Jasmina's blog: The rise of the domestic pet-child
My parents grew up on the other side of the world in abject poverty, where domestic animals earned their keep. Hens lay eggs which were carefully shared between numerous household members. Pigs were reared, fed and slaughtered to feed a family for the entire winter. That kind of thing. My dad recalls that, one day, he returned home from primary school (barefooted, having walked for an hour in the mountains, naturally) to find that his favourite “pet” chicken had disappeared. My grandma had turned it into a special meal to feed some nearby Portuguese nuns who were visiting their village on a Christian mission. Suffice to say he was traumatised, but got over it by the end of the week.
Fast forward to post-Pandemic WFH England today, where every other parent at the school gates clutches a cockapoo, dachshund or some other hypoallergenic pet. It is probably unsurprising that the only new shop to appear in our town during the pandemic is an organic pet food shop/grooming spa. We have friends who recently struggled to find a suitable homestay for their pet rabbits so that they could go on holiday to Devon. They ended up taking the rabbits with them on holiday. Whilst I applaud that level of commitment and sense of responsibility, it is a far cry from the status of domestic animals that I grew up hearing about at home.
I’ve noticed a direct correlation between people getting pets just as their own children hit certain milestones – e.g. starting school or going off to university. This is perfectly natural, and I can see how the unconditional love of a dog (or possibly a rabbit?) can bring joy to people’s day to day lives. The same can be said of children – there is a lot of upfront hard work, but you wouldn’t trade them for anything else. It seems that the human instinct to nurture and care for others is endlessly transferable.
My parents’ homeland now has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. The younger generation, who grew up seeing animals as working animals, often favour owning domestic pets over having children. There are pet friendly cafes all over the place where you can park your pet buggies and allow them to perch on their own pet shaped hot water bottles while you sip your coffee. I also understand that there is a thriving industry facilitated by Instagram etc. where domestic pets are fashion icons and influencers, displaying the latest pet accessories on social media and providing a nice little side hustle for their owners. Maybe we’ve come full circle. Such pets do earn their keep!
Jasmina, a lawyer, and her husband, who works in Fintech, both work fully remotely to fit around parenting their two children, aged 4 and 9.