What makes an animal lover? Answer: growing up with animals.

So, what makes an animal lover? The reason why I ask the question is because Betty White loved animals. She died a month short of her hundredth birthday. She was loved. She loved animals all her life. She tells us why she loved animals. Her reason is a major reason but perhaps not the only reason.

And it’s this: she grew up with pets. She did that because her parents were big animal lovers. They always had pets around the home. They appear to have been very generous with their time in adopting and looking after companion animals.

“I grew up with pets. In our house, they were more than pets – they were members of the family.” – Betty White.

Betty White with pet cat

Betty White with pet cat. Photo in public domain.

Remarkably, she said that her father made radios to sell. But if a customer couldn’t afford the radio, she said that he would accept their dogs as payment. Indeed, that is remarkable. I wonder whether it was a good idea from the dog’s perspective? It doesn’t matter now but the family ended up with 15 dogs. They had to work in shifts to ensure that they were cared for properly ?.

“I speak better animal language than human language. I can read them like a book—although not as well as they can read me.” – Betty White.

And not long before she died, she said that she felt so connected to animals that she could “speak their language”. In fact, she thought she could speak the language of animals better than she could speak the language of humans.

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She understood how animals thought and what they were feeling. These are the ideas and thoughts of a true animal lover. And I believe her. If you are connected all your life with animals and you are interacting with them many thousands of times, you do indeed learn what they are thinking, their desires and emotions and what they want. You learn what motivates them and what pleases them.

There is a photograph of her on the Internet with the cat (see above). It seems, though, that throughout her life she had a propensity to adopt dogs judging by another photograph that I have seen. In 1954 she had four dogs namely: Bandy, Stormy, and Danny. The fourth dog is not named. It doesn’t matter because the important thing is to recognise that she loved animals.

She had a liking of dogs that she called Pekes. She also liked Chow Chows and mixed-breed dogs. She wrote a biography about her life with animals. All her life she had a menagerie of pets. Many of them were rescued. She donated many thousands of hours and resources into animal welfare. She liked zoos which I find a bit strange because she felt that they were important for conservation. Personally, I don’t quite see it like that. In some respects, zoos are good for conservation but in others they are not.

One major problem that I have with zoos is that you have to stock the zoo, so where do the animals come from? Other zoos? And what if the animals do not breed well in zoos and they die at an early stage because being captive is highly unsuited to them. Do you import fresh stock from outside of the zoo network i.e. from the wild? If so, that can’t be good for conservation. And being caged is inherently very stressful for many species.

There are many other things about zoos which I dislike but that is not the topic of this article. This is about how you learn to be an animal lover. And I think Betty White has a very good point: if your parents are genuine animal lovers throughout the time of your early childhood until you become independent you are very likely to become an animal lover.

In addition to learning to love animals through your experiences at an early age next your parents, you might also inherit a love of animals. It is handed down in your DNA. It’s the old nature/nurture argument. Nature gives you your genes and your genes tell you whether you like animals or not. Being surrounded by animals at a very young age is going to lead you down the path towards becoming an animal lover provided your personality and characteristics as inherited in your genes do not prevent that desirable end result.

Doris Day was a great animal lover

Doris Day was a great animal lover. Pic in the public domain.

There are more articles about animal lovers at the end of this article just below the advertisements. They may interest you.

O.J. Simpson’s cats gravitated to Betty White’s home

O.J. Simpson was a neighbour of Betty White when he lived in Brentwood, California. The New York Post tells us that he lived with two Abyssinian cats at that time whose name were Bugsy and Sashi. He let them go outside without supervision. They liked to hunt as domestic cats do and although normally, they were in his backyard looking up at his willow tree with mockingbirds in it, one day he couldn’t find one of them, Bugsy. He was about to go in search and put posters up when he got a call from Betty White. She said: “OJ you’re looking for your kitten? He’s here at the house.”

This happened at least a couple of times. OJ asked Betty White what was going on and she replied that they gravitate to her because she’s so sweet. She was correct.

Ailurophile versus ailurophobe

People who love cats are called ailurophiles. The fear of cats is called ailurophobia. A person who hates cats is an ailurophobe. The antonym of the word “ailurophile” is “ailurophobe“. There is a long list of famous people mainly authors who can be classified as genuine ailurophiles. The fear of cat is different from a hatred of cats. It’s important to make a distinction between ailurophobes and cat haters. Ailurophobes genuinely fear cats such as Napoleon which can lead to them hating cats. One follows the other.

