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The Pet Gene

Some people do not have pets. For many of us, this may be a difficult concept to grasp. Let me explain.

There are people who do not have dogs or cats. Or horses. Or chickens. Or even that whole foreign land of guinea pigs, rabbits, lizards, and fish. They do exist. These pet-less individuals are amazing. Baffling, and amazing. No animal husbandry, of any kind. What must that be like? I bet their lives involve a lot less poop than mine does. Poop and responsibility. With an increase in money. And more room on the couch. That doesn’t sound so bad.

Of course, there’s also less warm dog. Warm dog with wet nose and contented sigh. Maybe a stray snore here or there. Ever-ready companions, whether it be for adventure or just to hang out in the yard. Non-human creatures that know me, communicate with me, rely on me, and are a distinct part of my life.

How do you quantify their value to people without ‘The Pet Gene’?


Is that what it is? A Pet Gene? A biological predisposition to the innate understanding of, duh, life is just better with insert your beast of choice. You’ve either got it or you dont. Does it come from your up bringing? A childhood without pets, seems a sad thing indeed to me. But, perhaps that’s only because mine was so fraught with animals great and small, I have no concept of it any other way. If that’s true, then so is the reverse. The Husband had barely a short-lived cat growing up, and look at him now. Dog-wrangling with the best of them, which is potentially only a side effect of years spent under the spell of my sickness. He’d argue otherwise as he squeezes highly squeezable Pug wrinkles, and talks a little trash to the funny looking companion at this feet.

I don’t intend to demonize those uninitiated into to our world of hair, slobber, inappropriate barking, and dead weight in your bed. If you don’t ‘know’, I can see how my particular life would look ‘complicated’, to put it nicely. It’s certainly much ado for relationships I value. If you don’t, well then, its just much ado. As much as I am perplexed by these people who go on living without dog, like that’s normal, I do not pity them. They are blissfully ignorant. How can they know what they are missing? You take all the negatives, as previously mentioned and then some, add in my egregious dog spending. That on its own, without the knowledge in your bones of how sharing your life with a pack of perpetual 3 year old comedians, who just so happen to adore you, casts the whole world in a shinier hue. Minus the Pet Gene, it would all seem sort of ridiculous. Like a ridiculous pain in the ass.

Your dogs get acupuncture? You make some of their food? There are how many crates in your house? Yes, yes and six. Incredulous stares would ensue. A big portion of this blog would seem like a colossal expense and waste of time. Not having need for my dog bed manifesto, doesn’t make one less of a person. It doesn’t mean they are any less caring, compassionate, or have something lacking in their lives. At least, not that they know about.

Is it something people can learn? I’d like to think that for most people an animal soulmate exists. That non-humanoid who gets you. Who reduces even the stiffest upper lip to a puddle of belly-rubbing goo. I can personally attest to real life examples of that, but if you don’t go looking, how could you ever find each other? If you don’t feel your life is missing that presence in the first place, what could possibly be the catalyst for change? Is it something people come to later in life? My guess would be, not often.

Thankfully, we don’t have to explain ourselves to segment of the population. Moreover, we shouldn’t try. Nothing good will come of it. I’ll let my budget stand, even as my priorities change (and don’t). But, I do wonder how it must look from the other side. The dichotomy of a Big Fat Mortgage versus Pet Spending that often sits in the 4 digit category. Constantly grappling with my own grocery budget, while ensuring enhanced diets to all with paws and tails. To the unknowing, it would seem an easy problem to fix. Hundreds of dollars a month just waiting to be diverted to more worthy goals. If only I’d de-prioritize my expensive ‘hobby’, I’d be well on my way to Financial Independence. Oh, it could be so easy! If I didn’t know what I’d be giving up.

I’ve said before, don’t be like us. My plan is to not have this many again. While I do, however, I’ll continue to throw money down that bottomless pit of dog love and responsibility. Its served me well so far.

Do you have the Pet Gene? Were you born with it? Or was in it acquired?
Do the non-pet owners in your life find you crazy insane?

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Kaitlin Jenkins

Hah! I love this. I totally have the dog gene, and was born with it. Puppy was my first word followed closely by kitty for a reason! My husband, much like yours, has acquired his pet gene by association, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.


Funny how that works for those Husbands. I think mine would argue he was born with it, it just wasn’t activated until later in life.


Oh, definitely! We had cats growing up (and small critters like hamsters and gerbils). And my brother’s turtle. And my garter snake, for a short time (yes, I caught it. Nope, I was never afraid of snakes or bugs. Except spiders. We shall not speak of spiders). But never dogs.

