Are Pets A Luxury?

Are Pets a Luxury?

by Nicolas, selected from petMD

Ever marveled at how much more livable your life is now that you’re  lucky  enough to have pets in it? Wondered how you could function without  their  presence? Yet you constantly field annoying comments questioning  how much you  spend on them, right? As if keeping pets was a mere luxury…

Driving to work early Sunday morning I caught a snippet of the American  Public Radio show, On  Being.  Among other ontological tidbits, the guest, celebrated poet and  scholar  Elizabeth Alexander, addressed the following question: Is poetry a  luxury?

Her answer, a thoughtful “no” to the notion of poetry’s ready dispensability  for its elite or cushy connotations, was based primarily  on its permanence as  cultural touchstone through the ages. When did we  not have poetry? This form of  communication is purportedly as old as the  earliest civilizations. Hence, it’s  posited, we must harbor a  quintessentially human need to engage in it.

Which, of course, got me to mulling over much the same with respect to our  pets: Are they a luxury?

Excessive, indulgent, inessential, hedonistic, frilly, sumptuous,   extravagant. Such are the adjectives the word, “luxury” denotes. None  of  which, I’d argue, apply to my own conception of the animals I keep as  pets.  Nor is it likely to jibe with your worldview of petdom — not if  you consume  animal infotainment, like this blog, on a regular basis.

After all, some of us don’t necessarily see animal keeping as a personal   choice. We view animals among us as the result of the millennia old  process of  domestication — a complex, symbiotic relationship that serves  as a significant  measure of our humanity.

Which is perhaps why so many of us feel almost compelled to live  alongside  animals. This, despite the fact that with all our modern  advances we’ve mostly  “aged out” of keeping pets as ratters, hunters,  and defenders (among other  survival-based uses). Because, as the  argument goes, there’s something so  fundamentally co-evolutionary (about  dogs and cats in particular) that we  continue to forge lasting bonds  with them in spite of the less pressing need to  keep them close.

No, pets are decidedly not luxuries — not any more than  anything  else we might consider “essential” to our quality of life that  can also be said  to be a luxury. After all, we humans need no more than  food, water, clothing  and shelter to survive. All else is luxury, by  that standard.

Yet I’m also convinced the same cannot be said for all pet owners (we all know who they are). Nor do I expect everyone to agree that pet keeping can possibly be essential. Pets, they’ll say, are nothing more than a self-indulgent drain on personal resources.

Though, to rebut the naysayers, I might offer the case of the old woman   whose only reason to get out of bed is to feed her cat. I do understand  the  reasoning of those who wonder how far we as a society should go to  shoulder the  expenses not only of our human citizenry, but that of their  animals as  well.

Because if animals are deemed essential, non-luxury goods, our social   services would surely expand to meet the demand for low income pet care. Which  is sort of where we’re headed… for better or worse.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum within the animal crowd: The   puritanical animal rightists who believe pets are the ultimate luxury, and that  keeping them “enslaved” to humans is no less morally egregious  than wearing  their fur or killing them (in the case of wolves) from  helicopters for  sport.

Moreover, the fact that we can and do subjugate them to our will and  call  them essential to our personal psyches and to our need to thrive is an affront  to their own physical and psychological welfare.

High-volume arguments from both camps aside, it’s clear the case is  thick as  mud. All of which only serves to make me ponder this gem all  the more: If  pets are a luxury, what does that say about veterinary medicine?

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One thought on “Are Pets A Luxury?

  1. My ferrets were a big part of my early recovery following the car accident that caused my TBI. I had to develop a routine to make sure they were cared for- litter boxes cleaned, fed, watered, etc. At times, they were the only reason I got out of bed. They are affectionate and often make me laugh. They are my “furchildren.” My ferrets aren’t luxury, they’re family!

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