1. There are 65 million dogs in the US and 77 million cats.
2. Seventy-six million households own a pet (roughly 3 in 4).
3. We will spend $34 billion on pets in 2004 (up from $17 billion in 1994): $1.6 b. on the pets themselves, $14 b. for food, and $8 b. for veterinarian care.
4. There are slightly more male dogs than female dogs and slightly more female cats than male cats. This suggests that we honor the cultural notion that dogs are “male” and cats as “female.” What happens to the animals that do not fit this gender profiling? You don’t want to know.
5. Some owners of Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs found their new pets too aggressive, and they did something surprising. They took them to a slaughter house. Then they did something really surprising. “In some cases, the owners took the meat from their pigs home, which certainly goes against our traditional thinking about what we do with our pets.”
6. …more than 60 percent of cat and dog owners include news about their pets in their holiday greetings, 27 percent take their pets along for family photographs and pictures with Santa, and 79 percent give their pets holiday or birthday presents.
7. “89 percent of pet owners believe that their pet understands all or some of what they say.” [Read here for more.]
These are all quotations from the ever-excellent Grant McCracken. Grant concludes:
We have taken our peculiar idea of the person and conferred it on our pets. This is an exceedingly odd and interesting transformational exercise. After all, these animals are by human standards deeply stupid. When we treat them as persons, we engage in an astonishing act of metamorphsis. But implausibility does not discourage us. We are a nation of individuals and we have decided that our pets are going to be individuals, too.
Grant is an anthropologist who writes about the boundaries of anthropology, culture and economics. For something slightly more prurient by him, (but still PG-13), read his post on the economics of the bare mid-riff.