My first item of business, after buying my first house, was to get a dog. And I never want to be without one again. I now have two, and I’m contemplating a third (after the home renos. After the home renos. After the home renos.)

My friends and family sorta get it, but I think they think I’m “too involved” in my dogs. Personally, I think some of them aren’t involved enough. Example: shih tzu (thus, a dog that needs to be groomed often), who went 2 and a half years without anyone realizing she had back dew claws. I’m the one that found them – the very first time I ever cut her nails. They were so badly over-grown, I needed to use side cutters (well, side cutter like things that came with my kit of grooming scissors. What, doesn’t everyone have multiple scissors? And clippers? And stripping knives??) to get them to the point when her owner could then use normal nail clippers on them. Which she didn’t. I just re-cut the poor dog’s nails this weekend, again, with side cutters. Told the owner to cut the *%&# things weekly, to get them to a point where they are manageable. We’ll see if it happens. Of course, they never trained the dog to be good while being groomed, so it’s a pain to cut her nails. Because she’s a small dog, she doesn’t need to be trained, right?

Wow, did that ever turn into a rant – sorry!! But I can’t talk about it in real life – they simply don’t understand. Argh. So yeah, I have the pet gene :)


Oh that shih tzu situation would drive me nuts! And those are precisely the type of people who always thing you are ‘too involved’. Does it assuage their guilt? Or are they even aware?


I wish people without the pet gene wouldn’t adopt pets anyway. We’d have a lot more room in our shelters if this weren’t the case. In one rural county near us, the county shelter is always over-full in the summer because people bring their dogs there when they can’t find someone to watch them over vacation. Seriously.

The hubby and I have both had pets our entire lives. Between us, that includes a lot of cats, a few dogs, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, and fish. And my brother had tree frogs, which are pretty cool pets for amphibian lovers.I don’t think I have the particular “pet fish” gene, though. My last tank was “given” to me, and I maintained if for years, but when the last fish died I got rid of all of my aquarium stuff. Not enough reward for too much work, I think.


I’m not actually familiar with the vacation surrender, which surprises me. I should be. Thats a worse excuse than most, and most stink to begin with.

I’m with you on the fish tanks. I did a 5 gallon for a while, gifted with ‘rescue’ fish. It was fine, but when they died, I had no desire to replace them. Generally anything that has to live in a glass box is not my thing.

Miser Mom

My step-daughter wanted a dog since almost before she was born. She pestered her parents so relentlessly that they promised her she could have one when she turned 8. Neither of them had the dog-gene, but fate intervened in a strange way . . . her parents divorced; her dad married me; and I got her a dog. All when she turned 8.

Not the way I’d recommend keeping a promise. But it worked! She’s now 23, living on her own . . . well, at least, with her own big shaggy mutt of a dog.


The fates provided. And so did Miser Mom. I was the little girl constantly negotiating for a dog (or another dog) so I can understand that particular childhood memory.


Definitely got the pet gene -inherited from my dad. Mum was totally missing that gene but that didn’t stop dad, he would turn up with rabbits that were being mistreated or (my favorite bunny ) a rabbit that had just been left in a cage when the owners went on holiday. I kept a lookout whilst dad scaled the fence and rescued bunny. Dad was just told about him and we travelled for half an hour to rescue him, he was skin and bone and nearly fatally dehydrated. Got a guinea pig or two that people were fed up looking after and our much loved dog came to our home in a paper carrier bag.
We had cats when we got married and one that was a rescue from living in a caravan on his own, we still have him and he is about 17 now.
The kids inherited the gene in spades and we have had 20 odd mice, 14 hamsters, 5 guinea pigs and a rabbit and now have a totally soppy rescue labrador.
When the neighbours kids found a hamster in the hedge, they brought him to us, I winder why ? lol. But we did find his owner and reunited a tearful little boy with his pet.
I wouldn’t have it any other way and yes the kids do look after the animals well and don’t just leave it to mum
I just used to say if you don’t look after the ones you have , then we don’t get any more. Probably that’s why we always ended up with more!


A hamster in a hedge!? He was lucky to make it out at all, let alone be reunited. What a story that must be for the kids.

And yes, people like us don’t often have to go looking for critters. They just kind of flock to the blinking ‘sucker’ light that must appear above our houses.


Proud owner of a pet gene!

