According to the American Pets Products Association, over seventy-one million homes in America have a pet – that’s 62% of U.S. households. It’s estimated that the pet industry expenditures will reach almost $48 billion dollars this year alone.
And when it comes to pets, lots of Americans gravitate towards trendy animals featured on the silver screen, tucked under the arm of their favorite Hollywood starlet, or even photographed as the President’s best furry friend.
Each decade has had its share of trendy pets. In the 1980s, stylish pets were iguanas, tropical fish and tarantulas. In the 1990s and turn of the century, supermodels and socialites helped propel Chihuahuas and Yorkies into fashionable accessories, sparking a national trend of arm-candy pooches. Other popular pets over the years have included seahorses, sugar gliders, spotted felines, hairless canines, ferrets, rosy boas, chinchillas, piranhas, miniature horses, bearded dragons, Dalmatians and Collies.
Pet-du-jours are often a controversial topic among animal rights activists. Many people fear that trend-followers will simply take in a pet to follow suit in the latest must-have animal companion, unaware of the long-term commitment, financial responsibility and specific needs required by the unique species. Some ill-prepared owners adopt and abandon their animals. Exotic pets are sometimes illegally bred, sold and traded in the United States while wild populations decline in their native habitats. Additionally, exotic animals can pose potential health risks.
Advocates of exotic animal ownership suggest that possible pet parents should research as possible about the species – visiting websites, checking local laws, obtaining necessary licenses and just learning the animals’ endearing and wearisome attributes – instead of buying one a whim. If it seems to fit into your lifestyle, location and ability for long-term care, then it may be a compatible animal companion.
But not all trendy pets fall into the “exotic animal” category – oftentimes a canine breed, equine height or feline color will simply just become all the rage. Many pet trends cycle around blockbuster films, celebrity ownership, species development and the entertainment industry.
So, which posh pets might be the trendiest of the new decade?
Also called “micro” pigs, these little porkers conjure up images of cute, clean and housebroken piglets that walk on a leash and cuddle on the couch. Teacup pigs have been featured on the hit show How I Met Your Mother, and it’s been said that David Beckham owns two of these pint-sized piggies. But mini-pigs aren’t as small as you might think – they will weigh as much as 65 pounds at maturity and reach the height of a cocker spaniel. Teacup pig owners should be prepared for a long-term commitment to their oinker, as these intelligent creatures have a projected lifespan of about fifteen years. And pigs smell like pigs – no matter the size – and require specific dietary needs and veterinary care. The price tag for a teacup pig? As much as $1,200.
Native to Europe, Asia and Africa, pygmy hedgehogs grew in pet popularity after several video games featured these exotic creatures. A pygmy hedgehog is a small, spiny species that prefers a desert-like environment, complete with live mill worms and crickets. This nocturnal animal is related to moles and shrews, and they can hiss and roll into a fist-sized ball when threatened. Hedgies require particular care and attention, and only specialized veterinarians are capable of treating pygmy hedgehogs. They have become a pet-du-jour for young children and school classrooms – potential owners of these hypoallergenic hedgies should carefully learn about the species before bringing one into their home, school or office.
Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese water dog has many favorable characteristics that make it a popular dog breed. But what makes it trendy? Since sweet tempered Bo joined the Obama family, the Portuguese water dog has jumped four spots on the American Kennel Club’s list of America’s Most Popular Breeds. And in the last twenty years, the Portuguese water dog has skyrocketed twenty spots on that same list. So, what’s so special about this particular breed? This canine variety is known for her pleasant disposition, hypoallergenic fur, high intelligence, manageable size and excellent retrieving abilities. But Portuguese water dogs are also high-energy animals, requiring daily vigorous and stimulating exercise. They are prone to certain ailments, like hip dysplasia. Because a trendy dog breed can also lead to puppy mills supplying the market’s demand, potential owners should carefully select a reputable Portuguese water dog breeder or adopt an available pooch from an animal shelter.
As many people find the idea of a “cottager’s cow” appealing, the Dexter cow is a mini mountain bovine gaining in pet popularity. According to the Dexter Cattle Society, registered cows doubled in Europe from 2007 to 2008 and were numbered at over 20,000 in the United States by 2009. The Dexter Cow offers an attractive small-scale farming option for those who wish to produce their own organic food. This potential trend-setting house cow is just a little bigger than a large dog, produces up to 2 gallons of milk a day, can have one calf a year, is known for her delicious meat, and will mow the backyard with her grass-loving appetite. Her hardy nature and cost-effective ownership also place her as a front-runner as one of this decade’s trendiest pets.
The trendiest pets of the decade – what are your predictions? Cast your vote as a comment below!