The world is home to 1.5 billion cats and dogs. And each year we spend $60 billion on our furry friends. So how did we become so pet crazy?
This is Charlie:
This is Inky:
This is me:
Every morning at 5am I wake to Inky balance-beaming along the length of my body until his furry, purring face is so close to mine I can feel his breath.
If a person shoved their face that close to yours, the only two outcomes would be a kiss or a punch. But in cat world, the message is clear: ‘Get up human, I am ready for the morning meal service. Then you may pat me’.
Around 5:15am our other fur baby, Charlies Montgomery Witherspoon The Third (his friends call him Charlie), begins working through a series of escalating, non-to-subtle hints he wants to be let into the house.
It starts with pacing back and forth, then he scratches at the door, then howls as if he’d hit his paw with a hammer, then he bounces on his front legs like a low-low in da ‘hood.
…At the Pleasure of Our Pets
By 5:20am, both animals are circling me at my writing desk in a furry cyclone of needs. The cat demands attention. The dog pan handles for food (not that dry crap – make it the good stuff, homie).
Later in the morning, after several guilt-inducing looks from the dog, it’s ball-throwing time. Inky watches with disdain.
Charlie is obsessed with the ball.
He’s a herding dog, so he sees the runaway ball as a mutant sheep hellbent on escaping. He chases it down at top speed, even if it means sometimes crashing into the fence.
Charlie also likes the mouth-feel of the just-right-sized mini-sheep. So he doesn’t give up the ball easily. Inevitably, I spend most of ball-throwing time chasing Charlie around the yard trying to get the ball off him.
The cat thinks this is hilarious.
Eventually, the animals allow me to leave for work.
The Pet Parade
I don’t know what Charlie and Inky think I do for a living, but when I return home they throw me a parade.
Charlie leads the parade in his low-low with the howl-horn blaring. He runs around me in decreasing circles until he crashes into my legs. He is wagging his tail so hard his whole body wiggles.
The cat waits for me on the fence, and meows a short but dignified welcome speech before urging me to pick him up so we can ride the parade together.
The parade concludes with a succession of demands by both animals for pats, scratches and attention.
Later, Charlie will want a walk so he can pee on every vertical surface in our neighbourhood. Presumably so his dog buddies know he’s still around and keeping well hydrated.
Finally, the animals settle in and allow me to do other things.
In the coming days and weeks, there will be more to do. There’s dog washing and grooming, picking up of poo, changing of kitty litter, worm treatments, trips to the vet, and on and on the servitude goes.
We spend a lot of time looking after our pets. So you’d have to be wondering, who owns whom here?
Generation X and Pets
Remember Seinfeld’s take on pets? Check it out:
Are Pets Taking Over the World?
Forget killer robots taking over. Cats and dogs have been quietly amassing a gigantic army.
In Australia, there are as many pets as people (25 million). Around 60% of Australians have at least one pet.
It’s the same in the US and Canada, and it’s around 50% in the UK. If our furry friends decide to rise up, we’re screwed.
Why So Many Pets?
Because they make us happy. The science is clear. But we don’t need science to tell us that. Allow me to make the case, on behalf of science, without all the sciencey stuff:
Now, are you happy?
I rest my case.
Ok, Here’s the Sciency Stuff Too
Still not convinced? Here’s a bunch of stuff that science says pets do for us:
- Happiness (via everything from lowering stress to improving self esteem)
- Health (they get us active)
- Well-being (they get us socialising)
- Recovery from illness
- Mental health treatment
- Company for the socially isolated
The list goes on.
So yes, we’re owned by our pets. But we love them for it.
Pets aren’t the only thing that help increase our happiness. Take our 6-Point Check-Up to see where else you can get a happiness top-up.
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