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Confessions of a Dad Who Didn’t Want Pets

By: Lizz Caputo

Watch once resistant pet dads melt into devoted pet parents and explore the subreddit that chronicles this stereotype-busting phenomenon.

Older man cradles small dog in arms

It's almost a cliché at this point—the tough dad standing firm against the chaos of adopting a pet, only to completely melt under the puppy eyes of the family’s new soulful sidekick. And no corner of the internet’s more tapped in than r/dadswhodidnotwantpets, a subreddit that captures this fascinating cultural phenomenon.

As Father’s Day approaches, these stories provide compelling anecdotal evidence that challenges our stereotypes about masculinity and pet parenthood. But what really happens when traditional pet resistance meets the undeniable charm of a wagging tail or comforting purr? We’re exploring how these stories are flipping long-held beliefs on their head, fostering a new dialogue on responsibility, emotion, and the unexpected joys of pet parenting.

Welcome to the club

Let’s address the elephant—or should we say, the rescue dog—in the room. Why is it that dads are often cast as reluctant pet parents? Is it a simple case of life imitating art, or is something deeper at play?

Rethinking masculinity

The image of the stoic dad is as dated as the idea that pets are merely for show. In reality, engaging with pets can foster empathy, nurturing, and emotional openness—qualities beneficial to everyone, regardless of gender. It’s high time we debunk the myth that real men can’t enjoy a cuddle with a cat or a playdate with a pooch.

Masters of the universe

Let’s face it, pets can turn a meticulously maintained home into a fur-flying circus. For dads who prize order and predictability, the potential disruption can be a dealbreaker—until the little critter starts melting their hearts, that is.

Let’s be real – pets certainly do entail some mess. But at the same time, the love our pets give, no matter if we’re in our worst mood or celebrating a personal high, offers a break from the grind. A touch of spontaneity and acceptance that many of us secretly crave. Pets aren't just fluff; they remind us to be present, to rediscover simple joys, and to embrace the silliness often lost in adult life.

Stereotypes on screen

Pop culture loves a good transformation tale—especially the kind where the gruff dad goes from pet party pooper to puppy pal. It’s a plotline we’ve bought into for decades, reinforcing the idea of dads as the initial resistors who come around in the end.

The discipline director

If dad’s the one enforcing bedtime and broccoli, he might not be eager to add “pet police” to his resume. It’s not that he’s anti-pup; he might just be wary of the extra work and wondering who’s really going to end up walking whom.

Resistance to pets often stems from a fear of change or added responsibility—a real and valid concern, especially when dads become the reluctant recipients of a family pet adopted without prior consensus. That’s why all family members should be on board before welcoming a pet. However, once there's agreement, there's immense power in choosing to care. By transitioning from skeptics to supporters, dads can embrace a lifestyle rooted in flexibility, growth, and compassion, and can model these values for their kids, too!

The psychology of anti-to-advocate

How does this transformation unfold, pets metaphorically chipping away at walls with their relentless affection and antics? When someone flips from being anti-pet to a full-on pet lover, it's not just magic—it's psychology at work. Here's the lowdown on what might be happening behind the scenes:

Attachment theory: Forming a bond with pets can satisfy our deep need for security and companionship. As it turns out, snuggling with your cat or playing fetch with your dog can actually fill your emotional tank.

Cognitive dissonance: Ever caught yourself warming up to something you swore you'd never like? That's cognitive dissonance at play. It's that odd, twisty feeling you get when you start to love something you thought you disliked—like, say, cats. Spending quality time with a pet can dramatically shift your perceptions. To ease the inner tug-of-war—from outright cat skeptic to devoted cat lover—sometimes the best move is to embrace the change and let your new affections reshape your beliefs.

Exposure effect: The more you hang out with a pet, the more you might find yourself liking them. It’s the psychology of repeat exposure—familiarity breeds fondness, not just contempt!

Conditioned emotional response: Pets have a sneaky way of making us feel good. After enough tail wags and purrs associated with happiness and relaxation, your brain begins to connect good vibes directly to your pet. This may be a survival mechanism on our dog and cat’s part; Many of their traits may have developed because humans enjoy them.

Empathy development: Caring for a pet teaches you to tune into another creature's needs and emotions, which can really crank up your empathy meter.

Oxytocin release: This "cuddle hormone" that gets you feeling warm and fuzzy isn’t just for romantic flicks. For many people, it floods in when petting and playing with animals, acting as a bond builder and stress reducer.

small dog with tongue sticking out is held by owner

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Social support: Pets dish out unconditional love and support. For someone suffering from social isolation or loneliness, experiencing this kind of unwavering acceptance can be a game-changer.

So, despite the clichés, many dads eventually become top contenders for the title of "World's Best Pet Dad." The initial hesitations can often give way to some of the most heartwarming bonds—proving that even the sternest of dads can soften up faster than you can say “fetch.”

Skeptics to snugglers

If you’re seeking IRL proof of this psychological revolution, look no further than the subreddit r/dadswhodidnotwantpets. More than just a collection of cute anecdotes, it’s a testament to the transformative power of pet parenthood.

Every post is meme-worthy but deeper than that, proves that opening our homes to a pet can open our hearts and minds in ways we never expected. Here are a few of our favorites:

security camera image of a cat sleeping

User /Missbur humorously recounts, “This cat now eats three square meals a day.”

man hugs large dog in living room

When pressed for the details of the song, user /mischkazelenyy says “This is Chewbacca, we call him Big League Chew. Their songs are usually riffs on the name Chew, lots of parodies over here.”

older man hugs cat in his arms

Posted by user /HeyitsTonyStark , this video seemed to resonate with other redditors – one who quipped, NO CATS ALLOWED TO WALK IN MY HOUSE. I will carry them and gently deposit them at their destination, if they choose to leave my cuddly arms.”

older man pulling cat around house in cardboard box

Talk about finding child-like joy! In solidarity, one redditor remarked, “my dad does something similar but he picks up the box and carries her around pretending to sell her to all my family.”

Why we love a redemption arc

There’s something universally compelling about a good change of heart story—especially when it involves the gruff exterior of dad stereotypes melting away at the paws of a persistent pet. These stories resonate because they remind us of the power of love and the universal appeal of animals, proving that even the staunchest anti-pet dad can become a pet's number one fan.

Plus, they say laughter is the best medicine, and nothing is funnier than watching dads who once grimaced at the thought of litter boxes now cradling a grand-kitty lovingly in their arms. It’s a cultural shift, seeing men embrace and share the lighter, sometimes sillier side of life with pets. It challenges our notions of masculinity and caretaking, showing that love and care know no gender bounds.

Join the movement

If these tales stir something in you, why not explore further? r/dadswhodidnotwantpets is a touching cultural commentary on the evolving dynamics of family, responsibility, and leisure. And if you’re pondering pet adoption, consider this: maybe it’s not just about the pet finding a home, but about you discovering a new dimension of yourself.

Let’s continue to challenge outdated norms and celebrate the growing inclusivity in pet parenting. After all, the journey from pet-resistant to pet-obsessed is more than just heartwarming; it’s a radical act of embracing change and championing a fuller, more connected life.

Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Figo writer Lizz Caputo


Lizz Caputo

Manager of Content Strategy at Figo

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