chapter  9
15 Pages

The material culture of pet keeping

ByKatherine C. Grier

According to the American Pet Products Association, 68 per cent of American households contain a pet animal; 44 per cent have more than one (APPA 2013). The growing enthusiasm refl ected in these numbers has resulted in a large and distinctive array of specialized consumer goods intended to enhance a distinctive human-animal bond. Commercial services – from dog-grooming businesses to small-animal veterinary practices; recreational spaces such as dog parks; and the memorial spaces of pet cemeteries – all rely on their own constellations of artifacts, from surgical equipment scaled for small bodies, to park dispensers containing special biodegradable pet-waste bags. Study of the material culture of pets and tracing its change over time is a useful method for parsing the evolving relationships between people and the animals they live with at home. The object-traces of human involvement with pets, past and present, reveal the evolving contours of routine practices, the cultural assumptions that underlie them, and the complex, deep feelings that pet owners have about their animals.