Are Pets People Too?

We all love our fur babies. In fact, one of mine has squeezed herself onto the table between me and my computer. She’s mostly balanced between my chest and the thin sliver of table between the computer and the edge. Let’s just say if I lean back, she’d fall. It’s not the most comfortable position, but there’s just something about moving an animal that has made him or herself comfortable on you that feels wrong.

We certainly treat them like people. Maybe we even treat them better than we treat other people. But are they also people?

The definitions of a person all include reference to humans. Except one. The philosophical definition. It defines a person as a “self-conscious or rational being” rather than specifically mentioning humans. being self-conscious, in this context, refers to a living thing’s ability to understand itself. An easy way to tell in a creature is self-conscious is if they, after some time, start to recognize themselves in a mirror. This shows an understanding of their body as their own. As we have all seen in many adorable cat and dog videos, most of our pets think the cat or dog in the mirror is another animal, not themselves.

You may be thinking that monkeys recognize their reflections, but usually, they do not. However, it is believed that dolphins and elephants are able to recognize their reflections.

The second part of our definition of a person is “rational”. We may know what this means, but for the sake of understanding, lets define it as the ability to reason, or see reason. When your cat lays on the edge of the table, between your arms, leaning on your chest for support, while you are trying to type a blog post that makes sense, she’s not being rational. This position isn’t comfortable for either of us. It’s also very frustrating that I’ve asked her many times not to push the buttons while I type and she won’t stop doing it. She isn’t able to see reason. When your thirteen year old dog still barks at the vacuum, thinking it’s going to hurt him, even though it hasn’t all this time, he’s not being reasonable.

So that would mean that pets are not people because they are not self-conscious nor are they rational. But I think most of us will continue to see them as people anyway, because, hey, we love them. Besides, babies aren’t self-conscious or at all rational, and we still call them people.


Part of the Daily Blogging Challenge


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