START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good

Why Do We Treat Pets Like People?

  • 1 of 3
Why Do We Treat Pets Like People?

By Kathryn Williams, DivineCaroline

“Cows are people too, you know,” reads Stonyfield Farm’s yogurt lid. The advertising line works not just for the absurdity of the statement, but because we recognize something of ourselves in it. My sister’s friend calls her cat “The Dude” for his laid-back, Jeff Lebowski–like demeanor. Another friend is convinced her dog gets embarrassed when he’s forced to poop in front of her. My stepmother treats her horse like a son. How else could you explain the $40 billion business of pet care in the U.S.? You see, Fifi is very particular about the labels she wears.

Why Do We Humanize Animals?
Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human motivations, characteristics, and behaviors to nonhuman entities. The word originated in ancient Greece, from the Greek words for “man” and “form,” to describe the characterization of pagan gods (and eventually the Judeo-Christian God) in human terms. When humans do not have cognitive access to something, or the ability to experience, understand, or communicate with it, we often try to make sense of it by viewing it as an extension of ourselves. We assume its thought processes and motivations are similar to ours. We identify.

People are more likely to anthropomorphize things or beings that look and act like us: animals that have faces, for example, or that walk. We’re more likely to personify a dog than a tree, or a bear than a snake. By imbuing animals with human characteristics and thought patterns, we shorten the distance between us. We start to see their behavior as either positive or negative, and we become sympathetic or, stronger still, empathetic. This feeling of a “personal” relationship can benefit humans as much as it does the animals that rely on us for food and shelter. One recent Japanese study found that a dog’s gaze can increase the owner’s level of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone instrumental in social bonding.

  • 1 of 3

Read more: Animal Rights, Cats, Dogs, Humor & Inspiration, Nature & Wildlife, Pets, , ,

have you shared this story yet?

go ahead, give it a little love


At, women come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at


+ add your own
10:34PM PDT on Aug 5, 2012

Of course animals have personalities! And they go through changes while in contact with human beings. My "wild" cat has calmed down and is more affectionate and trusting as time goes by. She still won't accept not having her own way, and slaps us when she doesn't but she has mellowed down. She is also a cat that loves water and used to get into the shower with me, drinks from the tap and puts her paws in her water bowl while drinking. She also loves going out in the rain. So, there's a personality!

4:15PM PST on Dec 6, 2010

Animals can feel pain and have feelings like us.That is the reason I watch Dogs 101.

9:58AM PST on Nov 25, 2010


11:43AM PST on Nov 19, 2010

Animals have their own unique personalities and the more I see the dark side of hman nature, the more I like and appreciate animals. They are always true to their nature and cannot be corrupted like humans (unless trained to do so) and are more intelligent than we give them credit for.

5:26AM PDT on Oct 30, 2010

animals have better personalities then humans. Animals are intellegent and sensitive.

8:58PM PDT on Oct 27, 2010

Animals are beings with all the same feelings.

8:15AM PDT on Oct 26, 2010

they are incredibly intelligent, know us more than we want to admit, give undying love, loyalty and affection. pretty hard for a human to live up to i'd say. there isn't anything i wouldn't do to help animals. i love them all.

2:57PM PDT on Oct 24, 2010

many dogs have better personalities than some people I know!

11:21AM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

We're all looking for love ... and where else can you find it, unconditionally and at no-cost?

11:20AM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

We're all looking for love ... and where else can you find it, unconditionally and at no-cost?

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

I knew I was right, I haven't bought butter in over twenty years, I didn't like the taste, and I've …

and i work my ass off

That must have been very stressful for you and your family. Thanks for taking the time to share you…


thank you for the information


Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.