Two words in the title of this piece are anathema to certain animal advocate groups: "own" and "pet." They would have us use the term "companion animal," as "pet" denotes ownership, and everyone knows a dog or cat can't be owned. We humans who share our homes with dogs or cats, are not "pet owners," but more appropriately, should be called "caregivers" to our "companion animals," or more recently In Defense of Animals is campaigning for "Guardianship." While I agree with the basic philosophy behind their "They are not our property...We are not their owners" campaign, I think semantics is not the way to tackle issues of core responsibility.
In an effort to be politically correct, for several years now I have struggled with using these terms, but I am here today to say, "Enough is enough!"
The cat you see pictured above is *Bubba. He is a treasured family member, my husband's main cat, and the scourge of our household. You see, this is his home, and that chair he's threatening to claw is his chair. I am his female person, and he is my cat. Is he my companion animal? I suppose he is, when he's feeling companionable. For the most part though, he prefers to think of himself as my ruler and of me as his slave. It's a pretty good working arrangement, and neither of us are too troubled by the semantics of it.
Ownership in Perspective
As for the matter of ownership, you might say that he owns me. Indeed, most cat lovers will tell you that they are owned by their cats. Can I then say I own Bubba?
I own him in that I have the right to call him "my cat." Certainly, if I saw a stranger carrying my cat down the street I'd chase him and holler, "Hey! That's my cat you've got!" And you can bet your bottom kibble snack that if the stranger refused to turn him over, I'd file a theft report, after I demonstrated my lethal right hook to his tenderest parts.
Some cat lovers may be confused because of the fact that cats are living, sentient beings, and should not be cast aside like so much broken chattel if they fail to perform as expected. This is absolute truth and you'll read about it in many areas of this site. Cats are NOT property, and they DO deserve respect as sentient beings. Let me explain then, my concept of "ownership."
I own my cats, and I will not allow anyone to tell me otherwise. I also own the responsibility for them as their human "caregiver," if you will. That's what sets my pet cats apart from ferals or from the tragic stray cats whose owners neglected that responsibility. They trust me to feed them quality food and provide fresh water at all times; provide shelter and a warm place to sleep; give them regular veterinary care; protect them from those who would harm them; and to give them the importance in my life that they attach to me in theirs. It's a tall order, and I wouldn't violate that trust for anything.
In return, they allow me to call them "pets," among other endearing names, and they reward me with unconditional love, as only cats and mothers can give. A pretty fair trade-off, I'd say.
*Note: Bubba and my husband, Asa are both at the Rainbow Bridge together, but they still play a large part in inspiration for this site.