The classical ‘the man who mistook his wife for a Hat” by Dr Oliver Sacks is one book that both haunts me to date and piques my lifelong interest in the world of neuroscience. The idea that humans are like marionettes whose being, behaviours and actions are mainly orchestrated by strings called neurones is metaphorical, comical and factual. However, this article is not a parody of the 1985 book by Dr Sacks and lacks evidence implicating specific dysfunction in the visual processing (agnosia) brain areas of his observed patient. This article is of uncanny similarity to a growing observation of humans whose beings, behaviours and actions mistake a pet for human babies or beings.
These observations are rampant, and one could be readily inundated by social media feeds dedicated to these pets, such as having their wardrobes or room with television. Although these are personal choices and should be unperturbed, the recent matching of pets with humans should have only been observed in movies such as John Wicks, which are now a reality. Nowadays, some dating requirements are hinged on the love of pets, i.e.one, one chooses a mate only if one also loves their pet. Another gobsmacking love of pets is the increasing trend of persons willing their inheritance to pets. Given the neurones-behaviour links in humans, visual agnosia may compel such excessive adulation for pets by their human parents.
To delineate this as a potential dysfunction in neurology, pets that provide social, therapeutic, security and safety duties are recognised, cared for and respected as such. While one may assuage the mistake of a pet as a human to be cultural, a personal experience rebuffs this. At work, a fur mum once expected me to vote for her black dog as the pet-of-the-week just because I am black. Retorting to her not to be a racist, I realised in retrospect and considering all her inclinations to highly speak of her pets more than family or friends that this was an innocent enquiry from a fur mum. These experiences or behaviours are not new and have been documented in people with neurological dysfunctions that puppet their choices of unbelievable outcomes.
However, there is not enough evidence to support the classification of this dysfunction as a neurological deficit or mental disorder, just like Dr Sacks’ patient who suffered from visual agnosia, making him mistake his wife for a hat. Hence, we must strive to understand these behaviours, or else we toe the line of accommodating it like has been done in bestiality. Pets have been valuable to our lives since we domesticated them over 5,000 years ago. There are laws that uphold and protect these pets and the rights of their owners. However, there should be a clear-cut line between a pet owner and a pet parent and how we perceive or visualise both. At the risk of not sounding pedantic, I am unperturbed when my hopes of seeing a beautiful baby in a pushed stroller are dashed by the sight of a furry/scaly/skinny baby(ies). Yet, we should value our HUMAN-ity over our PET-ity.