Pets, and the Pandemic

Covid 19 saw a downturn for many businesses and an upturn for others. One industry that is booming is the pet industry. As people stayed home more with their pets, sales of cat toys and doggy outfits spiked. Doggy outfits?! Yes – a dog needs to look their best for their Instagram page.

In the past pets lived outside, were fed cheap pet food, and were buried in the back yard when they died.

Now pets can have birthday parties with cakes (even dog ice-cream), themed dress-up days, send other pets cards, and host a pool party. Pet insurance is common, to fund expensive treatment and surgery. And when that fails, there are now pet funerals, cremations, or freeze-drying preservation.

Put simply, people now treat their pets like they are humans, like children.

With the growth of the pet industry, who wins and who loses? Pet food companies win. The pet food business is worth $2.8 billion in Australia alone. And the biggest player is Mars (as in the chocolate company). You can pay $7000 for a Cavoodle. Some farmers are switching from stock breeding to dog breeding.

You could also argue the developing world loses. We now have spoiled obese pets in the West (about 50%), while orphans still starve elsewhere in the world. As a Christian, we would see this as unbalanced. Only humans are created in God’s image. This is poor stewardship.

In my view, a surprising loser is the pets themselves. Dog anxiety rates are rising, and about 40% of dogs will experience it at some time. You can now medicate your dog for anxiety.

The reasons why are complex, but an underlying cause is that dogs have lost their place in the pack. The dog who lived outside and what fed the leftovers last knew its place. It was at the bottom, and it was happy there. Life was clear, simple, predictable, and consistent. And that makes for a happy pet.

When you feed a dog first or pat it first (before you say hello to the kids) you give the dog the idea it is at the top of the pack. It is the boss. Then, when you take the kids out for the day, and not the dog, it gets confused and anxious. You didn’t have permission to leave the pack. The dog can get separation anxiety.

All of this is a wonderful metaphor for God’s created order. Peace follows order. Climbing up rungs brings expectations and responsibilities one is not capable of managing. Unwarranted power breeds anxiety, not joy.

When Satan told Eve she could be like God, he was lying.

Rev David Rietveld

Senior Minister

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