The pet industry has become big business in the developed world, with clothes for those two most loved of pets, dogs and cats becoming a significant sub-industry. In the United States alone, the pet industry was worth US$66.75 Billion in 2016. In most developing countries, dogs and cats still mostly live outside the home, sometimes without kernels, sleeping on home porches or verandas. Pets or domesticated animals do not have it quite as good in developing countries.
In ancient times, animals were domesticated for non-relationship work related purposes. Dogs were domesticated for shepherding sheep, cats for dealing with mice because contrary to mice, cats love to be clean as such do not introduce vermin into households, cows or bulls for working farms, donkeys for hauling cargo, horses for war and travel etc.
In ancient times, interactions with animals ceased at the end of the work day, and humans resorted to interactions with other humans — wives, husbands, children, parents, relatives, friends etc. In these times, all interactions with animals revolved around purposeful non-relationship (work) based coexistence, as opposed to attempts at development of relationship. Given animals would not perform well if mistreated, purposeful interaction meant humans treated animals right. We have then that absent a desire to develop relationship with, and within context of purposeful work related coexistence, humans historically have treated cows, horses, cats, dogs, and donkeys right. We establish then that:
In ancient times, there was purpose to domestication of animals.
Desire for relationship is not a necessity for attitudes that treat animals right.
Regardless of whether pets live in people’s homes — cozying on beds, or carpets, or specially designed sleeping places, or whether they sleep on home porches or verandas, increasingly domestication of pets no longer is predicated on any sense of non-relationship (work) based interaction with man (or woman). Increasingly, domestication is an attempt at generating a relationship for avoidance of loneliness. Domestication of animals for development of relationship is, however, for the most part counter productive domestication, both for the domesticated and domesticator. More so, however, for the domesticator.
Domestication of animals for avoidance of loneliness is counter productive domestication for either of domesticated animal or domesticator, but more so for the domesticator.
When people domesticate animals for avoidance of loneliness, the animal serves only to make its domesticator feel good. But is this relationship healthy for a domesticated animal? Is this not why performing clowns hide their identity and no one really desires the job of King’s Clown? Whether we realize this or not, and regardless of the extent to which a domesticated animal is treated right in an economic sense, there is emotional and cognitive abuse implicit in a human-pet relationship.
Within context of human relationships, we say only the person who has discovered themselves, that is, a person who has learnt how to be happy in their aloneness make good partners. If we assume this to be true, how is it possible for people who are lonely to treat domesticated animals right in some sort of relationship development sense? If a human has yet to be comfortable in their own skin, how can they claim to know how to treat an entirely different species right in a relationship sense?
Moreover, does a human know how to treat a domesticated animal right within context of relationship formation? Does a dog really love to have a leash around its neck for a walk in the park? Or is it the case the dog loves to go for a walk only because having been domesticated, not going for a walk leads to atrophy of leg muscles? How do we know for sure experts in dog psychology know what they are talking about? I do not question their expertise, I merely question what exactly the verbal (language) silence of dogs, which cannot be helped, means in reality. Yes, dogs bark and attempt to catch their tails when excited. We know, however, that humans can act all excited and happy just to keep their jobs even when deep inside they hate their work situations and their bosses. Dogs may be playing the “make the most of the situation psychology” more than humans realize.
In so far as humans are concerned, it is unlikely that attempts at developing relationships with domesticated pets improves capacity to form meaningful human relationships. In relationships with domesticated pets, the pet takes directions from a human. The human is the principal in the relationship, no questions asked. In relationships with other humans, there always must be give and take in order for relationships to bloom, become things of beauty. In the domestication of animals for avoidance of loneliness there can be a diminishing of capacity for give and take, a seclusion into relationships with animals, as opposed to relationships with other humans. A cursory search on Google reveals the internet is filled with news on reclusive people whose homes were filled with pets, but with pets abused.
Attempts at developing relationships with pets potentially can diminish capacity to form relationships with other humans, yet not improve treatment of pets.
For dogs already born, relationship based domestication may generate an improvement in well being. After all, cozying by a furnace on a cot specially designed for pets is better than sitting on a porch in the cold in some far flung developing country. Doing whatever a human says likely is a small price to pay for such coziness. In the loss of work related purpose, however, and assumption of household clown status, there likely is loss of psychological or cognitive well being.
The pet industry already is a huge industry, an industry not likely to go away anytime soon, an industry which thrives on relationship based domestication of animals. Whether the industry shrinks or grows, it is important that domesticators be aware of the fact that target of relationship formation between domesticated animals and humans can be counter productive in the sense that while pets may be economically better off, they simultaneously can be diminished in some cognitive sense; ditto their human domesticators.
The most important thing is for domesticators of animals to be aware of pros and cons of relationship based domestication.
The loss implied in bias for spending time with domesticated animals vis-a-vis other humans may be difficult to quantify, yet exists. In the fact that increasingly humans are taking to drugs — both pharmaceutical and recreational — in developed countries, there is indirect proof that relationship based domestication of animals is not a good panacea for loneliness.
I do not have anything against pets such as dogs, cats, cows, horses, donkeys. As a rich aristocrat in ancient times, I would at the very least have owned cows or bulls, horses, perhaps donkeys. If I owned lots of sheep, my shepherds likely would have appreciated dogs for help with shepherding the sheep. In none of these situations would I have needed to spend time with cows or bulls, horses, donkeys, or dogs for these animals to be appreciated. I only would need to ensure there was at least two of each (so they could have relationship with each other), then treat all the animals right for the animals to know their contributions to household purpose was well appreciated.
I am of the firm conviction that relationships are meant to be formed between like — humans with humans, animals of same type with animals of same type. We see this model within the animal kingdom. Prides consist of lions only. Colonies of apes consist of apes only. Elephants spend their time with other elephants. Hyenas, foxes, wolves, tigers, leopards etc. all spend their time with their own kind.
Interactions across species ought to be within context of work related purpose, not relationship development objectives. Whether we realize it or not, attempts at forming relationships across species diminishes, as opposed to enhances our capacity for true humanity. After all, if we have trouble loving each other within the human family, how in reality can there be credibility for a claim that generally speaking, we understand how to form relationships with other species?