Not ready for kids? Get a pet!

Sep 28, 2007 at 9:29 p.m. ET

When statistics site that a growing number of households in America are inhabited by single people without children or by childless couples, it's easy to understand why the commercial world caters to pet owners. Pets are the new kids!

""But, God love them, as much as we baby our dogs and cats, caring for a pet is nothing like caring for a child. Let me tell you some of the reasons why.

Dogs and cats don't roll their eyes when you tell them to do something. They don't throw themselves on the floor and pitch a fit. They don't lie and make you ask them forty questions before you get a straight answer.

They don't smart mouth you. You never hear them sass back when they don't get what they want. They don't hold their breath when you refuse them a treat before dinner. And, dogs and cats don't follow you around the house tattle-telling on the rest of the animals.

For that matter kids are nothing like pets.

As much as I'd like to, I can't leave a bowl of food on the floor and feed them just once a day. Children never stop eating, they want variety and the dishes pile up. They're never happy just drinking water.

You also have to bathe them often, sometimes three times a day depending on their age. And every time you let them outside to play they keep running back inside for more toys as if the ball and the thick rubber bone out back aren't entertainment enough.

Usually, kids don't have to be de-wormed and I've never had to flea-bomb my house because of them. My kids don't shed, they don't lick their tails and I don't mind if they hug my leg.

You see, there are important differences. Dogs rarely make it to age sixteen, and cats get slower and more senile. When my kids turn sixteen, they'll just be getting warmed up.

And at some point, my kids are going to think it's stupid to wear a party hat for their birthday. Most dogs and some cats will never realize this.

But, to be fair, pets and children are sometimes very much alike.

Both can be put on a leash. Both sometimes love to howl when they hear a siren. Both will do almost anything for a treat. Both look adorable and forgivable when they are sleeping.

I think the reason animals are equated to children is because humans have the capacity to nurture and childless individuals and mothers of older children lavish their pets with attention because of this. But lets not confuse the species.

I can train my kids to salivate when I ring the dinner bell, but I'll never have to form my pet's moral conscience.