Pet Ownership- Why pets are NOT a waste of money

Monday, July 30, 2007

Pet Ownership- Why pets are NOT a waste of money

While browsing today for pet articles I stumbled upon a few that seemed to attack pet ownership, and some for the wrong reasons. This article argues that Americans are spending too much on pets ($40Billion estimated in 2007). I agree some people spoil pets beyond reason, but what is the true cost. When I spend $50 on Finn what opportunity cost do I incur. Assuming once a week I do not go out on account of Finnegan that has to save me some money, right? Moreover, the author ends his column by stating:

From now on, when I buy pet food or pay for a visit to the vet or buy them anything, I’m going to set aside a matching amount. That cash will come out of my spending money. At the end of the year, I will give the money I have saved to a local homeless shelter or the local food bank or some entity that helps people. It will remind me that pets are a happy luxury, but they are in no way equal to men and women in need; animal noises are not human cries and no amount of rationalization can persuade me otherwise.
The flaws in this reasoning are abundant, but the main one seems obvious to me. What was the "spending money" going to be used for in the first place. Making a moral issue out of a pet is one thing, but saying that your pets are the only thing you use money for which does not serve a higher purpose is another. Will he be setting aside a matching amount from any other recreation he is a part of? Movie tickets, vacations, deserts. Are you entitled to these luxuries any more then you are entitled to use you funds on a pet. Who is the judge of this, the people to whom you are donating the money. Would they agree with your other purchases, how nice is your car? Is it your own judgement which tells you what is right and wrong. If it is and you have decided that your pet is the only decadent thing about your life then I can agree with your reasoning, but I highly doubt it is.

Another article talks about the humanization of pets. Cats with toothbrushes, pet spas, even cars and houses designed with pets in mind. " Cat-lover Lierra Lenhard, who designed her home seven years ago, included pet friendly features such as a feeding area, fans in closets that would contain litter boxes and numerous cat doors, one of which leads from the second floor onto a catwalk that spans her open great room." Is this a bad thing? In an age where we clear cut thousands of acres of trees a year, exterminate millions of "pests", and hunt species into extinction, is it so bad that we have found a way to peacefully live with another species and improve their likelihood of survival.

If all of this is not enough to think about I pose another question, Are pets JUST pets? Is the return on investment (even if the investment is extravagant) enough to make economical sense. Pets provide a number of advantages that are tough to quantify. Pet owners use there pets to educate children, increase their activity level, provide companionship and do many other things.
Americans spend at least an equal amount on stress relief as they do on pets every year, and that is just ONE of the returns pets provide. Responsible pet ownership is truly important (Thanks Bob Barker) but examining pet spending numbers alone is an incomplete way to judge whether or not pets are a drain on money. Keep in mind many of the companies who reap the benefits of this booming market have programs to give back and to help promote conscious, educated pet ownership.

A dog like Sir Finnegan may be a costly endeavor, but the cost isn't even in question for me. Finn converts my money into what I want it to be, happiness, more efficiently than anything else. For that I will continue to spoil him.


Johann The Dog said...

Hi, thanks so much for stopping by my blog the other day. Great to get to know you!!!!

I found your article interesting. Mum says she will continue to spend whatever it takes to take care of me...and my sis Gracie and kittie brothers Wolfie and Wiggy. No matter what anyone says!

I would like to keep in touch with you, would you like to exchange links?


jan said...

The contention that we should not spend money on pets because of impoverished people is one I will never understand. It is seldom applied to money spent on cosmetics, yachting, or booze. Dog people are among the most generous people I know.

Tish said...

This is a great post, Chris!

My dogs have had some serious medical issues this year, and I've racked up thousands of dollars in vet bills. It may take forever to get them completely paid off, but it was worth every dime. One of my dogs was near death, and now she's happy and healthy again. The other has had serious issues as well, and she's doing well now too. There's no amount of money I wouldn't pay to ensure their health and happiness. We all have our priorities, and my pets are at the top of my list.

Kudos to you for feeling the same way!