Have you heard the term “furbaby”? In case you haven’t, it refers to a person’s pet, usually a cat or dog. It implies that this person thinks of their pet like a baby or child. The pet may get extra attention and even belongings that one would normally buy for a baby and not a pet – like a stroller and clothes.

We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with having a “furbaby” and referring to your pet as such, but some people are really up in arms about the term. 

There are moms who claim that it’s not fair to compare a pet to a human baby since there really is no comparison…and they have a point. After all, babies (and not pets) do require middle of the night feedings and diaper changes. They tug on your heartstrings so much when they say “mama” and “dada” for the first time. That’s something a pet will never do.

Moms also point out that it’s much easier to go out (for dinner or a vacation) when you have pets and not a human baby. They say that it’s emotionally harder to leave your own child, where doggie daycare is pretty easy. 

As parents who have also had pets, we understand this point-of-view. When we had pets before we had children, we really truly did not understand just how much more work it takes to raise a child than it does to care for a pet. We thought we loved our pets like children, but until we had children of our own, we didn’t understand just how much you could love another living being. That doesn’t mean that we don’t still love our pets, but we definitely see the difference.

Parents aren’t the only ones who don’t like the term “furbaby.” Dog trainers don’t like the term either. As one trainer named Melanie puts it, “I’m okay with the term ‘furbabies’, but I think we do dogs a great injustice by not accepting them as what they are, as if being a dog is not good enough, like we need them to be human….I don’t know about you but what I love most about dogs is that they are, dogs; all the things that make them better than human :-)”.

It’s interesting that the parent perspective and the trainer perspective are so very different, yet they both point out reasons not to think of our pets as babies. It’s true, after all, that pets will never be human, and we should embrace the things that make them pets. They are wonderful because they are cats or dogs or lizards or whatever type of pet you may have.

Phillip Tedeschi, MSSW, LCSW, executive director for the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, agrees. He says, “I personally don’t love the term ‘fur babies.’ I really want them to be able to be a dog or a cat, not comparable to a human child. In some cases, there are similarities, but there are differences too. I think, in some ways, many people could have a deeper relationship with their pets if they allow an animal to be themselves.”

Do you refer to your pets as “furbabies”? Do you agree that we could have a deeper relationship with our pets if we didn’t treat them like little humans?