Don’t use the word ‘critter’ to describe a cat or dog

I don’t like it when people use the word ‘critter’ to describe a cat or dog. It’s the sort of language a person uses to describe animals from the standpoint of human superiority. It’s a term of language which is patronising towards animals and indicates that humans are superior. That’s the way I see it. Am I alone on this?

Critters the film

‘Critters’ the film

As far as I am aware it is a word which evolved in the United States of America. That’s my understanding. It is not used in the UK or very rarely. I may be stereotyping but it’s a word that might be used by a slightly ignorant farmer or country folk in America. Correct me if I am wrong.

I don’t like this attitude towards any animal particularly companion animals. It made me think about the origins of the word. I wanted to know if I was right in believing that it can be used in a derogatory way. The word is a shortened and distorted version of the word “creature”. It evolved as words do.

According to the website, it evolved as a word to substitute saying the word ‘bull. At one time it was taboo to say ‘bull’, which means an ‘adult male bovine’. I’m not sure why. ‘Critter’ now means a living creature in the wild or domestic. It can mean a child and it can mean ‘an unfortunate person’. Therefore it can be slightly patronising or derogatory in respect of its description of a person.

In a restricted sense it means either a cow, horse or mule in certain regions of the United States.

The end result of this brief discussion, for me, and I think my conclusion is clear, is that the word ‘critter’ is at the least slightly derogatory and a rather patronising description of a lesser creature on this planet, namely, animals. And for that reason I don’t like it.

Current example

On the Montreal CTV News website there is a page about medicinal cannabis use for companion animals. The article starts:

“Parliament Hill went to the dogs Wednesday as veterinarians lobbied MPs to authorize the use of medical cannabis for critters…”

It’s an attempt at being slightly amusing and using language in a clever way but it’s a fail for me.


Other examples in a sentence:

  • ‘The helpless critter struggled to get out of the trench.’
  • ‘It was a wild and dangerous critter which stalked the neighbourhood.’
  • ‘That cat’s a mean old critter.’
  • ‘I love critters of all kinds, especially turtles.’


Here is an example of use in the context of immigrants as reported by CNN:

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) defends his comments about the border wall, saying he didn’t compare immigrants to “critters.”

In that context the person was accused of making a derogatory remark about immigrants from Mexico by comparing them to animals. That’s both insulting to animals and people. It is a good example of how the word ‘critter’ can be used in a derogatory manner.


In the film ‘Critters’, the creatures are rather vile indicating that the film makers associated the word ‘critters’ with unpleasant animals i.e. animals are less pleasant than humans. Critters is a 1986 American science fiction comedy horror film directed by Stephen Herek.

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About Michael Broad

Michael is retired! He retired at age 57 and at Aug 2018 is approaching 70. He worked in many jobs. The last job he did was as a solicitor practicing general law. He loves animals and is passionate about animal welfare. He also loves photography and nature. He hates animal abuse. He has owned and managed this site since 2007. There are around 13k pages so please use the custom search facility!

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