There are many people who will happily tell you that children today are not what they used to be. They’re more precocious, more aware, more spoilt than any previous generation. Well apparently not only have we over indulged our children and turned them into mini monsters but we have done the same to our pets. Spoilt and undisciplined cats and dogs are on the increase. According to vets they are over indulged by their owners and, believe it or not, it has lead to ‘animal yobbery’. Yes, if your cat or dog is displaying behavioural problems, then in human terms it may as well be an angry, trainer- wearing, hooded youth!

This trend in poor animal discipline is the result of years and years of humanising our pets. During the recent boom years we saw clothing and accessory sales increase rapidly. There was even a spa or two for pets opened up the country. Paris Hilton and other celebrities created a trend by carrying little toy dogs in their handbags dressed in pink with diamond studded collars. We indulged in child substitution and single person households took on a pet rather than a human companion.

On the other end of the scale, the affluent empty nesters are reported as lavishing their pets with treats and goodies. This, married to our penchant for giving dogs and cats human names, has led inevitably to disaster. You just knew when you met a dog called Brian or a cat called Camilla (as I did) that we were on a slippery slope. What was wrong with Spot and Fluffy? You just have to put ‘My dog’ in front of the sentence ‘Brian has a bad crotch sniffing habit’. If the dog was called Spot then you would never need to clarify it was an animal and not your husband in the first place!


In a study in the UK, three quarters of vets questioned reported a serious deterioration in animal behaviour among small animals. While it is still relatively funny when a dog ruins shoes out of spite it is much more serious when the animal attacks neighbouring pets and even children. In one case reported, a 10in-high bichon frise called Zephier has become so dependent on his owner that he bites her ankles every time she tries to leave the house. Meanwhile, Mani, a tabby cat, has caused more than £7,000 damage by clawing furniture, designer suits and shoes. Since the recession started to bite there is even anecdotal evidence to suggest that people will make the decision to take their sick pets to see a vet much quicker than they will bring a human member of the family to see a doctor. Another report from a few years ago researched over one thousand pet owners and there were some interesting responses. Over a fifth of pet owners buy gifts for their pets including Christmas and Birthday presents.

What has been interesting is the dog versus cat debate of late. With the growth of single person households there has been an almost matching increase in pet ownership. Many people are turning to pets for companionship, however, it has also been discovered that many single households lack the space or the time to care for high maintenance pets such as dogs and therefore cat ownership has increased.

While here in the west we have a passion for our pets, in Asia it has suddenly been taken to new levels altogether. An increasing number of pet owners in Taiwan have shown a willingness to spend money on things like mock weddings for their furry friends. In one case a wedding between two dogs reportedly cost nearly 3,000 US dollars. In real terms that is almost three times the monthly salary of an average worker in Taiwan. The owner allegedly said that the money was worth it, as she looks upon the dog as a daughter!

Animal weddings and funerals

The pet business is booming in Asia with its peripheral businesses such as pet food, accessories, grooming and even funeral services all doing well. Owners treat their pets like indispensable family members who deserve to be lavished with luxury. Bone House is Taiwan’s only bakery for dogs and takes orders from customers who need cakes and cookies for special occasions, or simply for daily treats. All the goodies baked at Bone House have been approved by vets and are very nutritious and healthy for the animals. Bone House is obviously at the coal face of humans buying treats for their pets and they report that they have catered Halloween, Christmas, engagement and homecoming celebrations for animals. Maybe if the recession hadn’t happened we might be on the way to such madness here, perhaps the downturn has been a blessing in disguise after all.

With Christmas rapidly approaching the usual warnings are spilling out from all the agencies. A pet is for life and not just for Christmas. This Christmas there is an even greater concern as the ongoing cost of keeping a pet can be quite high. The purchase of a pedigree dog or cat is just the beginning. If you are thinking about it take it very seriously. Sadly there has also been an increase in the number of animals abandoned since the downturn began. Maybe if you are in a position to give an animal a home, the pound is a good place to start.

A pet is for life

Despite the bad press that seems to be abounding about poor animal discipline and the amount of care that an animal requires, a dog or a cat is a wonderful companion and if you can keep them under control and afford the time and effort then the joy they bring is immeasurable. The following was written by Ann Landers. It sums it up better than I ever could.

If you can start the day without caffeine, If you can get going without pep pills, If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles, If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it, If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time, If you can overlook it when something goes wrong through no fault of yours and those you love take it out on you, If you can take criticism and blame without resentment, If you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him, If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend, If you can face the world without lies and deceit, If you can conquer tension without medical help, If you can relax without liquor, If you can sleep without the aid of drugs, If you can say honestly that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion, or politics, then you are almost as good as your dog.