‘It’, ‘He’, ‘She’, or ‘They’? Pet Personality, Pronoun, etc

  • Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

This article is the second in a series on the growing “humanization” of pets. For the first season, Jen Chesak reported on pets and consent.

We lost Fiver, 11-year-old Schipperke, about nine months ago to a congenital heart defect. The void in our house has since become a cave. And I think part of the reason, beyond our immense love for the little guy, is how we’ve created a personality of his that is bigger than life.

My husband Jereme and I not only talk to Fiver, we also often talk through him — like a joke. Usually, we try to avoid saying weird things, like if we want to make nasty comments about someone else’s cooking or clothing. Our antics created a lot of laughter. I once told my friend Sara about how we behaved and other people might think we were free. But she just laughed and said, “Oh, we talked through Magoo too.”

Giving human traits and emotions to pets is called anthropomorphization; it is sometimes called personification or personification. No matter what you say, it’s a way of talking about pets that is more popular today than ever.

Once considered widely private property, pets are now understood by many to have distinct personalities — some even have branded clothes, Health Insurance, home deliveryorganic bedding, or (sometimes and) millions of social media followers.

“Today, pets are considered family members,” Iram Sharma, DVMand is the owner of PupVine, a website about dogs.

But, what does it mean when we personify our pets, when we refer to them as “human,” when we give them the gender pronoun – human -? What about the way pets and animals appear in our everyday idioms and expressions — what agency provides them in a human-centered world?

Here, we dive into the questions and considerations surrounding pet parenting.

A cat and a dog lying together in bed.

iStock / Irina Kashaeva

What pronouns should we use for pets?

In some cases, we have people in the house who have never had a pet, and they call Fiver “it,” saying things like, “Does it need to go outside?” Because of our deep relationship with Fiver, that phrase feels strange in our ears.

But you may have considered using pronouns for your pet. Should you use “it”? What about “who”? When it comes to language around people, there is increasing awareness about ensuring people’s use of identifying pronouns, such as she / her / hers, he / him / his, they / them / of theirs. But how should we talk or write about our pets? Any problems?

I am a copyeditor and teach editing at the college level, so I consulted the press bible on this: AP Stylebook. It recommends not applying personal pronouns to animals unless you know the gender or name. If you don’t know, the AP recommends using “it”. (Editor’s Note: Rover recognizes AP rule regarding pets and pronouns, but doesn’t practice it. To convey the importance of pets in our lives, pets are personified on the blog.)

The personification of pets in our language reflects how we tend to see pets as family members. It also has to do with the growing knowledge we have about pets, namely that they are sentient beings with emotions.

Of course, how you introduce your pet is up to you. “I think it’s perfectly fine to use ‘she’ or ‘he’ for pets, instead of ‘it,’ says the author. Zazie Todd, PhD, a psychologist specializing in the study of pet behavior. “Part of it reflects how we tend to treat pets like family members. But I think it also has to do with the growing knowledge we have about pets, namely that they are sentient beings.” In other words, we tend to distinguish between our beloved dog or cat and an inanimate object like a lamp.

“There are several studies that have looked at a very large dataset of pronouns used to refer to animals,” adds Todd. “The results suggest that using ‘who’ instead of ‘it’ is associated with feeling close to animals or feeling empathy for them.”

As far as I’m concerned, any future dog we have is bound to be “who” — whenever “it”.

cute corgi dog and fluffy cat sitting in the meadow on a sunny summer day

Stocks / Nataba

Is it possible to anthropomorphize pets?

Having a special relationship with your pet is a good thing for you and for the health of your dog or cat. Humanizing your pet can strengthen human-animal relationships and increase your empathy for pets and other animals, according to a Research paper in 2021 in the magazine, Animals.

Humans have a preference for biology, which means we have an innate tendency to connect with nature, including animals. Most likely we will anthropomorphize creatures that look and act like humans. (Sorry, spiders aren’t cute.) Our pets, especially dogs and cats, often have child-like behaviors and appearances, even some facial expressions. Also, what animal lover’s heart hasn’t been cut down by a pair of puppy eyes?

Humanizing your pet is a given for most pet parents. “However, some people have crossed the line,” said Sharma. “That’s why it’s best to stay somewhere in the middle and do your best for your pet.”

The biggest problem is thinking that your pet’s biological and physical needs are the same as yours — they’re not. The researchers emphasized, pet not human.

