Pets across Cultures

Cats, dogs, birds and other animal pets have lived alongside humans for thousands of years. We share our homes with them choosing our favorite species with bias that often depend upon our culture. In fact, pet preference varies from country to country.

Russia Federation has the highest proportion of cat owners: 57% of households have a cat. You do not have to walk a cat outside in the snow during the long winters, so this might be a good reason to keep a cat instead of a dog.

China has the highest proportion in the world of fish owners: 17% of household have fish and other water creatures kept in aquariums. This might reflect the Chinese inclination for small sized animals: think about the silkworm, first domesticated 5000 years ago in China, or the singing cricket, domesticated as pet about 1500 years ago: singing and fighting crickets were the favorite pets of Emperors. Chinese people possess a unique attraction towards small creatures, which is embodied in the artistic obsession for flower, bird, fish and insect. A book named The Affairs of the period Tsin-Tao (742–756) mentions that “…whenever the autumnal season arrives, the ladies of the palace catch crickets in small golden cages … and during the night hearken to the voices of the insects. This custom was imitated by all the people.

South Korea, on the other hand, has the lowest pet ownership in the world. Only 32% of households have a pet. This aspect is probably influenced by the high cost of living and the urban lifestyle of the South Koreans. A dog larger than a Maltese is not considered pet but a guard dog. Pomeranians, Chihuahas, Shih-tzus and toy dogs are given makeovers at the groomers, wear bejeweled collars, and live a life of luxury. White colored, purebreds dogs and anything that fits in a purse is a pet in Korea. An Asian pet has to be small!

Conversely, India holds the fastest growth in dog ownership worldwide. Between 2007 and 2012 there was a 58% increase in dog ownership, faster than anywhere else.

When it comes to birds, Turkey has the highest concentration: 20% of homes have an avian pet. This is a tradition going back thousands of years. Persians and Arabs also share a predilection for singing and caged pet birds, such as bulbuls, canaries, finches, lovebirds and parrots, to name a fews. Persian mystical poetry has used the bird as symbol of the human soul that like a bird can choose to remain caged in this perishable body or fly towards liberation. Rumi often mentioned the soul as a nightingale in the company of ravens.

Seventy millions of dogs and 73 millions of cats make the United States the world’s biggest pet population. However, the record for the most dog-dense country goes to Argentina, where 66% of houses have at least one dog. Poodles and labradors are the most popular breeds followed by German shepherds. But about half of Argentine dogs are mix breed and 16 percent of dog owners said they had adopted stray dogs. Additionally, 80% of homes have at least one pet, making Argentina the most pet-addicted country in the world. With its rapidly growing economy Argentina is becoming the  new doggie heaven!

And what about the so called ‘exotic pets’: guinea pigs, hamsters, bearded dragons, tortoises, reptiles, spiders? In the Czech Republic 15% of homes have an exotic pet, a world record that reflect the Czech curiosity for anything new and diverse. It makes sense that the European School for Advanced Veterinary Studies (ESAVS) hold his courses of “Exotic Pets Medicine and Surgery’ in Brno, Czech Republic!

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