Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

The reason we spend so much on pets? Because they’re worth it

While we may be running up and down the aisles of supermarkets stocking up on Horse Lasagne, there's no austerity when it comes to feeding our little furry friends.

Sales of dog food have topped the £1bn per year mark, with gourmet dishes for cats and dogs hugely popular.

Which isn't so surprising because, unlike humans, they're worth it. Having lived with dogs and cats, I am not prepared to justify that sentence. It is a truth that is self-evident. Dogs are wonderful, giving and loving, and cats — the greatest thing off God's drawing board — take my breath away with their sheer grace. My pets have always been there for me in my hour of need. My old dog Bert once sank his teeth into the trembling behind of a drunk man who lunged at me. Cats always know when to share the silence and when to put on a cheering display of gymnastics and prat falls. Isn't that enough to justify spending a few quid more on choice morsels for them? Who could begrudge them it? After all, they will never have the joy of reading a Jane Austen novel or appreciating a Mozart symphony. (Then again, they will never have to endure “understanding” Jeremy Clarkson or trying to make sense of the latest Paddy McGuinness vehicle.) I've had long mental debates about who I'd throw off the hypothetical lifeboat if I really, really had to — my cat Gissing or Himself (I’m pleading the fifth).

Let cynics sneer at the idea of people spoiling their pets. In life when do we get the chance to reward, to recognise innocence and simplicity?

Anyone who has held a furry bundle in their arms knows that feeling. Call it sentimentality if you will. I prefer to call it love.

That doesn't make me odd. That makes me a pet owner.

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