Adorable or what? Not


Adorable or what?

Not at all. You are looking at a major investment opportunity. Today’s blog is not warm and fuzzy. It’s hard headed and money seeking. It’s about where to put your money in the stock market.

Here’s the anthropological take on pets.

There is a growing group of unmarried or divorced people. We know that, in 2002, the married population stood at 59%. This number is falling, down from 62% in 1990 and 72% in 1970. So unmarrieds stand at 41% and their numbers are growing.

Will this group live alone? No, chances are they will go out and buy Gizmo there on the left.

This tells us the pet population will increase. How else will those who want to get married find a mate, if not by taking Gizmo to the park for a walk? How else will those who want to stay single survive life alone. They will need a companion, and, yes, it will be Lulu, sitting there next to Gizmo.

So that’s it? Of course not. Those who are married are going to want pets, too. Especially if they are childless. After all, they need a child surrogate. You know who you are. You are the people we hear at the supermarket having intricate conversations about whether Danny (second from right) would like IAMs or something a little meatier. (“Yes, but what about his cholesterol?”)

So that’s it? Of course not. Those who are married with children are going to want pets, too. They are struggling to give their children the perfect childhood. They cannot be done without “Pattikins” (far right) or “Buddy” (middle).

This is what they call “coverage.” Everyone needs pets. We need them when we live alone. We need them when we’re married. We need them when we’ve got kids. Street kids need them as spare change magnets. Firemen needs them to fight fires. Presidents need them as photo ops. Hospitals use them as care-givers. College football teams need them as mascots. Bookstores use them as paper weights.

We are, as a culture, becoming increasingly pet-centric. I recently staying in a grand hotel that lets you bring your pet. This used to be the privilege of film stars and the very wealthy. Airlines will now let us travel with them.

And when it comes to pets, we cease to be rational, penny pinching consumers. Buddy needs a new collar, a new parka, a new hip. “Here, just take my credit card. No, that’s ok, just keep it.”

The real question here is where to make this opportunity to work for you, and, of course, Buddy. I have made one investment which is doing very nicely, thank you, up $2.00 a share. Their ticker symbol is WOOF. (Though, come to think of it, if you are now preparing to take stock advice from an anthropologist, you need to have a serious talk with Buddy.) I have a call in to my favorite analyst, a brilliant young man (and Harvard Business School grad) at UBS. I will let you know what he thinks the best picks are.


Marriage statistics from:

8 thoughts on “Adorable or what? Not

  1. Steve Portigal

    Eep. We’re about 2 hours from going to pick up our new dog (a 3-year-old rescue Golden Retriever named Brody, if you must know). My very first pet, ever (the goldfish don’t count, despite what my mom said). And I’m incredibly aware (and even eager) for the new opportunities for consumption that await me. We did a walk-through of a pet store on the way home from meeting Brody, and talked about what we wanted specifically, and generally. I rejected out-of-hand a “Dick Van Patten” brand of dog food, with conviction, but also Gen-X post-ironic curmudgeonliness – and then I expressed pleasure over having new crappy products to be opinionated about!

  2. Grant

    Steve, The idea that we are turning former sit-com celebrities into dog food frankly revolts me. I think Brody is very wise to steer clear. Plenty of time for him to cultivate sit-com favorites of his own. Best, Grant

  3. steve

    This is one of those cultural trends I will have to deplore, despite being “child free.” I do not like touching dogs, smelling dogs, listening to dogs, or being around dogs, nervously trying to predict whether or not an involuntary occasion to touch or smell or listen is about to happen. (Cats are only marginally better.) My only hope is that the health Nazis find something spuriously unhealthy about the critters so that I can guiltily luxuriate in a dog-free as well as smoke-free environment.

  4. Grant

    Steve, don’t encourage the rule-makers. They are looking for more prohibitions. Dog-free starbucks. Come to think of it, this is odd isn’t. We have driven smoke out and lets animals in. This is perhaps a dramatization of our evolutionary origins. When we finally got that fire going, dogs decided that trading warmth for domestication was an acceptable bargain. Or something.

  5. sarah

    Pets as a living entity to be bought or sold bothers me somewhat. If I was vegan, maybe I’d not want a pet for myself. I’ve thought a lot about getting a turtle recently – and am very uncomfortable with the actual process, the transaction of obtaining said turtle. I don’t want to steal one from the wild (an appreciation for shared public goods, any economists want to take this up?), perhaps experiencing freedom makes capitivity that much more painful. But, I can’t have that thought without wondering, if capitivity is painful, why do I want to cause pain to any animal, whether free-range or homegrown? Grant, do you know any ethicists or is that a separate sort of intersection?

  6. Grant

    Sarah, thanks for your comment. What is it about the commercial supply of the pet that bothers you? If there is no incentive to sell pets, there would be no opportunity to buy them. And given all the happiness they create in the world, surely this would be a bad thing. No? Thanks, Grant

  7. sarah

    Your questions get closer to the crux of my discomfort, Grant. I can see (although not necessarily subscribe to) a belief that living beings shouldn’t be commoditized, as impractical as it sounds. Issues such as organ donation run parallel to the question of commoditizing animals.
    The consequences of using life forms to satisfy a particular supply/demand construct are often devastating or at least exploitative.

    The presence of a demand does not mean that a supply should exist. To make an overly dramatic simile, there was a demand for slave labor in the US at one point, which was filled by a commercial supply – however, that demand was judged to be one not deserving of fulfillment. My desire (demand) for a pet turtle does not mean there should necessarily be a commercial supply (especially if I wanted a particularly rare or endangered turtle species).

    Pets do indeed create a lot of happiness (as well as some more quantifiable benefits) for their owners. But I also see pet ownership as a luxury (assuming one is willing and able to provide a decent standard of living, including adequate health care and living conditions), whereas obtaining a kidney transplant necessary for my survival is much less of a luxury item – although being able to pay for one on the black market certainly would place me on the demand-side of some luxury consumer goods.

    I resist placing ‘pet ownership’ and ‘new kidney’ on a scale opposite potential exinction or human rights violations – but these are the big questions that come to mind when I’m down at the pet store.
    Thanks for continuing the dialogue.

    Reference: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, March 1999 v47 i3 p323(7). Influence of companion animals on the physical and psychological health of older people: an analysis of a one-year longitudinal study. Parminder Raina; David Waltner-Toews; Brenda Bonnett; Christel Woodward; Tom Abernathy.

    New York Turtle and Tortise Society:

    New Internationalist, April 1998 i300 p14-17. New cannibalism. Nancy Scheper-Hughes.

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