I know I’m going to offend someone this morning. So I apologize…but I have to admit it’s not one of my most sincere apologies.
I stopped by a major pet store yesterday to buy a heater for my aquarium and I was suddenly struck by the sheer absurdity of how much time, money, and love we shower on our pets. I think it was the clothing and toy aisle for ferrets that really astounded me. Ferrets! Clothing, toys, and special food for an animal that looks like a big rat! Okay, cute face, but honestly…clothing?
And of course there are also rows and rows of organic and “custom” pet foods for every animal you can imagine keeping. There are magazines, toys, cookies, candy, treats, collars, cages, beds, and medications. I think some of our children would be thrilled to be treated so well!
Stay with me here. You know I’m a cat lover and I have an aquarium. In the past we’ve owned dogs, mice, rabbits, and birds of all kinds. I’ve spent my share of money on vet bills, food, toys, and treats. In fact, my current cat is addicted to catnip treats and I know she would be very annoyed with me if I served her breakfast without them. However, I assure you that she isn’t getting a sweater for Christmas!
I guess I “draw the line” at clothing for pets. There are lots of clothing items for dogs that just look too much like baby clothes. And then there are the toys and accessories. Shoes! What self-respecting dog wants to wear shoes? The store we visited has a grooming service and of course there was a dog getting its nails polished. Does that make the dog a pet, or some woman’s fashion accessory?
I saw a program recently that showed some of the horrible results of “designer dog” breeding. As we demand smaller dogs and dogs with traits that are usually recessive, we get more and more pets that can’t function as normal animals. They require more care and have more serious health problems. Some are even much more aggressive. At some point we have to stop breeding for “cute and cuddly” and be realistic about the role of animals in our lives.
Before you start throwing things at me, consider this. Americans spend over $45 billion dollars a year on their pets. Read that again slowly and notice the “b”. Yep…billion. Ten billion is spent on supplies and over the counter medicines. I’m guessing a big portion of that is spent on clothing, toys, and houses/cages. The current areas of rapid growth are organic pet food, pet insurance, and vet care. We are now spending more on medicine and surgical procedures because they are available. Medical procedures that were once used only for humans are now options for pets.
And the surprising thing is that as the economy gets worse spending on pets remains relatively stable. Even though we see occasional reports about owners of horses or other big animals neglecting or abandoning them, most owners of dogs, cats, and other more common pets just cut back on other expenses.
I just wonder what we could do if some of those billions were spent on education or medical care for children.
And the recent events in Ohio have drawn attention to the dangers of keeping exotic pets. That’s a whole other blog. But before you think that’s an isolated incident, know that there are more tigers in captivity in Texas than there are in the wilds of India!! At least 4,000 that are reported. Who knows how many are being kept illegally.