Is it always wrong to choose money over love?

Does love for a dog or a cat go too far for some people? Mieke Roscher thinks that is the wrong question. The 44-year-old historian teaches the history of relationships between animals and humans (human-animal studies) at the University of Kassel as the first woman professor in Germany. In conversation with the SZ Roscher explains why love for animals as a form of relationship should find its own place in society.

SZ: First a personal question ...

Mieke Roscher: Please don't ask me now whether I have pets or am a vegetarian!

Would that be a problem?

A sex therapist would also not be asked to reveal her sexual orientation. Or not ask the employee of a refugee organization about a possible migration background.

Well, let's get to the relationship between people and their pets - it's often very emotional, where does that come from?

We no longer have the economic need to bring pets to work. In the past, women were mainly allowed to be emotional, until the end of the 19th century it was reserved for the nobility and later for the bourgeoisie. Today it is recognized in western culture to be emotional - and thus also to animals.

Some hardly go out anymore because they don't want to leave their pet alone.

As long as someone doesn't feel restricted by it, neither is he. If you work a lot, that's also a limitation. Still, some find it fulfilling and enjoyable. It is similar in a partnership, where you consider how much energy and relationship work you should invest. Often there is selfishness behind it - the hope of getting something back.

It is not uncommon for four-legged friends to be humanized - misunderstood love of animals?

The problem with this is that owners act against the interests and needs of the animal. But the animal cannot express itself and often has to endure that. In order to decipher their needs, people need a lot of empathy. Most pet owners are aware of this, but they don't always stick to it. In fact, too often they go out on their own and believe: "What we think is great, the animal must also find great."

For example?

Overfeeding - that is totally misunderstood love, you wouldn't fatten a person either. Something like this is consistently against the interests of the animal. Of course, dogs like to eat chocolate. But most of all, dogs like to eat at all. If you take their needs seriously, you should understand that a dog also wants to hunt and move. He can't if he's too fat.

Dog people, cat people: where does the prejudice come from that these two groups separate irreconcilable opposites?

The dog seeks human closeness, the cat is a loner. While she can get along without people, dogs are barely viable on their own. This is expressed in social behavior: dogs stay with people, cats stay where they are. That in turn has something to do with the relationship with humans: Those who live with cats will understand and appreciate that animals want their peace and quiet. Dog owners usually get along better with the fact that an animal constantly demands attention, wants to be there and runs after you. At least they should.