Dogs and cats are fashionable products, like cars

Why have we become addicted to our pets? Would they have become our new emotional commodities? Our petmania deciphered by Christophe Blanchard.

Christophe Blanchard is an interesting interlocutor to talk about the petmania phenomenon. He combines the cap of lecturer in education sciences at the Sorbonne, and master… dog. He is closely, but haughtily, interested in the nature of our relationship with our domestic animals. They connect us to the nature we are deprived of, but are also new emotional commodities that too often end up by the wayside. Lighting.

How has the nature of our relationships with our pets changed?

Christopher Blanchard : There has been a significant change over the past twenty years. First, these beasts are more and more numerous. Investing financially and emotionally — especially in cats and dogs — to get closer to the sociability that our shared humanity sometimes lacks seems to be a trend. Then, cats dethroned dogs (there are 15.5 million in France for the first and half for dogs *, Ed). This shift corresponds to changes in lifestyles, with less investment for city dwellers. Acquiring a small feline is an immediate gain because it is very close to the family that welcomes it, without requiring the constant investment that the dog requires, especially on outings.

There is a boom in small dogs in big cities, as well as an explosion of houseplants. Are we trying to miniaturize nature?

CB – I think the spring is of this order. Urban lifestyles lead to an increasingly obligatory estrangement from nature as we imagine it. Because of this, people are trying to reproduce at home. In the cities, we have few gardens, so we buy reduced plants. Same for animals. A Chihuahua is easier to train than a Dogo Argentino, especially in a studio. But here again, it is necessary to qualify: it is not because they need to relate to nature that people adopt a cat or a dog. Because they are not very “natural” animals. The domestication of dogs dates back 15,000 years. It has been “worked” to be reproduced in series.

We are adopting more, but we are also abandoning our animals more. What does this say about the emotional relationship that binds us to our pets?

CB – For me, there is a very great logic between the way we buy and the way we abandon our animals. If we assume that the pet is a consumer product like any other, we can abandon it like an object, like clothes that we buy and throw away. It is emotional consumption. We do not imagine that it is a series of responsibilities. We just want to enjoy the aesthetic side. And that can quickly lead to abandonment.

Is this thingification recent?

CB – We are touching on the sphere of our global intimacy since we use them more and more on stage in our daily lives and on our social networks, where they sometimes even become stars; which was unthinkable ten years ago. They were then limited to well-defined places: humans inside, animals outside. This separation of places no longer exists today. The image of Épinal, for example, where the dog stays in its kennel next to the farm, would almost pass for mistreatment in our eyes, we who can no longer bear the distinction and who are no longer afraid to affirm that we love our animals.

What are the reasons that led us to change our behavior towards them?

CB- Dogs and cats are fashionable products, like cars. As a result, we go to the animals that affect us the most. In this change of ratio, we are also looking for all the derived products. As for a child, even before arriving, we are asked by all parties to buy goods related to his well-being. It’s the same for a kitten or a puppy.

Can we conclude that the arrival of a pet is a palliative to the desire for children?

CB – It’s a bit caricatural to think that an animal prolongs a childless period. Otherwise, there was an absolute stereotype of young couples preparing for fatherhood or in this way or compensating for the absence of children in this way. Or it is not. Especially since most of the time, according to statistics, pet owners are often families.

*Figures taken from FACCO 2022 annual report (Federation of Food Manufacturers for Dogs, Cats, Birds and other pets).

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