Americans love pets. And it's not just puppy love, either. Many pet owners treat their furry friends as part of the family. Sometimes they spice up their pets' lives with entertaining videos and amusing toys. If they have an eye for fashion, pet owners can dress their pets in stylish clothes. For special occasions, they can use canine perfume to make their dogs smell, well, less beastly. You might say Americans treat their pets like they treat their children-sometimes even better.
In America, there are more households with pets than those with children. At least 43 percent of U.S. homes have pets of some sort. Exotic creatures, such as monkeys, snakes and even wolves, find a home with some Americans. More common pets include tropical fish, mice and birds. But the all-time favorites are cats and dogs, even at the White House. The Clintons' cat, Socks, has replaced the Bushes' dog, Millie, as reigning First Pet. Americans sometimes have strong feelings about whether dogs or cats make better pets. "Dog people" and "cat people" often enjoy friendly rivalries.
Leading a dog's life in America isn't such a bad thing. Many grocery stores sell gourmet pet foods to owners eager to please their pets. In Houston, Texas, dogs can have their dinner delivered to their homes, just like pizza. Well-to-do canines can attend doggy daycare centers while their owners work. Pets can even accompany their owners on vacation. Fancy hotels are beginning to accommodate both man and beast. Furry guests at Four Seasons Hotels can enjoy gourmet meals served on fine china and sleep in soft beds.
Beneath the fluffy luxuries, there lies a basic American belief: Pets have a right to be treated well. At least 75 animal welfare organizations exist in America. These provide care and adoption services for homeless and abused animals. Veterinarians can give animals an incredible level of medical careNfor an incredible price. To pay for the high-tech health care, people can buy health insurance for their pets. And when it's time to say good-bye, owners can bury their pets in a respectable pet cemetery.
The average American enjoys having pets around, and for good reason. Researchers have discovered that interacting with animals lowers a person's blood pressure. Dogs can offer protection from burglars and unwelcome visitors. Cats can help rid the home of unwanted pests. Little creatures of all shapes and sizes can provide companionship and love. In many cases, having a pet prepares a young couple for the responsibilities of parenthood. Pets even encourage social relationships: They give their owners an appearance of friendliness, and they provide a good topic of conversation.
Pets are as basic to American culture as hot dogs or apple pie. To Americans, pets are not just property, but a part of the family. After all, pets are people, too.