RELATED: Saying “Ailurophile” (and origin)

RELATED: Woman does not like cats because they are really mean, arrogant and flippant

Some notes on animal lovers. These are opinions.

There was a recent article on the Internet criticising animal advocates becoming violent and engaging in criminal behaviour to try and stop animal testing. This is a reference to breaking into premises and harassing employees of animal testing establishments. And there’s been lots of criticism of the British people who have blocked motorways to try and get the government to be more interested in climate change and to take steps to prevent it.

But these people feel desperate. They are animal lovers, particularly the people who break into testing facilities. They feel that there is no other way to make their point. They feel impotent. They are forced, they feel, to take matters into their own hands. They can’t rely on the government to stop animal testing. I think it is very brave to participate in a criminal act to make a statement about animal welfare. You are jeopardising your freedom. You are damaging your status in the country. It may prevent you getting employment. And you are doing it all the sake of animal welfare. They deserve praise despite the uncomfortableness of the situation. They get my admiration in any case.

It is normally the establishment, the right of centre rich and the toffs who hate animal rights activists and advocates because they just don’t get it. They are too distanced from reality. They are cossetted and protected from reality. This indeed is a criticism of politicians certainly in the UK. Not all of them are distance from reality but it seems that a number of them are. Thankfully there is an animal lover at the heart of government namely Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife. This has transformed the government’s agenda because it has put on the table improvements to animal welfare laws in the country. Things are happening. Without her things wouldn’t happen.

2022 is the year for animal lovers. If you are an animal lover you will automatically be concerned with the abuse of the planet. I’m referring to global warming. Global warming damages the habitats of wild animals. And in doing so it can kill them. If you love animals, you hate climate change. And if you hate climate change you hate the behaviour of humans because it is an entirely human-made situation.

There are many people who prefer animals to people. These are animal lovers. They might be people haters. Or they are probably neutral about the behaviour of people but they might have become cynical over the years at that behaviour. Whereas the consistency and reliability in the behaviour of companion animals can only serve to strengthen the bond in that precious human-animal friendship. Whereas human-human relationships tend break down for all kinds of reasons such as self-interest, an inability to compromise or accept, psychopathy, borderline madness and so on, the utter consistency and unconditional love of a companion animal constantly reinforces the relationship. It’s no surprise that some people end up preferring animals to people but you’ve got to start off by being an animal lover.

Celebrities such as Betty White and Doris Day created a platform, through their talents on which they could promote animal welfare through their love of animals. High profile celebrities particularly modern-day celebrities with high-hitting Instagram accounts and other social media pages, can truly influence the attitudes of the citizens of their country and in the wider world on the issue of animal welfare. They might be the single most powerful force for good in respect of animal welfare. This is partly because young people almost worship these top influencers and celebrities. They want to copy them and emulate their lifestyles. In doing so we might be lucky in seeing improvements in our relationship with both wild and domestic animals.

Postscript: Betty White was an American actress and comedian. She died on December 31, 2021 aged 99 in Los Angeles, California, USA. She was a pioneer of early television. Her career spanned 9 decades. She was the first woman to produce a sitcom. She is sometimes referred to as the “First Lady of Television”. Her career is enormous and far too long to itemise here. You might dip into Wikipedia. For me, the most important aspect of her life was a love of animals and how she manifested that in her activities which benefited animal welfare.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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3 Responses

  1. tamara beinlich says:

    Best pet friendships/love stories of 2021.


  2. tamara beinlich says:

    Happy New Year Mike,
    I follow several animal rights and rescue groups in India, Wildlife SOS, PETA Asia are just two.
    I spent the days before and after New Years watching Lakshmi India’s skinniest elephant be rescued. She is also the most abused elephant anyone has ever seen. As you know some people call animals dumb and fell no pain etc.
    The Wildlife SOS team had to spend days on the ground before they could even think about getting Lakshmi to hospital.
    Upon arrival Lakshmi followed with her eyes the elephants painted on the truck. Then to every ones surprise she hugged the picture. No one on the thread had a dry eye. Watch her assessment video which is just one of 2 dozen. Her loneliness and sadness is at 1: 13

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