Pets in America

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The History of Pets in America


Cultures all over the world have assigned different meanings to animal life that run the gamut from sacred beings to necessary sacrifices.  But at what point did certain animals become domesticated and even considered beloved pets?

According the Oxford English Dictionary, the term “pet” may have come from “petit,” meaning “small” in French.   It was first used in the 16th century to describe spoiled indulgent children and was later used to include domesticated companion animals.

In her book “Pets in America:  A History,” author Katherine C. Grier traces the history of pet keeping, with a focus on North America.  She asserts that the development of a “pet culture” really grew in the mid-1800s during the Victorian Era when cruelty to animals was a suggestion of an “inward moral collapse;” thus, having a pet suggested a family with high moral ideals.

Another major growth period for the pet industry came after the second World War, when the United States was very prosperous.  Pet healthcare and pet products started to really take off.  Those areas continue to expand today, including major investments in cancer treatments and even cosmetic surgery for animals.

You can read the New York Times review of Grier’s book here:

And this is a link to an interesting Q&A with Grier on The Daily Beast:


“Pets in America:  A History” by Katherine C. Grier (The University of North Carolina Press, 2006)

Animal Land Pet Movers – Blog – Arianna Licet Ariza




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