Cats Do Not Equal Children ... And Vice Versa

The Pope says cats are kid supplements. What do you think?

By Janiss Garza | Posted: June 10, 2014, 5 p.m. EDT

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Cat Celebrity
Last week, when Pope Francis made some remarks that drew a negative comparison between childfree people with pets and couples with children, the pet loving community lashed out angrily.

My blogging cat, Sparkle, has her own post about it, and the vast majority of the comments were pro-pet. But there was one commenter in particular that pointed something out that was so logical and so sensible that I wanted to share it. I've edited it down a bit, but here is the gist of what Susan Helene Gottfried said:

"Cats provide companionship. Children aren't here to be your companions. They are here to enrich your life, to challenge you, to provoke you, to give you something to nurture and then set free. Cats, though, cats are companion animals. They sleep on the foot of your desk while you work, snuggle with you on the couch, and share your bed. They're the ones you bitch to when the ex is being difficult, when the kids' grades are low, when money's tight, when the best friend isn't available. The stuff you can't tell your kids. Kids are great. I'll never regret having them despite the price they exacted, but cats are where the companionship truly is."

People spend so much time comparing cats and children that everyone forgets that they serve two completely different purposes. You raise children to become loving, responsible adults, to be the best they are capable of. Ideally, parents want their children to grow up and lead happy, independent lives, and leave the world in a better place than it was when they were born. Cats are expected to do none of these things! When you have a cat, you love and take care of her for her whole life (at least, if you are a responsible cat caretaker). Cats will never be independent, even if they think they are already, and the majority of them won't do anything earth shaking, even on a small level (internet cat sensations aside).

When people have children, the end result, a happy, well-adjusted adult, is always somewhere in the back of their minds, sometimes conscious, often unconscious. When kids are babies and toddlers, parents make sure they are developing properly, both mentally and physically. As growing children, there are always teachable moments to be had. Teaching your cat to sit up for treats is not exactly in the same league. But as Susan noted, cats provide something that children aren't really meant to give you on a constant, every moment of the day level: companionship.

Of course parents can pal around with their kids and there's that unique lifelong bond that will always be there. But barring any physical disability, no parent expects their child to be their constant companion. That would be unhealthy for them both. The bond remains but at some point, the cord gets cut. One of the core reasons for having a cat - or any other pet - is for the unconditional, loving companionship they provide. It's a mutual devotion that, really, you can't have with another human being. And that is special in its own right.

I always knew that I would never be up to the challenge of having kids, that I had a personality and a lifelong agenda that made me extremely poor parent material. Having cats in my life is purely about companionship. I don't feel particularly maternal towards them. They are more like furry roommates who don't pay rent (well, Sparkle does help a little with her blog). They are not going to grow up and lead their own lives someday. If there are any teachable moments, it is them giving me the lessons.

People treasure children and cherish cats. It's not an either-or thing. One does not replace the other. You can have one or both and either way your life will be enriched.
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Cats Do Not Equal Children ... And Vice Versa

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Reader Comments

Karen mckinney    Mansfield, TX

6/18/2014 7:57:39 AM

People - get a life - you know what he meant - he is not against costs - dogs -

Patricia    Williamsburg, VA

6/17/2014 8:21:16 PM

When I grew up in the early 60s we had ZERO POPULATION GROWTH horrors thrown at us. The jest was be responsible and have NO children, or just a max of 2. I can agree with that. If China didn't have a one child only policy, they would be starving and looking for Lebesnraum as Hitler did when he turned to attack Russia. I don't have children. I grew up in an abusive environment. None of my siblings have children either. It's a personal decision left to the persons involved. Cats, I love. But animals are NOT children or substitutes for children. They are companions and they have their own lives to lead. My barn cats lived to hunt. I was secondary to their mousing. haha. Anyway, the Pope should keep his children opinion to himself. If a person has to depend upon welfare to have children, they aren't having children, we the taxpayers are. I believe in responsible parenthood. Which means men and women have children and raise them together. Dream world, I know. I know.
I'll enjoy the company of my cat!

Christine    Wilmington, DE

6/17/2014 4:52:11 PM

You know, I love my cats and never had any children and no, my kitties were never substitute children. However, I have a complaint about this article when it calls childless couples "childfree." That's insulting to children. It's like being disease-free, or free of some personal revulsion. This term was invented by child-hating people, who actually are too self-centered to be parents. If you don't want any children, then great, don't be a parent, but don't pretend that you are doing some good in the world by not becoming a parent.

Rick    CA, CA

6/11/2014 9:29:07 PM

While this observation has merit, it still leaves unexplored the level to which the animal-human relationship can rise. For example, this line blurs quickly when considering the lifelong care of a developmentally challenged child. Likewise, a cat can rival a young child, yet show some of that child's future promise by instrumental behavior not usually associated with a cat, such as saving a child or entire family from disaster.

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