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National Pet Day

woman snuggling with white bulldog

Pets have been around for millennia. Dogs have been part of human life prior to written history. From preserved footprints of a child walking alongside a dog in Chauvet Cave in southern France to preserved remains of a dog in the Goyet Caves of Belgium, it appears dogs have been friends, companions, and protectors from 26,000 to 36,500 years ago.[1] While wildcats and domestic cats shared a common ancestor 100,000 years ago, where their lives converged with the human lives is less clear. The 1983 discovery of a cat buried with a human in a Cypriot grave dating to 9500 BCE is the oldest evidence we have.[2] However, I suspect that as man developed farming and agricultural techniques and began to store grains and other foodstuffs approximately 12,000 to 23,000 years ago, cats became part of our lives as mouse catching protectors of food reserves and as companions.

National Pet Day is celebrated annually on April 11th. It is an unofficial holiday founded by Colleen Paige, an animal advocate, in 2006. The purpose is to pay some extra attention to our pets and celebrate all they do for us. She also wanted to recognize the plight of animals in shelters all over the world.[3],[4]

Some pets still serve a role as protectors, but most today act solely as companions. In the United States today 80 million households have a pet. They include nearly 80 million dogs, 86 million cats[5], and an unknown number of pocket pets, reptiles and fish. So, this Saturday is the day to show your appreciation for their love, companionship and health benefits. Their presence in our lives is even more important today at a time when we are required to stay at home and social distance ourselves. For many they relieve some of the loneliness, anxiety and depression of social isolation and being stir crazy.

So now is the time to return the favor. Plan to set aside time on April 11th to spend some special time with your pet. Ideas include:

  • Buy your pet a new toy or treat. Buy or paint a new background for your fish’s tank. If possible, support local business through online shopping.
  • Take a special walk with your pet or play low impact fetch while observing social distancing. Make cardboard box toys for your cat(s).
  • Spend time brushing your pet or giving him a massage.
  • Take pictures of your pet.
  • Share photos of your pets via social media using the hashtag #NationalPetDay.
  • Make the future commitment to adopt a pet from your local shelter.
  • Donate money, food, toys and/or blankets to an animal welfare organization.
  • Make some special treats and have a National Pet Day party with your pets. Share your party using the hashtag #NationalPetDay.
  • Help someone who needs it buy pet food or other items for their pets.
  • Volunteer to help a local shelter raise funds or acquire needed supplies from your home.
  • Help organizations that lobby against puppy and kitten mills.

Whatever you decide to do, have fun with it. Share your plans on social media with others. I am continually surprised at the creative ways people have found to celebrate important events in this age of social, or more precisely physical, distancing.