Possible to Be Too Attached to an Animal Companion?
By Allen and Linda Anderson
Because we live in a land with four seasons and an awesomely
cold winter, one of our favorite pastimes is to relax in our
living room with a roaring fire in the fireplace. Our dog, Taylor,
lies on the carpet, gnawing on her chew toy. Kitty, Cuddles,
sleeps next to the lamp. Sunshine, our cockatiel, whistles his
latest musical creation. And our Lion King cat, Speedy, amuses
himself (and us) by sitting in front of the television set to
watch his favorite television programs on the Animal Planet
channel. We look at each other and feel blessed to live in a
home filled with love and contentment.
How many other households have a similar makeup of animal
individuals? All filling an important, integral part of a loving
family unit. Through the many letters, phone calls, and e-mails
we receive from our Angel Animal friends around the world, we
suspect the numbers would surprise even the census takers.
Recently we decided to pose an interesting question in our
online Angel Animals Day Brightener Newsletter. Although most
of us animal lovers view our pets as members of the family,
we asked if it is possible to become too attached to an animal
companion. If so, what are the warning signs?
One reader thought that a warning sign of becoming obsessively
attached or having a deeper emotional problem was when people
cut themselves off from any human companionship. She wrote,
"People who have more of an interest in animals should
at least try to help out at their local animal shelter, join
a breed-rescue group, or try to socialize animals to visit nursing
homes/hospitals so that others benefit from their love of animals."
Some readers thought that there are other example of becoming
overly attached to animals or confusing love with neediness.
They gave examples of someone who takes on more animals than
he or she can handle. For example, a person can't give enough
individual attention to dozens of cats who all need vet visits,
food, litter, and a clean environment. Or someone loves horses
but doesn't have the pastureland, food, or time to groom and
Readers also thought that excessive grieving could be an
indication of a person's greater feelings of isolation. One
reader wrote that she took a year off work when her animal companion
died. During that time, though, she channeled her grief into
rescuing over forty dogs and finding new homes for them.
Robin wrote the following letter to express her opinion that
being too attached to animals is a difficult thing to judge.
"People have many different reasons for turning to their
animal companions for love and validation. There may have been
a time when I myself might have fallen into this category. As
I struggled through years of infertility and pregnancy loss,
my pet rabbits became the children that I couldn't give birth
to. I took the loss of my pets very hard, and it affected me
deeply in ways I felt not many people understood.
"It is easy to displace our feelings onto our pets,
and they are more than willing to receive our attention and
devotion. I'm one who can completely understand a deeper connection
with an animal companion. I think we all have a need to feel
needed and necessary. Sometimes we hit rough areas in our lives
that aren't being filled by the humans in our world and often
turn to animal companions to fill our emotional needs. I have
found that instead of becoming isolated, my animal companions
kept me connected to the world.
"I am not able to make a spiritual distinction between
a human companion and an animal companion. In my heart the love,
given and received, feels the same. So I suppose my answer to
the question would be that I don't feel it's possible to become
'too' attached to an animal companion.
Along the same lines as Robin above, Jenny says that being
attached is what love is all about. She writes, "I
delight in caring for my Tabby cat, Rico. He was pet-of-the-week
in our local newspaper and is like my child. I love him and
am very attached. When we go out of town on trips, I have his
personal pet sitter, whom he loves very much, come and stay
in our home with him. Rico is always there for me to hug. He
never upsets me; he always calms me."
Comfort in Our Uncertain Times
Are these tense and trying times contributing
to our need to find comfort in the arms (and wings) of our animal
Patti Ann writes, "NO, I do not believe
anyone can become too attached to an animal companion. I feel
that the world is becoming a colder, meaner, and less trusting
place to live our lives everyday. Unfortunately today, most
people are not trustworthy, do not have any ethical standards
that they live by, and are basically selfish.
"How many people do you know who will still
greet you with great enthusiasm, if you woke up in the morning
with your hair sticking out all over the place, bags under your
eyes (or wrinkle cream still white on your face like a ghost),
looking like a beast from under the sea, bad breath, grumpy
as all the dickens? Or if that's too physical, what if you were
dirt-poor homeless? Animals would still honor and love you as
if you were a king or queen and stay with you till the dying
In the end the answer to questions about attachments
to animals seems to be answered by asking further questions.
Does your relationship with an animal keep you away from friends,
family, work, play, hobbies, or responsibilities such as taking
care of kids, jobs, foods, health? Is your life in balance?
Do you have a spiritual understanding of the animal as an individual
spark of God who must develop his or her own personality and
may have needs that are different from yours? Rather than offering
solace and comfort, has your relationship with an animal companion
become a way of avoiding the problems in your life? How well
adjusted and content are the animals in your care? Are you able
to give them the time and attention they need?
One thing we've concluded is that only you can
decide what is excessive. Other people, especially those who
have never bonded with an animal, don't have the right to judge
how much you love, how much you grieve, or how much you need.
If you're not hurting yourself or any other animal or person,
then it's really no one's business that a cat or dog or rabbit
or iguana means the world to you. On the other hand, if you're
hearing from EVERYBODY that you've gone overboard, you might
want to at least consider finding other outlets for your love
and devotion-including taking excellent care of yourself and
the human relationships in your life.
What do you think? Is it possible to become
too attached to an animal?