Go ahead, love that pet of yours. Pamper Fido and Fifi in whatever way that strikes your fancy. Throw your best friend a birthday party, take him to the dog park for a romp. Buy expensive costumes or jewelry for Ralphie or Mew-Mew. Extra birdie treats for your feathered pals. It’s OK. It’s National Pet Month.
All the falderal around pets started in the UK a couple of years ago. This year, from April 1 to May 2, the Brits celebrated their pets with presents, outings, finery—you name it. It’s the month designated to promote responsible pet ownership, and a chance to celebrate the wonderful impact pets have on our lives.
One of our favorite vendors at GreenAcres Market—Castor & Pollux, suppliers of dog and cat food in cans and bags–are naturally big promoters of National Pet Month, and believe deeply in:
• Supporting pet adoption
• Making people aware of the benefits pet bring to people
• Increase public awareness of services available from professionals who work with animals
• Raise awareness of the role, value and contribution to society of working companion animals
Another GA vendor, closer to home—The Dog Treatery in Wichita, KS–celebrates Fido and Fifi every day with homemade treats of “Paw Print Cookies,” “Doggie Bone Chews,” and other goodies that would tempt adults as well as pets they are so artistically made.
The Dog Treatery generously supplies our visiting dogs with treats when they come with their owners once a year for a Breakfast with Moe (Matt’s cherished chocolate lab) and a chance to visit with local veterinarian Dr. Christen Skaer who shares what to do with and for pets during weather emergencies.
National Pet Month encourages pet-friendly businesses, groups and individuals to host and attend pet-themed events to raise money for animal shelters and pet charities.
Americans haven’t quite gotten up the gumption to go all-in for National Pet Month, but we believe it’s coming. After all, Americans spend $60 billion on their pets annually, and the ultra rich spend upwards of $320K on a single pet each year—that’s a lot of money for a furry companion!
There is a particular dog collar you can buy from a high-end pet retailer that sells for an astronomical $3.2 million. We post the photo here so you can see what “3M” gets you in today’s market.
Part of the surge in pet spending is simply because there are more pets out there. Time Magazine reported a couple of years ago that in 1988, 56% of American households had a pet. In 2012, pets were part of 62% of homes. Today, 65% of families are pet owners. There are an estimated 163 million dogs and cats in America, with many abandoned and lost dogs still needing quality homes.
For the Purina Company, it’s all about “Pawing it Forward”—encouraging pet adoption and finding “forever homes” for dogs waiting breathlessly for someone to take them to heart, hearth and home.
From a recent Purina blog, here are the best things you can do for our companions who “wake to love” and who love us unconditionally:
Adopt: The best way to help a pet waiting on a forever home? Be that forever home! If you’re looking to add a pet to your family, please consider adopting through your local shelter or rescue. You’ll get a lifelong friend in return!
Donate: Every bit counts! If you aren’t able to donate financially, you can always donate your time, skills, or supplies.
Educate: The best way to end pet homelessness is to help others understand the problem. Sharing articles on social media, writing a letter to the editor of your local paper, and volunteering at adoption events are all effective ways to make your voice heard and to spread the message in your community!
Share: Besides being a great way to keep up with the family and friends, social networks like Facebook and Twitter are useful for finding forever homes for adoptable pets. Share an available cat or dog to your social networks to help that pet find a home!
Train: Are you a master at teaching your pup to sit, lie down, or stay? Share your expertise at a rescue or shelter! Knowing some basic commands can help many dogs to be more adoptable.
Play: Who doesn’t love a little one-on-one attention? Playing with sheltered cats or dogs will help to socialize them more quickly, making them more likely to find forever homes.
Foster: Not sure you have the time or resources to dedicate to adding a pet to your family permanently? You can foster a pet temporarily until the right forever home is found. It’s a wonderful way to give back, as well as an opportunity to see what having a pet is all about before you make a lifetime commitment yourself.
Volunteer: Volunteers are essential to helping shelters and rescues achieve their mission of finding forever homes for pets. Just a few hours a month will make a world of difference!
So what is it about this time in America that makes pet ownership so valued?
A blog on the Internet explains it this way:
1. Pets are stress-busters — and we need that now more than ever. In 1994, roughly 15% of Americans reported increased anxiety in their lives. By 2009 that number had risen 49%, and it’s predicted to be even higher now.
When we cuddle, play with, and even just look at our pets we get a hefty boost of oxytocin, our body’s naturally occurring feel-good, stress-relieving, emotional-bonding hormone. So do our pets, by the way. Which makes all parties more relaxed and happy, and more deeply bonded.
That bond, and our appreciation of the stress relief we get from our pets, is a partial explanation for why 77% of Americans give birthday presents to their pets, and why we spend $5 billion on holiday gifts for our pets.
2. Pets have more status today. Compared to previous eras, there is currently much less hierarchical distance, and more equality, between parents, kids, and pets.
More than 9 in 10 owners consider their pets to be members of the family, and 81% say pets are equal members of the family. Pet lovers themselves recognize that there has been a shift in the status of pets within families: 60% of adults say they don’t remember their childhood pets as having the exalted status the pets in their lives enjoy today.
Still need more proof? There are one million dogs in the U.S. that have been named the primary beneficiary of their owners will.
Higher status translates to pets deserving more — be it vacation care in pet hotels rather than kennels, more toys, or better healthcare.
3. Pets fill connection and friendship vacuums. Americans have about a third fewer close friends today than they did 20 years ago — averaging two rather than the three they had, on average, in 1985. And though online connections alleviate some of that loss, we’re neurologically less satisfied by online friends than we are by personal contact.
Pets provide companionship and connection that we need more than ever today. Dogs, in particular, also increase human social circles through gatherings at parks and getting out into neighborhoods more often through walks.
Cat owners also say they get plenty of emotional connection from their pets. In fact, nearly a third say they’d rather chat with their cat after a long day than anyone else, and 39% say their cat is more likely than a romantic partner to pick up on their current mood.
4. Pets fulfill our need to nurture. An unprecedented number of people live alone today – 1 in 7 Americans. Plus, our years without children stretch longer on both ends. Empty nesters live longer and people have children later in life.
Regardless of a person’s household composition, the need to nurture is universal. Which partly explains why 78% of animal owners think of their animals as their children and themselves as pet parents, not pet owners. In fact, 58% of pet owners call themselves “mommy” or “daddy.”
And so we celebrate our furry “children” during the month of May recognizing all the good things they bring to our lives, and remember our collective obligation to treat them as we would wish to be treated. Devotion goes two ways, and with it comes responsibility to care and provide.