For better or for worse?
Pets are incredible - they satisfy our desire to take care of someone, our need to love, to be appreciated, and of course, for companionship. Dogs are especially valued as pets because of their ability to express fondness for their owners. We often perceive our pets as reciprocating our affection, but we rarely feel that they are critical of our activities. Undoubtedly, if pets could talk, our world would be unrecognizable. The question is, for better or for worse?
Imagine your dog nagging you about being late, or your fish passing critical comments on your choice of friends, or even your cat commenting on your outfit choice. We would be able to know if they liked being our pet or not, whether they liked this sort of “captivity,” or actually want to run away and live freely in their natural environment. However, being able to talk with our pets might not suddenly make them more intelligent. It would enable us to understand what they’re thinking and express ourselves in a way that makes sense to them. Interestingly, if pets could communicate, perhaps we would also lose our ability to anthropomorphize them the way we do now.
The reality of it all
At the moment, we can look at our pet’s facial expressions or behavior and imagine all kinds of subtle thoughts and feelings. We can imagine they love us, are sad or mad at us, or are daydreaming about something exciting. If we could talk to them, we wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. Our dogs and cats might talk incessantly about wanting to go outside, to eat some real meat or at least have some variety in their diet, or about how little attention we give them. Maybe some pets would even reveal how much they resent us for our neglectful behavior. In all likeliness, our pets would speak so repetitiously that we would quickly grow bored of hearing what they have to say.
Most pet owners might find the ability to speak with their pets extremely burdensome and depressing after just a few weeks. Their illusions would be broken and they would never be able to think of their pets the same way again. Instead of a loving, happy companion, they would be forced to confront the fact they have another living creature that is actually able to communicate with them. Furthermore, it’s possible that animal rights would become a much more serious issue, as they would have a means to voice their opinions and concerns.
In short, it seems that if pets could talk, they would almost embody human behaviour. However, do pets need to be able to talk for us to seriously acknowledge their life?