By Margaret Curtis, PhD
While we fight like cats and dogs over each election, who rules in America? The family dog sets us apart from cultures which consider him/her/it unclean. The same ensconced creature separates us from cultures which insist that canines work for a living. That dog may be a guardian, companion, babysitter, or even a sharp dancer, but will we keep him if he spends all his time testing mattresses? Hollywood says: You bet we will!
While films vary in his portrayal from Cujo to Lassie, he sits at the center of American culture like a statue of Anubis, waiting for a pat on the head. The Humane Society of the United States reports, “There are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs in the United States.” The same organization reports, “There are approximately 86.4 million owned cats in the United States.” Are these Christian numbers, by any biblical standards?
Added together, 164.6 million cats and dogs reign across the country. Add to that number animals which run wild, hang out, or hide under bushes, and the total must exceed 200 million. Compare that figure with the US Census Bureau’s human population total for 2011: 311,591,917. The result reveals slightly less than two pets for every three people here. No wonder we fight like cats and dogs. We might as well be the Cat and Dog People.
Ancient Egyptians developed an appropriate vocabulary for this phenomenon. They named the cat through which deities radiated their characteristics Bastet. They named the dog through which deities radiated their characteristics Anubis. The Pitt Rivers Museum website concludes: “The ‘sacred animal industry’ supplied considerable employment and also provided tax income to the Pharaohs.”
Does America not delight in its “sacred animal industry,” too? While cats enjoy raw spaghetti, curled cellophane, or even paper napkins as toys, nevertheless shops offer cat toys with fur and leather tails. Similarly, dogs appreciate carrots and peanut butter for treats, yet American dog owners purchase carrot and peanut butter-flavored treats. This extravagance signals much more than Lassie Come Home.
For the Humane Society’s complete report on American pet ownership, see http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ownership_statistics.html
For a variety of US statistics, see http://www.census.gov/
For the Pitt Rivers Museum website, see http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/AnimalMummification.html