A Year Older – Celebrating The Birthdays of Our Paw Friends
As a pet owner herself, LOW LEXUAN dives into why pet owners do or do not celebrate their pets’ birthdays and how people who celebrate their pets’ birthdays can provide the best experience for their fur friends.
My family and I celebrate our dog’s birthday every year without fail because she means a lot to us. Photo by Low Lexuan.
Hype Issue #55
June 7, 2022
Just as we celebrate the birthdays of our friends and family, some pet owners, including myself, celebrate the birthdays of our beloved pets. While some may hold small-scale celebrations, there are also those who spend heaps of money on extravagant parties. But, why do people celebrate their pets’ birthdays in the first place?
Mr Kevin Yeo, Senior Clinical Animal Behaviourist at Pawrus®️ Pet Care Education Group, says that one possible reason could be because of the current trend where people would rather have pets, especially cats and dogs, over children and they ‘anthropomorphise’ their pets. Anthropomorphising in this context means “humanising the pet”.
Ms Antoinette “Nette” Khoo, 26, who owns a French Bulldog named Nacho and celebrates his birthday, says that she used to have two dogs in the past but hadn’t been consistent in celebrating their birthdays. Hence, she did not want it to be the same way for Nacho.
“For our [pets], we are all they have. I feel like they deserve the same kind of treatment as a family member,” says Nette.
For our [pets], we are all they have. I feel like they deserve the same kind of treatment as a family member.
Nacho’s first birthday celebration. Photo courtesy of Ms Antoinette Khoo.
Esther Wah, 18, who owns a Coton De Tulear dog named Pako, also known as @coton.pako on Instagram, is another individual who celebrates her pet’s birthday. That is because her family loves to celebrate every occasion.
“Most people will say ‘Oh, your dog doesn’t even know it’s his birthday. If he doesn’t know it’s his birthday, then no need to go to the extent of wasting money, wasting time and planning.’ Personally, I think it’s okay because there’s no harm and it’s your personal decision,” says Esther.
Pako’s homemade birthday cake is made out of potato, rice and fish, topped with a layer of yoghurt. Photo courtesy of Esther Wah.
When it comes to the topic of pet birthday celebrations, you might have heard of or seen people who spend huge sums of money on the event. But, how much is too much?
“… If they can afford it, then so be it. But if they can’t afford it and are still spending so much money, they would perhaps cause a strain on their finances,” says Abigail Goh Jie Lin, 19, who owns a Maine Coon cat named Avery. “I would rather pet owners spread that sum of money out [so] that maybe he or she can buy more high quality cat food for the cat, or high quality cat litter … rather than throw that sum of money into one specific occasion.”
“I think, do it in a way where it’s beneficial for your pet,” Nette says. “It doesn’t matter how much money you spend. It’s all about your intention and making your pet happy.”
It doesn’t matter how much money you spend. It’s all about your intention and making your pet happy.
That said, on the other side, there are pet owners who choose not to celebrate their pets’ birthdays.
Abigail, who does not celebrate Avery’s birthday, says: “I don’t celebrate his birthday mainly because I don’t know when his birthday is. When my brother bought the cat for me, he didn’t ask the person for his date of birth.”
Abigail says that if she knew Avery’s birth date, she would consider celebrating his birthday. Photo courtesy of Abigail Goh Jie Lin.
There are many other reasons, besides Abigail’s, on why pet owners do not celebrate their pet’s birthday. However, there is one common reason that surfaces.
“… people have the mindset that there’s no point celebrating a pet’s birthday because they don’t really know what’s going on and they don’t have expectations. So, people don’t feel obligated to celebrate,” Nette says.
When it comes to the burning question, “Do pets really not understand that the birthday is for them?” The answer is unfortunately, they do not.
“They don’t have the cognitive ability to understand what we call occasions,” says Senior Clinical Animal Behaviourist, Mr Kevin Yeo.
However, for pet owners who still choose to hold these celebrations, there are ways that they can plan a suitable birthday event for their pet.
When planning activities for a pet’s birthday, Mr Kevin Yeo says that it is important for pet owners to know their lifestyle, whether they lean more towards introversion or extroversion. If the owner and/or pet is more introverted, perhaps having “dogs or cats over to their home to have a playdate in a safe and controlled environment”, would be more suitable. Additionally, an understanding of their pet is essential. Dog owners, for example, should consider their “[dog’s] age and the mental and physical condition”.
He also says if an individual chooses to have a pet gathering for their pet’s birthday, it comes with benefits for both the owner and their pet. For pet owners, such gatherings are “a social event, … because they get to chit chat and they get to share their thoughts and feelings with one another”. This enables social bonding. When it comes to the pets themselves, social learning can take place, whereby they can “learn [through] observation and interaction”. However, if a pet owner finds that their pet is feeling uncomfortable, their pet should be taken out of the scene to prevent potential trauma.
Christie Choo, 18, who owns a Corgi-Japanese Spitz mixed dog named Charlie Choo En, also known as @charliesmellyfarts on Instagram, celebrated Charlie Choo En’s birthday by inviting two dog friends named Tokyo and Kopi for a playdate. She said that dog gatherings are “good for them to interact with other dogs and be less socially awkward”.
Christie says that they also held a belated birthday celebration for Charlie Choo En where his siblings were invited. Photo courtesy of Christie Choo.
While it can be fun and exciting to celebrate a pet’s birthday, some people might get carried away and forget that the celebration is supposed to be for their pet.
“I know some people make it (pet birthday celebrations) such a huge event just because they just want to get Instagram-worthy pictures. So the main goal at the end of the day is to get nice pictures to put on social media instead of truly making your pet happy,” Nette says.
Ultimately, it is up to an individual’s decision, whether or not to celebrate their pet’s birthday. But if pet owners do celebrate their pets’ birthdays, it’s important that they know they are doing it out of love for their pet. Afterall, there is no point in having a birthday celebration if the birthday pet is unhappy and not enjoying it at all.