Now I’ve heard everything. According to pet insurance provider Petplan, companies in the United Kingdom are actually offering their employees paid leave for if and when they decide to adopt a furry friend. They’re calling it “pawternity leave” (get it?), and it’s becoming an increasingly popular perk among pet-focused companies.
It all started at Mars Petcare, a pet food manufacturer of several pet food brands in the United Kingdom. Since it already boasts pet-friendly offices, and many employees bring their dogs to work regularly, the company decided to instill a 10-hour pawternity leave for anyone who’s just breaking in a new dog, or cat or possibly even a hamster.
While 10 hours sounds reasonable (especially when you consider how long potty training a puppy can take), some companies are offering up to three weeks. For a pet. Greg Buchanan, who owns Manchester-based IT company BitSol Solutions, told the Mirror, “Pets are like babies nowadays, so why shouldn’t staff have some time off when they arrive?” But are they really, Greg?
As a longtime pet parent, I know it’s not easy getting a new furball acclimated to your home, but it is nothing compared to learning the ropes with a new baby. I may not be a human parent yet, but based on my interactions with my newly parented friends, I know that much. With that in mind, here are several reasons I think the idea of a three-week pawternity leave is totally unnecessary.
1. You don’t have to breastfeed your puppy every two hours
Sure, they have to be walked pretty often, but you could get a neighbor or hire a local kid to do that. You can’t hire a woman’s milk-bearing breast (well, not in this country anyway).
2. They aren’t nearly as vulnerable as they look
SIDS, vaccine incompatibility, allergic reactions… there are literally over 100 ways a baby could get sick or even possibly die in the first few months of its life. Puppies and kittens, while vulnerable to a degree, are not that vulnerable. They have built-in animal instincts that tell them what’s dangerous and what isn’t. Babies don’t come with those instincts — they need constant supervision and monitoring. When I got my kittens, they were riddled with worms and mites and weighed less than a pound each, but after a week of antibiotics, they were raring to go. I doubt a case of pertussis clears up that quickly.
3. Puppies cry, but not nearly as much as babies
If you’re worried about getting some shut-eye with a new puppy in the house, get some ear plugs, wrap a clock in a blanket that smells like you, and put it in his bed. See, unlike babies, when puppies cry, they don’t really need you; they just want you. Babies, on the other hand, cry for very good, often gross reasons that usually require changing, burping, feeding and washing.
4. They’ll bond with you no matter what
It’s not like you’ll go to work and come home, and suddenly they’ll be like, “Who are you, strange tall woman with briefcase?” No, they’ll jump all over you and cover you with kisses. However, if you’re really anxious about leaving them home alone, have a neighbor look in on them, or bring them to work with you! If your company offers pawternity, chances are they’ll be cool with you bringing your pet to the office too.
5. Accidents will happen
Just like infants, puppies are still figuring out that whole going to the bathroom thing, so chances are there will be various messes around the house. This will no doubt happen whether or not you’re home with them. The only difference is, when you come home from work, the messes will be slightly more dried and formed and thus, easier to clean up than if you went after them right away. Sorry, but it had to be said.
6. You didn’t push that puppy out of you
One majorly important difference between baby animals and baby humans is that one did not make its way out a tiny hole in your body. A large part of why maternity leave is necessary is that the new mom is physically recovering from being the bearer of new life. No matter how demanding a new puppy is, you are likely nowhere near as compromised while taking care of it as you would be if you just gave birth to it.
It’s not totally fair to compare pawternity leave with maternity and paternity leave, but if employers are going to start referring to pets as babies, it had to be done. Pet babies, while challenging, are not actual babies and thus don’t need to be given the same (or similar) graces. That said, I certainly would not turn down a 10-hour leave for new puppy cuddle time.