knew, were childless
until they got a pet and then, before long, a baby was on the way. It seemed to be a pattern.
Those were pretty non-scientific anecdotal observations but it seemed to me that
something about pet ownership (maybe the cat dander or fleas?) stimulated a parental
instinct in couples. I thought that maybe all the cuddling and caring and training, the
sacrifice and love, gave them a taste of what it must be like to have a family. It could also be
that getting a pet indicates something about your relationship. Harry Benson of Britain’s
Marriage Foundation cites a study which suggests that getting a pet is a sign that a couple
has the right stuff to become parents. “Research on cohabiting couples show conclusively
that getting a pet is a better indicator of staying together than having a baby,” he said.
That is so amazing I am going to have to write it again: if a couple gets a cat they more
likely to stay together than if they have a baby.
I think I can understand why. Very few people accidently have kittens or end up with a
puppy because the power went off one night. Pets usually result from a thought-through,
long-term commitment. Not many people would bring a pet into a home where they
suspect the relationship has a limited
shelf life. But babies don’t come from
commitment, they result from passion.
Even in the twenty-first century, babies
just ‘happen’. Having a baby might
become a huge commitment but it is not
necessarily deliberate one.
Even though I know single parents
can and do raise awesome children, I
earnestly believe a loving stable relationship between parents is
the optimum nurturing environment. Romantic love and sexual
fizz are fantastic but the bedrock for a relationship that will last is
commitment. (I really wanted to say ‘kittens’ but I know it would
never get past my editor). Heart and glands play their part but
commitment springs from character and grit.
Children thrive in a home headed by a committed couple.
Heartening indicators of true commitment have been highlighted
in various studies. A poll of 3500 British couples rated buying a
house together and getting married as key signs of commitment.
So was getting a joint bank account, though
altering your will in favour of your partner
rated even more highly. Another study
showed couples who invested in household
appliances were more likely to stay together.
(Interesting thought: do some couples quit
when their whiteware starts to wear out?)
Do you want a great
relationship? I wish
I could say buying a new fridge and
labradoodle should do it. Humans are
a little bit more complicated than that.
But part of the answer will definitely
be commitment. The rest of the
answer will vary from couple to
couple and will take quite a
bit of thinking but walking a
dog is a great way to think.