Shayla Fortune: Thank you, and good for you! Let me know if I can offer any advice. :)
I don't think their actual mental capacity to form whatever scientifically constitutes a "bond" really matters. People can present evidence (true though it may be) that Bettas will only see you as a food source and that is their only thought when they see their owner, but I think the thing that really defines the relationship is YOU. I know that certain animals neurologically aren't built for bonding, and that fish are one of them, but that doesn't mean we don't feel that connection to them. Does Link swim over to see me whenever I'm near his tank only in the hopes of getting food? Sure, but that doesn't mean I can't feel connected to him and treat him like he loves me back. If you think bonding with a fish is silly, that's fine. If you think your fish considers you their best friend, that's fine too. As I said, it all depends on what meaning the owner wants to give to the relationship.
I wasn't directing that at you, or anyone else in case it came off that way. :P I'm just saying that it's really up to each person to decide how they feel about it, regardless of the actual science behind it.
And to be clear so it doesn't sound like I'm contradicting myself, I don't think anybody is "wrong", but I do think it's wrong to make fun of someone for feeling a connection that you don't think is there. That's where my angry-ish "closed minded" part of my comment came from, since I think if you want to base your opinion on the scientific facts that's fine, but if you are just stuck in the "dogs are the only animal you can bond with" mindset that you're missing out.
My family, just about all of it, does not understand my love for fish, or my love for cats. The relationships are different, yes, but they are all important to me. Some of my friends get it, and the others keep thier opinions to themselves.
I was reading an article the other day about how many couples really begin to dislike thier pets once they begin having children. This is really really sad...I have two little kids and a whole mess of fish and cats...the relationships I had with the pets changed a bit when I had my kids, but I missed the "dislike" part completely. It's busy in my house, for sure. I am considered a freak by my parents, my ILs, and my brothers...oh well.
I have found, time and again, that a person who has and takes good care of pets is more trustworthy than someone who can't handle "the hassle" or "the mess" of an animal. I am leery of anyone who doesn't like pets. There are reasons why people can't have them, like allergies or housing, but people who straight up don't like pets are not always good people, IMO. My mother in law, for example. Values her picture perfect house and her outward appearance of perfection more than love or nuturing. Ick.
EDIT: We often joke that we're going to spring a fish or kitten on my MIL, because it will really piss her off. Mess up her schedule! Dirty her house!! OMG! The terror!
I'm really bothered by the usage of the word "freak". I'm not going to get into all the nuances of how that word is damaging to a person and their self-worth. Whoever said that to you has their own personal issues that they are trying to project onto you. Regardless of anyone's opinion of whether or not you can bond with a fish, rest assured that you are not a freak. Differences are beautiful and you don't have to be like everyone else. Be you. Be happy. Stay away from narrow-minded people who want to call you a "freak" because they are broken on the inside and need to fix themselves. If anything, thank them and give 'em a big hug. You're not a "freak" at all.
One of the larger points here seems to be that the less-inclusive matter of "what, if anything, does the betta feel for me in return," does not need to be definitively settled or really even addressed, for betta keeping to remain a meaningful activity that is rewarding for the people who practice it. We delight in their beauty, we watch them for hours, we lovingly tend to their needs; and in this way betta keeping becomes a significant part of our lives.
bethyMT: I agree that people who don't care for pets also often seem to lack a key component of what comprises 'empathy'--fellow-feeling for non-human animals and by extension fellow-feeling for fellow humans. It also runs strongly the other way: It is a commonplace to observe that people who end up harming other people often find the beginnings of their iniquities in harming pets and other animals. I think it is probably better to be mistaken about what is there between you and your pet than it is not to care enough about any animal to have much of an experience with them at all.
As a law student, I insist on a defition of anything before I can agree or disagree to it. That's the fundamental flaw in a lot of debates - the issue is never properly defined. Yeah, yeah, I'm a nerd. 8D
Based on my definition of bond, which is a two-way connection of affection, then I don't think my fish and I bond. Their little fishy brains see me as a source of food, and possibly amusement (they always seem curious about what I'm doing), but I don't think they love me - that would be anthropomorhising them to an unrealistic degree. That's fine though - I love them. I cry when I lose a fish and get ridiculously happy when I get new fish. I am grateful for the beauty and happiness they bring to my lives. And I totally agree with Zubin - better to anthopomorphise your betta and love it lots than to do the opposite. :)
I experience the same issue with my rats. Occasionally I'll whinge to somebody about a vet bill, or rave about my ratties being adorable. My friends have learned to accept that part of my personality, but people I'm not as close to don't get it, and if I say that one of my rats is sick, I've been told everything from "Just let it die" or "Get a new one", and of course, people have no idea how hurtful that is.
I have absolutely bonded with my rats. They demonstrate happiness in my presence and affection towards me. When my darling boy Hyde was sick, he was in constant distress if he didn't have anyone with him, so I slept on the sofa with him and had him in my arms for three days straight, only taking breaks when someone else could be there to take over so that I could eat or use the loo. Even after that, if I put him down on my lap, it wasn't good enough for him - he'd stand up and tug my shirt until I held him up against my chest and gave him a proper cuddle, then boggle his silly eyeballs out. Even 4 months after his death, I miss him like crazy.
People have no idea how hurtful it is to simply act as if your pet is disposable, no matter whether it is a fish or a rat. In part, I think it's due to the seriously warped state of humanity, where animals are just disposable to so many people, and those of us who think otherwise are treated as nuts.
I think Bettas dont recognize us and "bond" rather they see us as a source of food and therefore swim towards us when we see us coming. Fish in my opinion dont have the capacity to bond like a mammal would. Naturally mammals bond to their mother and dogs have co evolved with us so need to bond with humans to survive.
But I do love how they all scramble to the front of the tank to when I'm there but I dont think they think of me as anymore than a food source that drifts past their house every now and again.
I agree though that fish have therapeutic qualities and watching them just relaxes me completely
Here is my personal experience: My Sushi would swim over to the side of the tank, in which I was sitting. I would put my face right up against the glass and give him little kisses and talk to him. He'd swim and flare and dance around, then after a couple minutes he would swim back over to his log and go back to relaxing. There are multitudes of times, I would do this and not feed him. Therefore, it's my belief we were bonded to one another. He would come to just say hello, as quickly as he would come to me when I was feeding him.