Let's Stop Keeping Pets
Pets are lovable, frequently delightful. The dog and the cat, the most favored of pets, are beautiful, intelligent animals. To assume the care for them can help bring out the humanity in our children and even in us. A dog or a cat can teach us a lot about human nature; they are a lot more like us than some might think. More than one owner of a dog has said that the animal understands everything he says to it. So a mother and father who have ever cared for pets are likely to be more patient and understanding with their children as well, and especially to avoid making negative or rude remarks in the presence of a child, no matter how young.
It is touching to see how a cat or dog - especially a dog - attaches itself to a family and wants to share in all its goings and comings. If certain animal psychologists are right, a dog adopts his family in a most literal way - taking it for granted that the family is the band of dogs he belongs to.
It is sometimes said that the cat "takes all and gives nothing."
But is that really true? A cat can teach us a valuable lesson about how to be contented, how to be serene and at ease, how to sit and contemplate. Whereas a dog's constant pleas for attention become, sometimes, a bit too much. Nevertheless it is the dog who can teach us lessons of loyalty and devotion that no cat ever knew.
So there's plenty to be said in favor of keeping pets. But with all that in mind, I still say let's stop keeping pets. Not that a family should kill its pets. Very few could bring themselves to do that. To be practical, I am suggesting that if we do not now have a pet we should not acquire one; second, that if we now have a pet, we let it be our last one. I could never say that pets are bad. I am saying, let's give up this good thing - the ownership of a pet - in favor of a more imperative good.
The purchase, the health care, the feeding and housing and training of a pet - and I chiefly mean the larger, longer-lived pets - cost time and money. Depending on the animal's size and activity, it's special tastes and needs, and the standard of living we establish for it, the care of a pet can cost form a dollar a week to a dollar or more a day. I would not for a moment deny it is worth that.
But facts outside the walls of our home keep breaking in on our awareness. Though we do not see the poverty-stricken people of India and Africa and South America, we can never quite forget that they are there. Now and then their faces are shown in the news, or is the begging ads of relief organizations. Probably we send a donation whenever we can.
But we do not, as a rule, feel a heavy personal responsibility for the afflicted and deprived for we are pretty thoroughly formed by the individualistic, competitive society we live in. The first dime we ever made was ours to spend in any way we chose. No one thought of questioning that. That attitude, formed before we had learned to think, usually prevails through our life: "I made my money. I can spend it any way I like."
But more and more we are reading that the people of the "Third World" feel bitter at us in the developed countries (with the United States far more developed than any of the others) for our seizing hold of two-thirds of the world's wealth and living like kings while they work away all day to earn a bare living.
The money and the time we spend on pets is simply not our own to spend as we like in a time of widespread want add starvation. A relief organization advertises that for $33 a month they can give hospital care to a child suffering from kwashiorkor - the severe dificiency disease which is simply a starving for protein. Doing without such a pet, and then sending the money saved to a relief organization would mean saving a life - over the years, several human lives.
Children not suffering from such a grave disease could be fed with half that amount - not on a diet like ours, but on plain, basic, life-sustaining food. It is not unreasonable to believe that the amount of money we spend on the average pet dog could keep a child alive in a region of great poverty. To give what we would spend on a cat might not feed a child, but it would probably pay for his medical care or basic education. The point needs no laboring. That is all that need be said.