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Posts Tagged ‘fad pets’

Several years ago, Paris Hilton helped start a craze for Chihuahuas. Chihuahuas now swamp California's shelters.

Every couple of years, a new fad pet pops up. You never know what it is going to be, but all of a sudden, you see celebrities with some kind of unusual animal and then you see average people spending exorbitant sums for these creatures. Then, almost predictably, the shelters and sanctuaries start to fill up with these animals. Reality sets in, and their fickle and often ill-informed owners dump them.

This week it was reported that the Chihuahuas are now overrunning California’s shelters. It is actually pretty easy to see why.

In recent years, the Chihuahua has been the fad pet of so many celebrities, not the least of which is Paris Hilton.

“High volume” breeders began to produce as many Chihuahuas as possible, often breeding the smallest and most sickly animals they could find in order to produce dogs that could fit in handbags. (Of course, it’s actually quite hard to mass produce the smallest Chihuahuas, because it is very hard for them to give birth.)

I remember going on youtube and looking at videos of tiny Chihuahua puppies. Their parents were not present in the photos, so one can only assume that they were enjoying their lives as battery-cage breeding stock.

Of course, Chihuahuas have a major fault. It is not that they are all sickly and neurotic and aggressive.

It is that they aren’t treated like the dogs they are. They are more likely treated as babies or fashion accessories, and this treatment turns them into demons.

And as the Chihuahua fad has begun to wane, the dogs that were treated in such a fashion have now matured into two or three year-old maneaters (if Chihuahuas were big enough to become maneaters).

And thus, they have been sent to the shelters.

It’s very sad that so many people want the pets that their favorite celebrities have.

I always thought Paris Hilton was an example of a bad role model.

And in the case of dogs, she definitely is!

***

A few years ago, Paris was into keeping animals that were illegal to keep in California. She had a ferret hanging around in hand bag.

Now ferrets are totally legal in most states in the US, but California does not allow them.

But they are not such unusual pets, so I doubt that she could have started a fad with that animal.

Then Paris upped the ante.

In 2005, she purchased a kinkajou, which she named “Baby Luv.” (A sickening name if you ask me.)

Kinkajous could have gone the way of the Chihuahuas. However, things didn’t turn out quite as well.

Despite the moronically cutesy name that Paris gave to this animal, Baby Luv still had enough of her wild instincts left.

In 2006, Baby Luv bit Paris, and Paris had to go to the emergency room for a tetanus shot.

I had read in several places that California authorities confiscated Paris’s kinkajou. Some of these sources claimed that a kinkajou was a pet monkey. Kinkajous are actually procyonids (the raccoon family.) They have prehensile tails that are very similar to those of many New World monkeys. In some parts of Latin America they are called “monos de noche” (night monkeys), but they are not monkeys at all.

In fact, there are only two members of the order Carnivora that have prehensile tails. The other is the binturong or bear cat, which a type of civet that is also known for smelling like popcorn. No one would mistake this animal for a monkey, and Paris would have hard time putting one into a handbag, which might explain why they have never become fad pets.

Of course, Kinkajous didn’t become fad pets either,  thanks to Baby Luv’s little nip!  Kinkajous are docile animals most of the time, but they hate being woken up in the middle of the day (a trait it would share with Paris). If given free run of the house, they have been known to come into bedrooms and attack people while they sleep. They also cannot be house broken. Kinkajous live in trees, so they just let it rip where ever they are.

I honestly cannot see why anyone would want one as a pet.

***

Now that the Chihuahua fad has started to subside (and the consequences of such buffoonery are coming to the fore), a new handbag creature has suddenly appeared.

We have left the Order Carnivora entirely.

Now it is the Order Erinaceomorpha.

The latest handbag accessory creature is the hedgehog. (And you thought I was talking about moonrats, which are also Erinaceomorphs.)

Now, there are no hedgehogs native to the Americas.

However, in the mid-90’s, pet shops began offering what were called African pygmy hedgehogs. These hedgehogs descended from two interfertile species of African hedgehog and are not technically a true species. They are derived from the four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), which is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Algerian hedgehog (Atelerix algirus), which is native to North Africa but is also found in Spain, France, and the Canary Islands, where it was introduced.

Now, these hedgehogs are not terrible pets, but they do have specific requirements. They need large cages in which they can move around, and for a small animal they require lots of exercise. They also have very specific dietary needs, which must be low in fat and high in protein. They also must of chitin in their diets, which they obtain in the wild from the exoskeltons of arthropods.

They also have a host of genetic diseases, which may come from either inbreeding or genetic issues that result from their hybrid ancestry. They are well-known to have various forms of cancer, but they also have a disorder called wobbly hedgehog syndrome, which is thought to be a genetic neurological disorder.

They also have to be kept at a temperature above 70 degrees Fahrenheit or they will hibernate, and as nocturnal animals, they are most active at night.

Is this an animal that belongs in a handbag?

Most certainly not.

And my guess is it won’t be long before the shelters start to fill up with hedgehogs.

***

America has a long history with fad pets. In the 80’s, it was the pot-bellied pig and llama, both of which are domestic animals but have very specific requirements. In the 70’s, it was the ocelot that everyone had to have. In the 60’s,  everyone wanted to keep a big cat (so lots of fools bought leopards, cougars, cheetahs, and even lions and tigers, which then wound up released into the countryside.)

And one cannot forget the fads in domestic dogs. In the nineteenth century, the Newfoundland dog was hawked by every dog dealer on the street. Then bull terriers and collies became the dogs that every middle class family wanted. Today, the bulldog and the aforementioned Chihuahua have experienced an uptick in popularity.

And then I haven’t even mentioned breeds that have been in the AKC’s top ten in registrations for decades, like the German shepherd, the poodle, the Labrador, the beagle, and the golden and Labrador retrievers. These animals seem to get no break at all from a constant fad breeding and mass production.

I think it is time for all of us who care about animals to say no to fads. Not every breed or species is for everyone, and no one should get animal that is illegal to keep in the first place or has specific care requirements that the prospective owner doesn’t know about, is incapable of providing, or simply refuses to provide.

It should also be noted that one should probably should not consider an animal that either considers humans to be prey or possesses lethal venom. Those animals are a bit risky.

Of course, keeping such animals does help thin out the human gene pool.

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