Friday November 03, 2017

Bringing up furbaby: The evolution from family pet to pet family

(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Listen to Full Episode 53:59

There are now more pets than children in North American homes, and lavish dog beds and catnip mice are taking the place of bassinets and rattles. Is this turn from traditional to furry families simply a passing fad, or a response to the stresses of modern life?  Or the natural evolution of our relationship with animals? Kelley Jo Burke explores what we're really saying about who we are and what we need, when we start bringing up 'furbabies.' **This episode originally aired May 30, 2017.


"It's been a pretty remarkable change over the last few decades. We've sort of gone from cats and dogs especially being seen as pets, maybe even being seen as companions, 20-30 years ago, to today where we really see them as members of the family. In fact, according to some recent surveys, more than 90 percent of owners consider their pets part of the family. And you see stats like, if trapped on a desert island more than half of people would rather be there with their cat or their dog than with a human companion. And we're spending upwards or beyond (at least in the U.S.) 60-billion dollars on our pets.That includes vet care and things like doggie day care and food and things like that. I think the pet economy is the seventh largest retail industry in the U.S. 

And these are just really remarkable changes from just a few decades ago where we were spending money on our cats and dogs and we were loving our cats and dogs. But today it's different. It's a much closer relationship. It's a much more widely acknowledged relationship. Today if you spend $3,000 on your cat for chemotherapy or you take your dog to doggie day care because you're going to be gone for the weekend, you won't get laughed out of the room. 

I think we've really seen this kind of remarkable shift not only in how we treat our animals but in just what is socially acceptable in how close we can get in our relationship with our animals." -- David Grimm, author of Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs.

Guests in this episode:

  • David Grimm is the online news editor of Science magazine and the author of Citizen Canine: Our evolving relationship with cats and dogs
  • Pat Shipman is a retired professor of anthropology at Penn State University and the author of 15 books including The Animal Connection and The Invaders. In recent years she's been looking at the domestication of dogs and how that has changed human evolution and human and dog life.
  • Hal Herzog is recognized as one of the world's leading anthrozoologists. He is a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University and the author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals.
  • Tabatha Southey is a columnist for The Globe and Mail. 
  • Barbara Lloyd is the owner of Dog's Den Training School in Regina, and a specialist in dog behaviour. 
  • Kenneth T. Williams is a Cree playwright from the George Gordon First Nation in the Treaty 4 territory, noted for such plays as Cafe Daughter, Gordon Winter and Thunderstick

  • Sabrina Cataldo is a communication consultant and has been involved with People for Animals/Regina Cat Rescue since 2007 doing social media, communications, and serving as a foster home for cats and kittens.
  • David Favre is a professor of law at Michigan State University College of Law. His books include the case book Animal Law: Welfare, Interest, and Rights (2nd ed.), Animal Law and Dog Behavior and International Trade in Endangered Species.

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