Can social contagion explain our pet choices?

Can social contagion explain our pet choices?

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In 1975, a new kind of โ€˜petโ€™ came into the market โ€“โ€˜pet rocksโ€™. It started as a joke but these fuss-free โ€˜alternativeโ€™ to real pets became a rage. After six months, people moved on.Social contagion is the way a certain behavior or preference to something spreads rapidly across a group of people like a contagious disease. Within the span of a few days or months as the novelty fades, this craze dies, often giving way to some other trend.Animals too become the subjects of social contagion. There is a sudden flare in their popularity that dies just as quickly.

How does a pet fad start?

The sudden rise in popularity of certain animals Dalmatians, clown fishes, turtles, snowy owls can all be clearly identified with the release of movies. Also, when celebrities flaunt exotic animals like fashion accessories it gives rise to a new craze. What is more, online trading has opened up easy and illegal channels for procuring animals.

The chain of evil

Breeders often resort to unscrupulous means to meet the demand. Irresponsible breeding and improper handling often results in deformed or disease-prone offspring. Sometimes, animals captured from the wild are all sold off to naรฏve buyers.When it comes to exotic pets, lack of proper background information regarding their dietary, exercise and habitat requirements cause deficiencies and illnesses. To further complicate matters, it may be difficult to find a veterinarian familiar with the animal's medical and nutritional needs.Misinformation regarding an animalโ€™s nature is often circulated by pet traders, often intentionally. Vietnamese piglets were initially thought of as the ideal pets, small and docile. But they grew up to be massive and aggressive pigs, impossible for owners to manage.There is also a risk of the exotic breeds being the carrier of diseases that may get transferred to their human caretakers.When the task of taking care of these pets become just too much, owners release the animals โ€˜into the wildโ€™. While some abandoned pets die painful deaths, some others, like the feral green iguanas of Florida thrive at the cost of the local species. Shelters too get overwhelmed by the sheer number of the โ€˜discardedโ€™ pets.Adopting a pet is a very serious responsibility. Pets sometimes require the care and attention an infant needs. It is not a decision to be made on an impulse. Before we bring a pet home, it is best if we consult a vet or a responsible pet owner, preferably with the same species of pet that we wish to adopt. If we are ready for this big step after weighing in all the points, life will be a blessing, for us and our animal friend.

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