The other day, I was looking at an article about pet overpopulation (cheery, I know). The author continually noted that 'cats and dogs' constantly end up at shelters, and that 'cats and dogs' need to be adopted. There was a link to a shelter at the bottom of the article that said, 'View cats, dogs, and other animals up for adoption!'
Almost everything you will read about pets mentions 'four-legged friends', 'cats and dogs'....then, as an afterthought, "and other pets".
Rabbits, guinea pigs, parrots, finches, sugar gliders, hamsters, mice, turtles, snakes, chinchillas, degus, gerbils, frogs, fish, geckos, ferrets, hedgehogs...
These all fall under the category "other pets".
Damn. That's a wide-ranging category.
The thing is, that's exactly how small animals are seen - the 'other' pets. The ones people have when they are physically prevented from having a cat or dog. The second best.
I am sure every small pet owner has had a conversation like this:
Random Person - "Do you have any pets?"
Pet Owner - "Why yes, I have some lovely rabbits and a hamster."
Random Person - "Oh. I meant like, real pets."
I can't even count how many times I've had that conversation! (And if you have fish - pff, they don't even count.)
I love dogs and cats, but really - rabbits are the third most popular pet in North America. Birds aren't far behind. When are other types of pets going to start getting attention? I don't mean more people running out to buy them, I mean attention to the fact that they end up in shelters too. That they can be real pets and bring just as much to a family as a dog or cat. That they deserve vet care and love and exercise.
Everyone expects owners to pay for a dog's vet care. Everyone expects owners to walk their dog. Everyone expects that cats will be littertrained.
But if you pay for a rabbit's vet bills - whoa, that's a lot of money to spend on a rabbit! I mean, I'd understand if it were a dog...
Why? Why does a dog deserve proper care and veterinary attention more than a rabbit, or a budgie, or a guinea pig?
Why will many people consider a shelter when preparing to get a dog or cat, when people considering a small animal automatically go to pet stores?
Why is it 'weird' to have a free-range rabbit in your house, when it would be equally 'weird' to keep a cat in a cage all day?
Cats and dogs have benefited from a long history with humans, and lots of publicity. Tons of movies and TV shows have dogs or cats. But the times, they are a-changing, and it's about time people caught up with the fact that small animals aren't second-best; they can be just as much a part of the family as any dog or cat.