According to the pet industry trade group, the American Pet Products Association, last year we spent a total of $69.51 billion on the dogs, cats, parakeets, guppies, rabbits, iguanas and other companion animals with whom we share our homes. That’s an all-in number, including food, veterinary medical care, toys, everything. It’s a big number, up 4% from $66.75 billion spent in 2016. Fully half of dog owners and 39% of cat owners buy gifts for their pets for Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa or Festivus (which, as we know, is for the rest of us), averaging $14 per dog and $12 per cat. Clearly, my peers are the cheapskates when it comes to this since the 17-to-21-year-old age group will spend an average of $71 on their pets this holiday season. (I hear the moans of those of us still providing “financial assistance” to grown children.)
Excessive? Well, let he who has not splurged on Amazon.com throw the first virtual stone! We are talking about our family here. Some of my very best joyful holiday memories include our animals, and I assume (as readers of this column) you share that experience. A young and goofy Eli leaping from one empty gift-wrapped box into the other, a mass of tissue paper in his jaw. Elderly Lilly, her tail smoking (literally) but not on fire (thankfully) from the lit menorah candle, doused by a guest’s quick-thinking use of a glass of red wine, purring in obvious if oblivious delight for all the attention. The dozens of animals who have shared our lives sharing the holidays is a big part of what makes the holidays worthwhile. Our animals are, among many things, the physical manifestation of sweetness, kindness, gentleness, of unconditionally loving those around them. One can’t put a value or a price tag on what they give to a family, and a small gift back as a token of our gratitude seems good and right to me.
A postscript: thousands of animals will spend the holidays in shelters like Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA. If you’ve got a bit leftover, please consider a seasonal gift to PHS/SPCA or another local organization.