Dogs used to be thought of as guards, then as companions. Now they are being treated like children. No longer are they stuck with idiotic names like Fido and Fluffy: these days they get human names, such as Theo and Zoe. According to surveys, the majority of Americans see their pets as family members. Those with dogs increasingly identify themselves as “parents” rather than “owners”. This is leading to a boom in the pet industry. In America alone people spend a whopping $44bn annually on pet food, supplies and toys, and that figure is growing. Last year they shelled out around $400m for pet Halloween costumes, according to the National Retail Federation. In 2017 they will spend $593m on Valentine’s Day gifts for their animals.
The status of pets is changing for several reasons. Young people in the West are delaying getting married and having children. Millennials, lavish their creatures with the time and emotional energy that they might one day show a child. The kind of flexible work that many young people favour is more accommodating to pet care than a 9-to-5. Some companies trying to curry favour with employees, including Google, now allow dogs in the office. Others, like Genentech, offer subsidised doggie daycare.
Just as parents invest in the physical wellbeing and safety of their children, they are also coddling their pets. Wearable devices for animals, which help owners monitor their dogs’ exercise in order to keep them slim, are an emerging trend. So are devices akin to baby monitors: “pet cams” let owners who are away from home keep an eye on their cats and dogs and talk to them through a speaker. You can now buy small mattresses made of memory foam, so your pets can sleep more soundly.
I -Word Understanding
Whopping – very large (amount of money)
Shell out – to pay
II – Have Your Say
1. For many people, pets are an important source of love and friendship. It is also a well-known fact that pets are good for our health. Would you consider having a pet? What do you think are the advantages of having a pet?
2. Many pet owners treat their pets like humans and more so like their children. Do you think having a pet is a good practice / preparation for parenthood? What are the common care and comfort available to pets in your area?
3. Do you think it is morally right to spend a lot of money on pets, rather than helping people in need?