The Curious Role of Pets in Modern Society
We’ve always been a nation of pet lovers, this is true.
Maybe it’s the unconditional love, maybe it’s the fact that human beings are, on the whole, pretty awful creatures, and a tiny bunny makes for much better company then, say, Katie Hopkins. But pets appear to have taken a much different role in the whacky world of 24 hour news horrors and unedited bilge spewing from the Internet.
First, to those that have pets, they have become the only stress reliever. Before we picked up our tiny cat pal Parsnip from Battersea, I remember hearing about equine therapy, and thinking it was faintly ridiculous. How could animals make human beings, with their acute and complex emotions and £100 trainers, feel better in that sort of way? Then, a week or so in to owning our scrappy little feline, I was still up at 3am having already worked for 18 straight hours. I held my head in my hands, brain about to explode, when Parsnip hopped on the table purring. I gave her a pet, and felt instantly better. We now have a saying in our household; “Stroke Parsnip when stressed.” It totally works.
But more than being a gigantic stress reliever, they have also become the masters of distraction from the awful things in the world, even for the petless. In amongst all the horrific news stories and depressing as hell trolling, the Internet, mostly social media, is full to the brim with cute-as-all-hell animal videos. Baby pandas playing on slides, kittens breaking in to puppy enclosures, baskets of baby sloths, rabbits stealing ice creams, rats stealing pizza, crabs threatening locals with flick knives. Chances are you’ve seen most, if not all, of these videos. Chances are you tagged a friend, or had a good old chuckle, or showed someone at work. You love animal videos. Everyone does. Don’t try to deny it. You think they’re the best bloody things in the world. They are a brilliant distraction from the nagging depression. I remember on the morning of the Brexit vote, when everyone on my Facebook feed appeared to be losing their minds, a friend posted “can everyone just calm down and start posting cat videos again!” Many people obliged. It takes you out of it, and that is not at all a bad thing.
And, thirdly, they have become surrogate children, sort of. More like replacement children. Or, temporary children, if you like. Not to say you should treat your pet like a child, you shouldn’t. Stop putting jumpers on dogs. They already have a coat for Christ’s sake. Nor are they practice children, because if you looked after a kid in the same way as you look after a cat, you’re going to have social services on your ass pretty damn sharpish. It’s more that most young people don’t have the financial security, or the time, or the income, or the accommodation to have children, so a pet will do for now. Show you’re responsible and all that, without having to change a nappy or give up your already piddling salary. Children can wait until we’re ready, which may be a while. In the meantime there is a cat asleep on your lap, and that will do just fine.
Whatever way you look at it, pets are awesome. In all three of these carefully thought out instances they bring nothing but unbridled joy, and a welcome distraction from what is a rather difficult world to live in. So gorge. Gorge on the fluffy videos and memes. It may not be true happiness, but it’s a welcome substitute.
Jonathan is a writer from London. For more of his work, check out http://jonathanhatch.co.uk/