Pets are not the best people
You can pet a human, but you really shouldn’t human a pet. Things can get… a bit sick.
No, not in a Monaghan kind of way. Wash your mouth out. In an awww-i-wuv-my-widdle-wascal-so-much-I-just-wanna-dress-him-up-like-a-real-little-boy kind of way.
Going overboard on the pet love can nauseate your friends and family, and can make you really – really – sick. Some people anthropomorphise their pets to the point where they forget that pets don’t floss or use alcohol-based sanitation gels as often as they should.
Rat-kissing, for example, can go badly wrong. Not to be confused with the more political term ‘rat f—ker’, a rat kisser is someone enamoured enough of their companion rodent to give them a friendly smooch.
The Medical Journal of Australia was forced to put out a health warning this week after ‘affectionate contact’ with her pet rodents gave a 26-year-old woman the potentially fatal rat bite fever. ‘Kissing rats is a health hazard’, the MJA warned. Thanks, doc, point taken.
A quick interwebs lookabout shows rat kissing is quite accepted by certain segments of the community. One thoughtful photographer posted a pic of “Jacob making out with Pearl”, garnering breathless ‘awwwws’ and ‘cuuuutes’ and one disturbing ‘can I come over and kiss your rat like that?’.
You can find sites to discuss French kissing rats, and sites on how to train a rat to kiss you. Aw. Close your eyes and try not to think about the Black Death. Or the salmonella or the meningitis. (And, NB, be careful at work Googling around about animal love. Just learned that the hard way).
Cat lovers claim that cats are the cleanest animals because of all the licking. Like how they lick their bums and their paws then jump up on the kitchen benches.
Now, there’s something even more sinister to worry about than the bum-paw-bench-dinner connection. Let your cats take over your house and you could be in trouble.
According to The Atlantic and evolutionary biologist Jaroslav Flegre, cats’ parasites can infest humans and cause personality changes, dementia, car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders – possibly even triggering schizophrenia. Flegr’s theories sound crazy (and he reckons he is infected) but his colleagues are starting to believe him.
At least with dogs you know for sure that they’ve probably been in some pretty disgusting places. There’s no pretence at cleanliness. But just in case there are still some of you out there who think it’s OK to kiss and cuddle any old dog you come across, here’s another reason it’s not:
Pets are great. People with pets are generally healthier and happier. Pets are now used in therapy with the sick and the old. Most of them will never make you sick.
But don’t confuse your ‘fur kid’ with an actual kid. They’re not human. They mostly shouldn’t have human food, they don’t need human clothes. And they probably don’t need kisses.
Associate Professor Pauleen Bennett is a pet expert from LaTrobe University’s psychology department. She says it’s ridiculous to start worrying too much about the risks of getting sick from your pets, and rightly points out that you’re much more likely to catch something nasty from a fellow Homo sapiens.
But she also says it’s important to love pets for what they are, not what we imagine they are.
“(Some people) expect their pets to behave like little humans. You forget that your dog is a carnivore, and feed it a vegan diet… dogs go scuba diving, skydiving. Some of these things they may really like - some they probably don’t.”
Dr Bennett said pets like to be with humans, and humans like to do things with their pets but “sometimes forget they don’t think the same as we do”.
“Humans are weird animals,” she said.
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