I grew up with cats. From what I remember, my parents referred to them as “the cats,” not “children” or “fur kids.” The kitties were always considered family members; however, I do remember they weren’t my “brothers and sisters.” And I suppose I never thought of them that way at the time. They were pets with names, and we loved them to pieces.
When my husband and I first lived together 20-some-odd years ago, we immediately began calling ourselves “Mommy” and “Daddy” when referring to ourselves in relation to our cat Dobie. Sometimes it was even in third-person, which usually annoys me. “Come here, Dobie — Mommy has a treat for you!” Somehow, the third-person thing with cats has never bothered me one bit. Plus, I found my new husband calling himself “Daddy” to our cat just about off-the-charts attractive. I don’t think we ever called Dobie our “child,” though — he was our cat. And we didn’t outwardly call ourselves “pet parents” or “guardians” either — we were cat owners.
Flash forward a few years and my husband and I began having children … and adding more cats to our family. Even with the addition of human children, we were still calling ourselves “Mommy and Daddy,” in third-person, to cats, and now kids. Something new happened, though. We never consciously chose to do it, but we automatically referred to the kids and cats as siblings. Our cats had a human brother and sister and our children had a feline brother and sister. Oh, and my husband’s and my parents? Grandparents to the cats and kids. Of course.
The way we’ve always referred to the relationship between our cats has never changed. They are all brothers and sisters, even though they don’t share a single biological parent. And we talk to them about their siblings: “Saffy, stop eating your sister’s food!” Since we consider everyone under our roof “family,” we can’t imagine thinking any other way.
I started writing about cats five years ago, and noticed there were some differences in the ways other cat lovers referred to their beloved felines. The phrase “cat owner” seemed taboo, and instead people were using terms like “pet parent” and “guardian.” I’ve always felt weird using those terms, myself. I don’t think of my cats as “property,” but I continue calling myself a “cat owner.” When I write, I go between “cat owner” and “pet parent,” depending on my audience. Sometimes I find I offend people because I refer to my “cats and kids,” when they’d rather see “cat kids and human kids.” Occasionally I’ll change it, because it’s not that big of a deal to me. Most times, I write what first pops into my head.
I’ve talked to friends who don’t at all think of their cats as their children, but more as roommates. They share a home with them and are charged with their care and well-being. They don’t refer to their cats as siblings to one another, but again, roommates — roommates who are loved immensely.
I’ve met lots of cat lovers over the years, and have heard from tons of readers, and there doesn’t seem to be a common thread as to how people refer to their cats, themselves in relationship to their cats, and the connection between the cats and other humans in their lives. What I do know is that no title in the world is going to make a difference in the way we love our kitties. I think we choose what feels right to us, and it’s not really anyone’s business to judge our choices. That is all.
Cosmo, Saffy and Phoebe’s Mom
How do you refer to your feline and human family members? Tell us in the comments!
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About the Author: Angie Bailey is an eternal optimist with an adoration of all things silly. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, thinking about cats doing people things and The Smiths. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, Texts from Mittens (birthed right here on Catster) and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in comedy web series that features sketches and mockumentaries. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.