I’ll admit up front: I’m not much of a pet person. Growing up, my family only had a handful of pets, few of the traditional. There were a few tiger barb fish my sisters and I had to share until, out of boredom from living in the suburbs, they (the barbs, not the sisters) turned cannibalistic and all died at the most disturbing Thanksgiving feast possible. I have a few glimmering memories when I was three or four of my brother’s psychotically hyper dog who eventually went to a bucolic farm named County Euthanization Station #5.
Things haven’t changed much for me as an adult. Now my kids have a betta fish and my wife has her childhood ornate box turtle. Since neither of these two come when you call them, we don’t really have any pets with deep relationship potential.
All of this probably explains why I get so annoyed when childless people say “My pets are my children.” Or “These little darlings are helping me practice to be a parent.” As any experienced parent and pet owner will tell you, they are a more than just a little bit different. Sure you are taking care of another living creature, but that is where the comparison between your relationship with a human being and an animal ends. But it could be a little more realistic.
So here are 5 ways childless people could make having pets more realistic like having a small child.
Newborn Sleep Deprivation
Set an alarm for every two hours (if you own a cat, this probably is unnecessary, so good for you!). Get up, go downstairs and walk in a circle for 90 minutes, holding your pet as best you can (for fish this depends on the size of the tank—anything under 10 gallons, picking up the whole thing makes the experience even more realistic). Feel free to watch Netflix or any baseball games still being played on the West Coast. Go to bed and do it all over again 30 minutes later. Remember, like feeding a baby, every two hours starts at the beginning of the experience, not the end. Ultra-realistic hack: curse while having serious second thoughts about what you are doing having a child/pet in the first place.
Dressing the Child
Pick out a cute outfit you think your pet baby will look totes adorbs in; make sure it has teeny-tiny buttons or a zipper with exceptionally fine teeth. Return it for the next size up at least twice since your pet child just grows so fast! Now, when your pet is really cranky (e.g., when it wants to be fed or go for a walk), proceed to really try and dress your pet in the clothes. It doesn’t count as being dressed if all the buttons aren’t done and the zipper isn’t pulled up all the way. Bonus points for getting any pet fur caught in the zipper (sorry, reptile owners!). Ultra-realistic hack: do this with a feral cat.
Nuclear Level Tantrums
To get the toddler experience, give in to your pet(s)’s desire to destroy everything in the house. Then when you stop them, pretend they are having a nuclear level tantrum: this means you stand in one spot for forty-five minutes while you pretend your pet is yelling at you for any of the following affronts: 1) you won’t let her drive your car, 2) You won’t let him wear your newest heels to stomp in puddles, 3) she didn’t like the way you said “Good morning!” to her, or 4) You touched her blanket while tucking her in after she asked you to tuck her in. Ultra-realistic hack: randomly throw ketchup on yourself during the “tantrum” before punching yourself in the crotch, regardless of whether you are a pet “mother” or “father.”
Feed the beast!
Spend thirty minutes preparing your pet(s)’s meal. Spend twenty minutes getting your pet into a high chair because you can’t remember how the damn tray table comes off even though you open it every damn night. Then sit down for ten seconds before scattering the food randomly on the floor around your table. Spend an hour cleaning it up. For the next hour, pretend your pet is yelling at you that the food is “gross!” and they want either bagels, toast, rice, or plain pasta. Eventually, make a pot of plain pasta. Pretend to watch your pet eat one piece before asking for dessert. Ultra-realistic hack: Buy a metric ton of goldfish crackers each week and grind them into the floor mats of your car.
Love, True Love
Watch as the pet that you performed steps 1-4 on every single day, and lavished love and attention on throughout it all, snuggles up to you and calls you “Daddy” or “Mommy” for the first time or tells you what they want to be when they grow up or tells you how proud they are that you are his parent. (Easiest done if you have a parrot). Again, you will have to pretend that this pet might actually be a substitute for a real human being, with all the potential for growth; conversation; discovery; and a deep, loving relationship with him or her. Ultra-realistic hack: use a real human child.