After you’ve had an experience with someone who is narcissistic or otherwise emotionally abusive, you’re naturally left with tons of unanswered questions. Personally, I had done a ton of research on whether narcissists can love anyone, but I was particularly curious about dogs and cats.
It may seem like a funny thing to wonder about, but after I hit the web for answers, I realized I’m not the one one with this question.
As it turns out, there are lots of emotionally abusive people who seem to love their pets. But is it really love?
The answer to this question is complicated. But then again, so is narcissism. Ultimately, the answer is no but there’s a caveat. If the person is a true narcissist with diagnosed NPD, it’s highly unlikely that what they’re feeling is really love.
About narcissistic pet owners
Disclaimer: First, I want to say that there aren’t any scientific studies on the subject (or none that I’ve found). So my answer is based on what I’ve read from other people’s experiences, what I’ve experienced personally and what I know about narcissism in general.
This isn’t meant to be a lesson in narcissism, but there are a few things you should know before we can get to the real issue.
Narcissism is a spectrum – and we’re all on it. Everyone is narcissistic because everyone that’s inhabiting a human form on this earth has an ego.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is often a tricky diagnosis, especially if someone is low on the scale. In order to get the NPD diagnosis, the person must exhibit five of nine possible traits. One of those traits is impaired empathy. This is the one that really puts a wedge between someone with NPD from the rest of us.
Someone who is high on the narcissistic scale needs to be the center of attention like the rest of us need water. So a pet, especially a dog, is a perfect match.
Do narcissists love animals?
As you may have already learned, it’s unwise to make sweeping statements about any group of people, especially narcissists. And as I’ve covered, it’s highly unlikely that the narcissist actually loves their animal. From an outside perspective, there are narcissists who seem to love their pets and those who seem to hate animals. First, let’s look at a few scenarios where you might see what you think is love.
Extension of self
There is one theory that a narcissist could love a pet if he or she sees the pet as an extension of self. This seems to make sense, but it’s definitely up for debate. Because, does a narcissist truly love themselves?
Feelings of adoration
When a narcissist owns a dog, the dog will show unconditional love. A dog is always happy to see his owner and doesn’t hold any grudges. There’s really nothing the owner can do to sway that adoration, so it’s a great fit for a lot of narcissists.
It’s no secret that narcissists love being in control, and with a pet, that control is easy. In some cases, it may come as loving redirection or it may come in the form of harsh punishment. Either way, from what I’ve seen, a pet won’t replace human attention for a narcissist, but it helps them achieve a constant flow regardless of what else is happening in their lives.
Can a narcissist hate pets?
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that these people are humans. They’re all as different as the rest of us — even though they share so many common traits. And there are many narcissists who really don’t care for pets.
A narcissist isn’t usually one to take care of others, and there’s no way around this with a pet. So if someone is particularly high on the narcissistic spectrum, they may really want to avoid pets, regardless of the adoration they might get.
But it’s important to remember that lots of non-disordered people aren’t fans of pets either. Maybe someone had a bad experience or is otherwise fearful. The same can be true for any narcissist.
Triangulation with pets
For some of you, this is going to seem out there. Others will be nodding their heads and screaming, “yes!” as they read these words.
This isn’t something I’ve experienced personally, but I’ve heard enough about it to include a note about it here.
Triangulation is an emotionally abusive tactic where the abuser puts someone else above you in the relationship. And some narcissists do this with their pets.
A note about pet-driven narcissism
As I was digging into this topic, I came across an interesting perspective that seems to ring true. Pets often elicit narcissistic behavior in their owners, regardless of whether their owners have NPD.
You may notice that someone who otherwise seems emotionally stable may ramble on about their pet long after you’ve given clear indication that you’re not interested. Somehow, the same person picks up those cues around any other topic, but not when they’re talking about their pets.
I suspect this is because of our society’s view on pets in general. Although it’s shifting, many people still don’t understand the intense bond that a pet parent can have with their dog or cat. And so, we learn to suppress those conversations until the appropriate time. And when that time comes, watch out.
There’s definitely an interesting connection between pets and narcissism and I’m looking forward to learning more as new information emerges.
Here’s why none of this matters
It’s time to get real. I know why you’re curious about this. I know… because it’s exactly why I was curious.
You want to know whether the person in your life is truly a narcissist. If they love animals, they can love you, right?
Listen. Most of us aren’t qualified to diagnose another person. And what looks like love may actually be something else entirely. Or it may be love-like because the person views the pet as an extension of self. But if you’re here, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this person was emotionally abusive to you. And really, that’s all you need to know. Because that’s not love.
Whether or not the person is capable of loving another is irrelevant.