Pets and their Popularity

I have been thinking some more about the status of pets in society lately... pet keeping has stimulated many new industries so from vets and food shops to groomers and crèches, prevalence in human culture is noticeable. But what has prompted the popularity of pets?

It is thought that there are social benefits of keeping pets in late-modern society (Franklin, 1999). A lack of social relations, for example, experienced by those living alone or empty nesters may be eased by caring for and spending time with a companion animal. They seem to offer the stimulation which may avoid isolation in an age where households are sparse and ephemeral. According to Bauman's (2000) characterisation of Liquid Modernity, long term bonds in community, work or romance may be harder to come by, meaning that there is a space to fill to achieve continuity.

We can see that dogs and cats are now pinpointed by their owners to take part in Pets as Therapy which allows them to spend time with other people by visiting those in hospitals, hospices and care homes. Interaction with pets can have a calming influence with many universities cottoning on and hosting a 'puppy lounge' over example periods to alleviate stress of students. The benefit applicable to all these cases is outlined by a scheme for dogs reading with children: "What matters is that the dog, unlike a human listener, is a completely uncritical audience. This relaxes the child..." To me, this sums up the bond between people and their pets and that their appeal is perhaps rooted in their difference to humans. They are the dependable variable that we yearn for in contemporary society.

The dual status of pets as animal, in their difference, and as human, in their integration, is complicated to grasp but shows us that human and non-human animals are not as antithetical as they may first seem.

Do you have any pets or know someone who does? What influence to they have on your/their lifestyle?

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Bauman, Z. (2000) Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Franklin, A. (1999) Animals and Modern Cultures: A Sociology of Human - Animals Relations in Modernity. London: SAGE.

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