1. How have pet owners’ attitudes toward their pets changed in recent years?
As culture becomes more surreal and impersonal humans are turning to their animal companions to re-establish contact with the true rhythm and meaning of life.
The human-animal bond stretches back into pre-history. Though the dog and cat were probably domesticated for utilitarian purposes (the dog for hunting and protecting, the cat for catching vermin) it didn't take long before humans began prizing these animals for their sheer companionship.
Our attitudes have gone through cyclical changes ever since. The ancient Egyptians revered cats so much that when one died all the human members of its household shaved their eyebrows and went into deep mourning for a year. But by the 13th century Europeans considered cats to be agents for the devil and very nearly exterminated them (leading, ironically, to the bubonic plague epidemic of the 14th century, which was carried by rats).
Now, at the end of the 20th century, our attitudes are shifting again - this time in a decidedly pro-animal direction. The most obvious evidence is a recent Gallup poll in which 55% of American pet owners rejected both the term "pet" and the term "owner". Instead they prefer to think of themselves as parents and their animals as surrogate children.
Their attitudes are reflected in their behaviour:
• 65% give their pets Christmas presents
• 48% give their pets special foods designed for their age or dietary needs
• 41% display their pet's picture on a mantelpiece or wall at home
• 29% prepare home-cooked meals for their pets
• 24% celebrate their pet's birthday
• 17% carry their pet's picture in their wallet or purse
In a sharp departure from tradition, only 12% put the family cat out at night any longer. In fact, given a hypothetical choice of whose company they'd prefer if they were stranded on a desert island, more than half (54%) said they'd...