Celebrating National Love Your Pet Day

photo courtesy of dogs, dogs, everywhere

     Who could resist the scrunched-up snoot of a bulldog or the little cottontail of a bunny? People absolutely love animals.  According to The Human Animal Bond Research Institute, 57% of people report having a pet.  While common pets might be dogs or cats, perhaps even a fish, there are many other interesting pets from across the United States, or even from around the world.

     Dogs are perhaps the most popular type of pet in the world.  Statista reported that 471 million dogs were pets in 2018.  They are warmly known as “man’s best friend”, and they have helped humans for thousands of years by protecting them and providing them with companionship since the earliest days of civilization. 

     Dogs first became pets when humans began taking care of wolf puppies, and they soon evolved into the dogs we know today.  This is just a theory, but nevertheless, these domesticated wolves evolved into the best friends we cherish today.

     Naturalist Mark Derr thinks that the reason we have a close relationship goes back to the days when humans hunted for food.  Derr believes that humans and wolves both recognized themselves as hunters. 

     “The dog is a creation of wolves and humans — of two equal beings that came together at a certain point in history and have been together ever since,” says Derr.  As wolves and humans worked closer together, the wolf began to evolve.  Its skeletal frame shrank, its jaw shortened, and social wolves traveled with humans more, passing these genes onward to future generations. 

     Cats are the second most popular type of pet, with Statista reporting 373 million pet cats in 2018 alone.  However, cats have more recently become domesticated.  In fact, the first domesticated cat appeared during the Middle Ages.  Before being domesticated, cats hung around farming communities in the Fertile Crescent and helped humans with their rodent problems in return for shelter and food. 

     Cats’ genetics were unchanged from that of their ancestors, except for adding some stripes and dots like a tabby cat.  Their genetics only began to change after cats allowed themselves to be domesticated through adapting more tame and social behaviors.  Soon, visible changes could be seen in the newly domesticated and evolved cat, such as distinct markings. This led to people breeding cats with particular traits, resulting in the cats we know today.

     Rabbits are becoming a popular household pet, with 1.5 million people having one.  They are gaining in popularity in large cities where small apartments are typical, such as China.  Rabbits are very intelligent, curious creatures that have unique personalities. 

     Most pet rabbits evolved from the wild European rabbit, but like cats, pet rabbits are only recently domesticated and still have behaviors and biology similar to their wild ancestors.  However, rabbits have become very social and smart animals, and can even be taught to respond to commands using treats.

     Reptiles are also becoming a normal pet to have as many people are adopting lizards and even snakes.  Popular reptilian pets include turtles, bearded dragons, geckos, ball pythons and corn snakes.  Bearded dragons are a popular reptilian pet, as they are easily tamed and entertaining.  Snakes can be challenging to care for, but corn snakes and ball pythons are passive, easy to take care of and live for a long time.  Turtles are by far the most popular reptilian pet because they live for a long time and do not require much maintenance. 

     Pigs have become a popular pet, especially after gaining notoriety in the late ‘90s for their small stature and cute curly tail.  They are intelligent, clean, low maintenance and social, bonding easily with humans. 

     No matter what kind of pet you have, Kian Yank of the pet-sitting company Dogs, Dogs, Everywhere says the best way to make your pet feel loved this National Love Your Pet Day is by making sure they know how much you care for and appreciate them.  For example, you can take your pet on a walk or give them an extra treat. 

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