I always thought I would be identically fond of all my pets. As a kid, before I had any furry pets, I was in love with the concept of loving a cat or a dog, having a little best friend to be mine; all mine, not shared with sisters or brothers, as loving and loyal to me as I would be loving and loyal to him. And when, God forbid, he died, I would have another pet that I would love just as intensely. Just like a child’s concept of adult, mature love, my love for my animals was idealized and failed to account for the vagaries of time and place and circumstances.
I am glad to say that I’ve never had a cat or dog that I didn’t love. It’s not politically correct these days to say you love your pets like children, but that’s how I felt. The thought of one of them getting lost, being frightened, someone hurting them was the stuff of nightmares, literally. I can still remember (30 years later) waking up absolutely terrified, having dreamt that one of my cats was being tortured by a stranger who broke into our house.
I’ve loved them all… but not equally. Over time I came to realize that people just click with some animals in a different way. Their personalities complement ours, or they elicit certain emotions like protectiveness, or admiration, or pride, or contentment, or being needed, or whatever it is that we need at the time.
I’ve had two cats, of the dozen or so furry pets I’ve had the privilege to live with over the course of my life, that I had almost instant chemistry with. There’s a bond there that just doesn’t exist with my other animals. The intensity of the affection is different, and the pain of their loss is different as well.
This surprised me the first time it happened. I was sure that my experience with my very first “my own” pet, Joe the cat, was the best thing that I could ever have with an animal. My next cat, Superman, showed me I was wrong.
This doesn’t negate the love I had for Joey. It was just… different with the Supes. It’s likely that without ever knowing Joe, without my experiences with dealing with him and losing him far too young and in difficult circumstances, I would not have been the same person when Superman came along. Maybe the bond wouldn’t have been there. But it was. Maybe we each needed something that the other provided.
If Supes was a person, we’d be best friends forever (not the superficial BFF crap, I mean best friends forever). Joe would have been a great friend, perfectly acceptable in every way, even outstanding, but not the same.
I suspect that most pet owners have experienced this, particularly if they’ve had a few pets. I’m interested in what you guys think of the reasons for this weird bond-y thing, if you’ve felt it. Have you ever had this happen? If you have kids, do you (honestly) find it’s the same with the kids, where you love them both (all) “the same” but you really do have a favorite? I do. But don’t tell anyone.
[In reading this over, it sounds like I’m that slightly odd person who lives in the parental basement until age 35 and has pets because people are too “complicated”. I’m not; happily married, thank you, a successful professional with an actual life, and pets do not replace my human contacts. But animals are still very important to me.]