Posts Tagged ‘words’

5 animal terms that need to be modernized

The words we choose to use send powerful messages out into this world. The words we choose to use when discussing animals are no different. Subconscious associations and assumptions are made in split seconds, based on words spoken and written. And the language the world at large uses when talking about animals is often maligning.

Some say the terminology regarding animals doesn’t matter, and that the accepted terms should remain just that. But when you see how heated the issue can become—then you see that yes, indeed, it does matter. Here are five common animal terms used in our society that really ruffle my feathers:

ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST
Use instead: animal welfare activist

Though the terms “animal rights” and “animal welfare” are not exactly interchangeable, the influential Associated Press came out earlier this year with this change to its Stylebook, the go-to guide journalists refer to when writing articles. I prefer “animal welfare” to “animal rights” and like this change for many reasons: For one, because “animal rights,” in our society, has developed such a negative connotation to it, painting compassionate individuals involved in the humane movement as extremists. And two, because “animal welfare” is a broader, generic term that isn’t emotionally loaded. Bravo, AP—and hopefully more of the population will come around to using “welfare” instead of “rights,” too.

PET
Use instead: animal or companion animal

The vocabulary we use is so often derogatory to animals, diminishing that special relationship we share with our cat, dog, horse or other. “Pet” is a perfect example of this. The word communicates the old-school view (that is still commonly held, unfortunately) that animals are lesser creatures, and simply property to be owned. I find “animal” or “companion animal” to be more dignified. My animals are not just family—they are sentient beings, too, and they deserve better. The Journal of Animal Ethics agrees: In 2011, the publication released a fascinating and controversial article discussing this very idea—that we should be careful in the language we use to describe animals. (If only “companion animal” were a little less clunky-sounding.)

OWNER
Use instead: caregiver

Related to “pet” above, the term “owner” communicates the idea that animals are merely pets or property—not the special beings that we are fully committed to caring for and loving. Additionally, I prefer “caregiver” over terms such as “guardian” because it clearly conveys the emotional component of our relationship (vs. describing it in a cold and legal-sounding way).

IT
Use instead: he or she

Let’s be honest, our special dog or cat—even if neutered or spayed—is not an “it.” Yet so many animals are referred to as “it.” In the first scientific paper she ever wrote, Jane Goodall used “he” and “she” instead of “it” to describe the chimpanzees—to much backlash. Kudos to Goodall for refusing to buckle under pressure and change, and also for promoting the groundbreaking idea that animals are emotional creatures worthy of our empathy and respect.

STRAY
Use instead: lost

When homeless animals need adoption, which word makes them sound more adoptable, “stray” or “lost”? Exactly. Calling animals strays conjures up images of beastly creatures with matted fur that no one wants. But change the word to “lost”—now you create a new, positive image of a loved animal needing a new home. Or an animal who has lost his home, and needs help finding his way back. For tips on how to reunite lost animals with their human caregivers, check out the Missing Pet Partnership.

What about you? Do you feel comfortable calling your animal a pet? Why or why not? What other animal terms do you think need updating?

5 reasons my cat wins my heart every time

My sister Kathleen and I were talking the other day about all of our cats over the years—and their very unique personalities. Her first cat, a spunky tortie, ultimately gave birth in our garage to my first cat, a tender-hearted orange-and-white tabby. Oh how we miss them! There have been other special kitties over the years, too—each one unique in his or her own way.

Like my own cat right now, a big ball of fluff tabby Persian named Paddington. No matter what else is happening in my life, no matter how busy I am, he always manages to win my heart! Here are five of his heart-winning habits. Any of them familiar? I’d love to know how your cat wins your heart!

1. Chill factor: Paddington is always super chilled out and relaxed. Nothing seems to make this cat nervous. Whether I’m walking him around the yard on a leash, putting his carrier in a wagon and taking him on long walks around the neighborhood, letting toddlers loose to poke and play with him, having large groups to dinner or even flying him under my seat on an airplane, nothing ruffles Paddy’s stripey fur. He’s always open to new experiences and people, and I just love that about him!

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2. Hunter extraordinaire: Even at age 6, Paddington still loves to play. He loves to chase me, my hubby and son around the house and will always follow a piece of string if I drag it behind me. To Paddy, everything is a toy to be explored—including snowflakes falling from the sky, which he tries to attack from the closed window.

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3. Sweetness overload: Without a doubt, Paddington is the sweetest cat I have ever known. He’s never in a bad mood. He loves making biscuits, is a complete purr-monster and is always up for cuddles. He gives lots of “head butts” (kisses) to everyone in our family, follows me around the house all the time, and keeps our bed warm at night, too. He is happiest when snuggled up on my lap.

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4. Athletic like a pro: If Paddington were human, he would be the star goalie for any soccer team. He will catch any and every ball thrown his way, no matter how fast or high. Nothing gets by this cat. In our last house, when we used to let him loose in the yard for some supervised sunshine time, he pretty much every time ended up jogging by with a huge lizard in his mouth. (And lizards are difficult to catch!) He looks like a calendar kitty, but Paddington definitely has that tough hunter cat DNA.

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Photo copyright Jenner Rose Photography

5. Watchful guardian: Paddington keeps tabs on everything in this house. He knows whenever any of us is sad and immediately pads over to offer emotional support. This was especially sweet to witness as my baby grew up into a toddler; anytime he fell or bumped his head, Paddington was always there to make sure everyone was OK. He also has an internal clock and knows exactly the moment the clock turns to 7:30 for dinnertime. Even when the clocks change for daylight savings, it just takes him a day or two to adjust. If you’re even one minute late, he’ll jump onto the counter (in your face) and meow like a starving kitten!

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{Photos © Charlotte Jensen unless otherwise noted}