It always kind of irritates me when people refer to their pets as their children. I’ve had pets most of my life, and I’ve loved them, and parenting is a very different experience. For a whole lot of reasons. This isn’t just something I’ve started believing since having kids, either; I’ve felt this for years. But regardless of your feelings on the subject, it’s quite clear that this is not really what Mickey is doing. Or if he is, it’s just as well that he’s never had kids. Because part of having a party for your kids is considering what your kid actually wants, and it’s obvious that Mickey isn’t concerned about that at all.
It’s Pluto’s birthday. Fine, okay. But Mickey has decided that Pluto needs a birthday party. He gives Pluto a bath—okay, he probably needs it. But then Mickey invites a boatload of kids—Wikipedia says they’re his nephews, but does he have that many nephews?—to the party. Pluto doesn’t like it. The kids play with Pluto, inasmuch as they give him a wagon and make him pull them around in it and other less pleasant activities. For which Mickey blames Pluto. Pluto makes it very clear, despite not talking, that he really wants the kids gone.
Frankly, I’m on Pluto’s side, here. Some pets are just not kid-friendly. However, I’m not sure how much that’s what’s going on here. It is in fact entirely possibly that Pluto would be a good enough dog with better kids. However, these kids mistreat him. They fling him around on the swings. They drop him so heavily that you get your standard cartoon Pluto-shaped hole. And then Mickey blames Pluto, because one thing we’ve learned is that Mickey is a terrible pet-owner. Even Wikipedia has an uncharacteristically angry plot summary.
In this era, all three of our main characters were doing some quasi-parenting. Goofy alone was a literal parent; this is the George Geef era. Donald was doing a lot with the nephews. And every once in a while, Mickey would act a bit parental to Pluto, taking him on vacation or giving him a party. Surprisingly, it’s Goofy who’s the best at it, and goodness knows he isn’t great. But Goofy, depending on your feelings about spanking, is never actively abusive to his child. He’s trying, and he’s trying his best. It’s just that he’s Goofy. We expect better of Mickey, because he is Mickey, and he’s just lousy at it.
I absolutely believe that a modern-day version of Bing Crosby Mickey would refer to Pluto as his “fur baby.” (Disney is not giving us a modern-day version of Bing Crosby Mickey, so what current versions of Mickey would do is not relevant.) He would be giving his pet a birthday party and having the kids be there to make his pet happy and not noticing that his pet is miserable. This is not to say that everyone who uses that term is a neglectful pet-owner; I’m sure a lot of people who do would be equally horrified by this party and this cartoon. Just that I’m sure most of us can picture exactly what kind of pet-owner I’m talking about.