What is crossing the line? The biggest problem is that you think your pet’s biological and physical needs are the same as yours. This is where anthropomorphization can harm pets, who, the researchers stress, not human.

Some anthropomorphic behaviors can be harmful to pets, researchers say. But there are exceptions to these examples.

Clothes and shoes

Lots of people dress up their pets, but researchers say most pets really don’t need to be dressed up. For the most part, your dog Protected skin and hair, which helps regulate temperature and provides sensing capabilities. However, a veterinarian may recommend clothing for certain reasons, such as:

  • One ThunderShirt to reduce anxiety when there is a storm
  • Clothes that are too cold or for other health reasons, such as Post-surgery suit
  • A personal flotation device for pets on or near the surface of the water
  • Booties for sled dogs over long distances like Iditarod or for dogs in cities with de-icing chemicals or salt on city sidewalks (as our vet once recommended for Fiver)

However, can you dress up your pet for fun? I have to admit that Baylee, my husband’s dog, looked amazing in her cute scarf for Christmas. She wears it temporarily and it doesn’t seem to bother her. So why not? Just be mindful of the duration and your pet’s response.


Obviously, our pets are perfect just like they are. They don’t need makeup or perfume (maybe just a shower once in a while). Dye, nail polish, scented cleaning products, and even oil all of which can cause an allergic reaction or wound fur and skin. And some scented products can interfere with a pet’s sense of smell, which they use to communicate and communicate, especially with other animals.

Wallets and strollers

Some veterinarians may recommend strollers or strollers to help older pets with mobility problem, but an average healthy pet is at risk of future mobility problems if their movement is restricted at all times in a stroller or bag. Restricted movement occurs when people carry their pets everywhere, force them to sit on their laps or constantly put them in purses, baby strollers, etc. This can affect the ability to build and Maintain your pet’s healthy bones, joints and muscles.

Of course, we can all think of a reason when it’s necessary to have a carrier — most types of travel come to mind. In many places, you must have your pets on public transport, for example (even if your cat behaves better than some other passengers). Also, I love seeing the dogs take it up in the rickshaws, weather permitting of course.

Human diet

Snacks, candies and other processed items, plus Some fruits and vegetables in the human diet are not safe for our pets. Certain human foods can lead to malnutrition, obesity, skin problems, osteoarthritis, immune system problems, etc. toxic and dangerous. Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate diet for your dog’s age, breed, and any special health concerns.

Human behavior

The researchers also say that thinking our pets are acting in a human way could lead us to misunderstand their behavior and negative responses, such as with punishment. For example, they say that pets do not act out of grievance or guilt. For example, Fiver once nibbled the corner of a yoga block with my cork, but I know he’s not mad that I’m hanging out with the little dog rather than with my top dog.

Animals and pets in daily speech

Usually, when we talk about animals and pets, it’s through idioms — special expressions like, “it rains like dogs and cats” or “kills two birds with one stone”. These terms are not literal, although they often refer to animals in a harmful or exploitative way. For example, take the phrase “it’s like cats herding cattle.”

“It’s tied to a stereotype that cats are unintelligible and hard to control,” says Todd. “But of course, you can train a catand in fact should do so. “

When we consider the meaning and weight of our words in the human realm, an interesting “anthropomorphic” trend is now that the same consideration is being extended to pets and animals. . There is something interesting list of animal-friendly idioms went viral a few years ago, encouraging people to swap animal-shaped idioms for different idioms. For example, “put the cat out of the bag” becomes “spill the beans”. Both mean to reveal a secret or reveal information. “Many ways to skin a cat” becomes “many ways to peel a potato”. “Hitting a dead horse” becomes “feeding a horse.”

In some cases, we may want to use certain animal idioms, says Todd. “When something is ‘cat’s whiskers,’ it means it’s a very good thing, and that phrase is much more flattering to cats.”

Complex, meaningful, and evolving relationships

As the relationship between humans and animals deepens and we learn more about our pets, we continue to discover new ways to relate to and care for our companion animals. . While our pets may not be humans, the more we consider how we talk to and treat our dogs and cats, the more we understand the role of pets. them in our lives and we to them.

As for Fiver, I’d say he’s cat whiskers, but somehow, I don’t think he’ll appreciate that term. Indeed, he is a very nice boy, although many times “he” makes harsh comments about my clothes and what you have. Your intelligence is flawed here, boy.

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