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Are Pets a Luxury?

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Are Pets a Luxury?

By Dr. Patty Khuly, PetMD

Ever marveled at how much more livable your life is now that you’re lucky enough to have pets in it? Wondered how you could function without their presence? Yet you constantly field annoying comments questioning how much you spend on them, right? As if keeping pets was a mere luxury…

Driving to work early Sunday morning I caught a snippet of the American Public Radio show, On Being. Among other ontological tidbits, the guest, celebrated poet and scholar Elizabeth Alexander, addressed the following question: Is poetry a luxury?

Her answer, a thoughtful “no” to the notion of poetry’s ready dispensability for its elite or cushy connotations, was based primarily on its permanence as cultural touchstone through the ages. When did we not have poetry? This form of communication is purportedly as old as the earliest civilizations. Hence, it’s posited, we must harbor a quintessentially human need to engage in it.

Which, of course, got me to mulling over much the same with respect to our pets: Are they a luxury?

Excessive, indulgent, inessential, hedonistic, frilly, sumptuous, extravagant. Such are the adjectives the word, “luxury” denotes. None of which, I’d argue, apply to my own conception of the animals I keep as pets. Nor is it likely to jibe with your worldview of petdom — not if you consume animal infotainment, like this blog, on a regular basis.

After all, some of us don’t necessarily see animal keeping as a personal choice. We view animals among us as the result of the millennia old process of domestication — a complex, symbiotic relationship that serves as a significant measure of our humanity.

Which is perhaps why so many of us feel almost compelled to live alongside animals. This, despite the fact that with all our modern advances we’ve mostly “aged out” of keeping pets as ratters, hunters, and defenders (among other survival-based uses). Because, as the argument goes, there’s something so fundamentally co-evolutionary (about dogs and cats in particular) that we continue to forge lasting bonds with them in spite of the less pressing need to keep them close.

See Also: Should People Have to Take a Test to Own a Pet?

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Read more: Animal Rights, Cats, Dogs, Everyday Pet Care, Less Common Pets, Pet Health, Pets, Safety

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petMD is a leading online resource focused solely on the health and well-being of pets. The site maintains the world's largest pet health library, written and approved by a network of trusted veterinarians. petMD was founded to inspire pet owners to provide an ever-increasing quality of life for their pets and to connect pet owners with pet experts and other animal lovers. For more information, visit


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1:48PM PDT on Sep 25, 2012

my parents think pets are a luxury. "can you afford that? do you really need that?" ect. we have two outdoor dogs. my son is two and he loves them both dearly. my bf is getting me a kitten for my birthday. OUR kitten. the kitten will be an indoor pet. having pets has truly made my son feel safer and more comfortable around animals. it has made him more compassionate and empathetic. they aren't a luxury. we need to make sure people can socialize with animals and understand them as best as we can. we are all stuck on earth together. we have to get along (for everyone's sake). pets help bridge the gap and they teach us about themselves and about us :)

11:02AM PDT on Aug 14, 2012

A luxury is a new outfit or a night out, pets are more than that, they are a member of your family.

5:38PM PDT on Aug 11, 2012

Thanks for the article.

3:48PM PDT on Aug 10, 2012


9:50AM PDT on Aug 9, 2012

Interesting. No definitely not a luxury. No more than your own children are. But I don't support socialized medicine for humans or animals. Be responsible for you and yours.

12:22PM PDT on Aug 7, 2012

Thank you.

12:22PM PDT on Aug 7, 2012

Thank you.

6:08PM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

If pets are a luxury, I am RICH!! Rich with love and friendship, comfort and understanding.

12:08PM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

A luxury? That would be a big NO! A comittment, a job, a duty, a 24/7 available service, a VERY BIG YES! BUT MOSTLY>A TRUE LABOR OF LOVE!

6:41AM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

Our 4 dogs are the best choices we've made yet!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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