How much do you love your pet and at what point is it unhealthy?

Our relationship with animals is one that dates back to prehistoric times. We were reliant on animals for food, transportation and clothing. Around 12,000 years ago during prehistoric times, dogs were domesticated for hunting, guarding and herding and some were even considered as companions.


When humans changed from being nomadic hunters to farmers around 8000 years ago, in addition to working dogs, cats became important due to grain stores being raided by mice and other pests.


Historically, in many cultures around the world, animals were also the subject of worship. For example, in Ancient Egypt, cats were sacred and were even mummified. Furthermore, when the death of a cat occurs, the whole household will mourn its death as if it was a human that had passed away.



In the last few centuries, many more animals have been domesticated and kept for their companionship such as pet dogs and cats. Other than companionship, some animals still have a working role on top of being a pet, like guide dogs that help the blind and hearing dogs that help the deaf.


It isn’t difficult to love your pet because all it wants to do is please you and it will love you unconditionally which is a relationship that is very rare among humans. Moreover, studies have shown that petting a familiar and friendly dog can lower your heart rate, regularise your breathing and relax your muscles. In addition, pet ownership can help lessen anxiety and for the elderly, having a cat has been found to be beneficial to their caregivers.



So having a pet sounds like a great idea but some pet owners may take it up a notch or two. Spoiling their pets to the point of obesity or allowing bad behaviour are some examples of pet owner behaviour that points to loving their pet a little too much.


Wanting to spend the night in at home with your cat instead of going out to have fun with your friends may sound like prime example of loving your pet too much. However, think of it this way, would you rather spend a quiet

night in with your feline companion or spend money somewhere smoky and noisy, with people you might not 100 percent like.


It is quite possible to form an unhealthy attachment to your pet but this is only in extreme cases. Here’re six things to consider when evaluating whether your relationship with your pet may be unhealthy:


  • How much do you allow your pet to interfere with your everyday life?
  • Has your pet seriously affected any important relationships such as with your spouse, relatives or close friends?
  • Do you treasure your relationship to your pet above relationships with your friends and family?
  • Do you regularly or always turn down invitations anywhere when your pet isn’t included?
  • Do you spend most of your time thinking about your pet to the point of neglecting other matters such as your health?
  • Do you believe that you can’t live without your pet?



Out of all of these considerations, the last one is very important because like it or not, we as humans will outlive our pets and this could lead to debilitating depression when the pet dies.


Other than humans, the pet may also develop behaviour problems and some may become so attached to their human that they can suffer from separation anxiety. Following you around at home sounds cute but this behaviour could escalate. Your pet could urinate, be very vocal by yowling or barking, or destroy your furniture if you leave them alone at home.


All in all, having a pet comes with its own set of responsibilities and one of these is making sure that your relationship stays as pet and owner.

If you feel like you’re becoming a little too obsessed with your pet, there’s no harm in speaking to a counsellor about this.