By Julie-Ann Sherlock

“And they called it puppy love…” or so the song goes. It may be about teenage love, but being smitten with a cute little doggo or kitty is also one of life’s greatest joys. Their adorable little smushy faces, waggy tails or curly whiskers bring out our nurturing instincts and fill our hearts with love. 

Due to my nomadic lifestyle, I don’t currently have a fur family, so I enjoy friendly street dogs and neighbourhood cats or cuddling and playing with friends’ fluffies. I have even gone to dog cafes when I’m craving some Snoopy-esque snuggles. 

Those of you lucky enough to have a pet in your family know how important they are. During the pandemic, animal adoption numbers went through the roof. People realised that having a hairy housemate (no, not that guy with the beard, although…) would make lockdowns more bearable. 

But is there a difference between being a pet owner and a pet parent? Let’s look at the signs that show your furry friend has become your baby. 

  1. Pampered Pooch

Ensuring that your cuddly creature is well looked after, gets lots of nutritious food and water, has somewhere warm, safe and comfortable to sleep, is kept healthy and is shown affection is a given. But pet parents often go a step further. 

From luxury furniture to sparkly collars, some cats and dogs have a better life than many people. And it’s not just celebrities and the super-rich who spoil their pets. The pet product market value looks set to reach $358.62 billion by 2027.

Do you treat your puppy to a haircut almost as often as you get one yourself? While it is crucial to groom your fluffster, does she really need expensive spa days and doggy vacations? Yes? Then you are a bone fido pet parent. (If puns are your pet peeve, tough luck!) 

2.   Papped Pets

Is your Insta full of Cuddles or Fluffer McFlufferson? Does almost every image you post on your socials contain your beloved pet companion? Have you commissioned a pup portrait? Well, then you are a proud pet parent. 

And why wouldn’t you be? Sharing images of our pets makes us feel good, spreads the cuteness and is a great way to connect with other fur families. 

Unfortunately, while sharing is generally caring, it can also be dangerous. Unscrupulous criminals have been known to use the information gleaned from Buddy’s birthday photoshoot to do their dirty deeds. An innocent pic of your pet may be used to find out where you live through geolocation technology or by zooming in on your beloved’s tags where your phone number and address are displayed. 

So, be careful, keep your accounts locked down to friends and family and just let them enjoy looking at Loki. 

3.   Doggy Dining

A family dinner is incomplete without Spot sniffing around looking like they haven’t eaten in weeks, despite scoffing a big bowl 10 minutes ago. Clever pupsters are great at guilting you into overfeeding them by sitting and staring at you with those big eyes as you try to sneak some food into your mouth. It is hard to resist indulging them, and it’s in their nature to beg

But some people take this a step further and assign a seat at the table and crockery for their tail-wagger so they can all dine together family-style. As for cats, well, we all know that they do what they want when they want, so the royalty of your house will jump up onto the table and help themselves if you allow them. 

And, of course, a whole industry for gourmet, home-cooked pet food designed for specific dietary needs has sprung up.

        4.   Chatty Catty

We have all used a baby voice to ask a dog, “who’s a good boy?” or purred at a kitty, telling them that they are “the most beautiful fluff-fluff in the world”. Talking to our animals using baby-talk or friendly tones helps them feel secure and loved. 

And then there are those amongst us who have full-blown conversations with our fur-baby as if they understand our every word. Cats may look at you like you are insane (and well, if the cap fits…) while your canine companion will lap it up (but probably expect you to deliver some treats for having to listen to your nonsense). 

5.   Feline Fine

If your first thought when you wake is about your feline friend, or you can’t wait to get home from work for some doggy downtime, then you are indeed a pet parent. 

Wanting to cuddle, play and spend as much time as possible with our special floof friends, rather than just letting them do their thing, is a classic sign of being more than just an animal owner. 

When you fall in love with a cat or dog, your life changes. They become your family, best friend and often your beloved fur-baby.