Had dogs from the age of 5 to the age of 46 when I had to put my beloved Poodle-Doxie mix down. 3 months later, a new Mini-Doxie which I then lost in my divorce. First time in his life he cried was when he asked to keep her.

Since then, I’ve fostered and volunteered at the Humane Society and now I pet-sit to get my “must have a dog in my life” fix. Just last night I fell asleep with a lovely 2 year old Boston Terrier snuggling by my side.

Dogs are the cherry on the sundae of life and someday I’ll have one of my own again.



Congrats to you for satisfying that dog fix in such productive ways and knowing your (current) limits. Thats a hard line to judge for many, and you a providing valuable community service!

Well Heeled Blog

I think I have the pet gene, but has never been in a position to really have pets. Maybe in a couple of years – my dream is to adopt a little Corgi when I am in a more stable financial position.


I’m waiting for the day Well Heeled can get her dog! You are going to be the most well prepared, researched pet owner ever.

Erica / Northwest Edible Life

Because everyone responding to this post will be all, “Yay! Dogs!” I’ll go on record as your Not Actually A Pet Person Reader. I had a cat gene, once. But that’s like Pet Gene Lite, I think, since cats are introverts who, like me, prefer to be mostly left alone and spend time on computer keyboards. They handle their own poop and will even handle their own raw food supplements (mice, moles, pretty little songbirds) if given half a chance. Not like dogs who (from over here in Not A Pet Person Land) appear to be perpetual toddlers who might rip someone’s throat out if they have a bad day. Because there is a limit on the amount of nurturing and caregiving I enjoy, motherhood cured me of whatever shred of Pet Gene I once had.


Best quote ever.

“perpetual toddlers who might rip someone’s throat out if they have a bad day”

You are forgiven for your lack of Pet Gene. It can’t inflict us all.


I have the rabbit gene, courtesy of having family rabbits from 5th grade on. If well trained when they’re young, they’re snuggly and low-maintenance. (Also, since they’re on yours and many other people’s strange pet list, my Mom took our first bunny to the vet, and also in the waiting room was a goldfish with a broken spine. So, we’re mid-range on the weird spectrum). I think growing up with pets, or having smoeone to ‘indoctrinate’ you into pet loving, is pretty important. Otherwise, animals are always someone else’s – there to play with, but not something you associate with yourself with. I’m kind of like that with cats – I can’t imagine owning one, but I love other people’s when I visit them.

Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies

I like having a pet – it just makes a house feel more like a home to me. But I don’t think it’s a compulsion that I feel like I have to have. That said, I can’t imagine our house without Kitty PoP.


I was going to argue the term ‘compulsion’ with you. Then I thought, maybe that’s right for some. Many examples above of those who can delay gratification because of less than ideal circumstances. Even I with my pack of horrid hounds, am no longer in acquisition mode. But if I were completely dog-less, would I feel the same way?

Kitty PoP is a fortunate feline.


I have always loved animals- I can still remember that magical moment when I first patted a horse. And now I am lucky enough to have horses. And while someday I might not have a horse (as I get older, I’m 48 now) I cannot imagine my life without a dog. You know how some people love babies? I love puppies. I will cross the street, make a total fool of myself with strangers, to talk to a puppy. I don’t understand non dog people and when they come to my house I make no excuses for the dog hair, the effusive attention they may or may not welcome. One of my precious pooches is delightfully friendly, going to great lengths to politely greet guests with body rippling excitement. guests who don’t return her greeting go on my mental black list.


Just to add about the hamster, they are great escape artists and this one got out of a cage in an upstairs bedroom, down the stairs, across a hall and out the front door, across 3 gardens and lodged himself in a hedge.
Also the neighbourhood is wall to wall (or should that be garden to garden) full of cats and on top of that, there are foxes.
When we took him in we had a parade of children coming to visit, the mums didn’t want to keep him (no pet genes there)but didnt mind bringing their kids to play with him and our other pets -he was just the excuse.
All in all one lucky hamster and all the kids got to meet each other which they hadn’t done before cos they all went to different schools- so pets do come in useful in life


It’s funny, my son and I don’t have the pet gene AT ALL but my four year old daughter totally does (she got it from my ex-husband’s side of the family). It’s so cute how MUCH she loves animals because she’s completely obsessed, and I don’t get it at all but I think it’s very sweet. The experience of watching her vs. my son has convinced me you are either a born animal lover or you aren’t.


I have long wondered if there will one day be a dog gene discovered in humans, humans that love and need to have a dog, or dogs. I have had it since I was very little.

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