By: Shannen Doherty
Have you ever noticed how pet food is the only non-human product you can buy in a supermarket? Everything else in there is designed for use, consumption or enjoyment by humans. Pet food and even some mild forms of pet medicine are the only things on those shelves that are designed to give nutrition or assistance to something other than Homo sapiens.
This says a lot, of course, about the relationship that people have with their animals. In fact, if you look at the actual animal types or species catered for in the supermarket, you can make a reasonably well informed guess about their perceived place in the hierarchy of human-animal society.
Dog and cat food, for instance, get a huge amount of shelf space. Then rabbit food and bedding; and similar sustenance and bedding for a number of other small rodents. A supermarket may also carry fish food, though this is less common.
It seems that we feel the majority of our animal friends like lizards, snakes, and horses are not suited to the supermarket. But the ones who live most naturally with us in our homes are.
Caring for pets, certainly in the case of the animals whose food and bedding appear so regularly in the supermarket, is an almost full time role. The amount of direct attention and care the animal needs is somewhat dependent on its species. Dogs, for instance, require a huge amount of walking and care, while cats are pretty happy to get on with being fed by their humans and then left alone until they next want a cuddle.
The fact that we do care for pets, though, and that we do so with such attention, says more about our relationship with the natural world than almost anything else. It can even say something important about our relationship with ourselves, about who and what we really are,
There are no known animal species other than people that keep pets. There are plenty of animals that have enslaved other animals for their personal gain; and there are just as many animals that exist in peculiar symbiotic relationships with species that they would ordinarily kill. Sharks, for example, allow remora fish to swim freely amongst them, in return for the protection, the remora cleans parasites and bacteria from the big animal.
We are the only ones who seem to want to adopt whole species and give them the same nurturing love and affection normally reserved, in the whole of the rest of the animal kingdom, for infants of your own species. We concern ourselves with the health of dogs and cats that aren’t even our own. Chances are, if we see a sick or injured dog or cat in the street we will take it to the vet.
We try to ensure that we get the right nutrition for our furry friends. That means plenty of wet food for both dogs and cats, balanced out with dry food to keep a rein on cost and smell. In some cases of course, dry food is also used to ensure that cats or dogs allergic to certain compounds get the nutritional assistance they require.
In Spain, a pet shop is known as a tienda de animales. In Holland it may be called something completely different. So now you know.
Shannen is a Spanish cat lover.