Comment: When cuteness kills

The Internet wrongly depicts pet ownership as 24-7 cute-meets-slapstick-comedy show, says Tom Burns

Saccharine depictions of cats and dogs on the Internet making mischief mask the real responsibilities of looking after a pet for life, writes Tom Burns.

Kittens and puppies are the candy of adults. They're loveable, great company, and easier to manage than kids. So why is it that a quarter of a million perfectly healthy cats and dogs are euthanised in Australia each year?

63 per cent of Australian households own a pet, and of those who currently don't, 53 per cent say they would like to own one in the future.

How many kids will get puppies as Christmas presents this year? Whatever the amount is, it'll be too many. Because while cute little bundles of joy get handed to the other cute bundles of joy there will be a miserable, dark, morbid Christmas for tens of thousands of cats and dogs locked up on death row in pounds across the country.

I blame lolcats. Lolcats glamourise pet ownership as 24-7 cute-meets-slapstick-comedy shows, ignoring the responsibility of ownership and care.

Vaccinations and veterinary checkups aren't cheap; grooming and feeding take time and money; microchipping and registration shouldn't be overlooked; and training requires patience. You can say goodbye to that super comfy armchair in the living room if you have a cat, too, and give up on that perfectly tidy backyard if you have a dog.

Pets take work. Real work. Cleaning up poo or hairballs is sometimes required. I know what you're thinking, "People should already know these things." Yes, they should, but it seems they don't. Why else would so many pets be abandoned if it wasn't the case?

Though one of the other big reasons, it seems - besides the riddling of social media with "i can haz cheezburger?"-styled memes - is owners not desexing their animals, especially cats.

Despite desexing drives in the US significantly reducing the numbers of pets being euthanised annually, only 15,000 cats and dogs have been spayed or neutered in Australia since 2006 through the National Desexing Network run by Animal Aid for financially-disadvantaged owners. Although many more pets are desexed through non-discounted services, unrestricted breeding of cats and dogs is rife. Greedy backyard breeders and puppy farmers are a real problem. That and the Paris Hilton-eqsue designer 'doggy bags'.

So next time your friend or family member is absorbed in a euphoric cuteness urge, tell them to head down to the pound before the pet shop - and remind them of what they're getting themselves into.

Finally, I'd like to leave you with the words Bob Barker, former The Price Is Right host and US television personality, who was famous for ending his shows with the same appeal to the public every night. In his 1999 acceptance speech for the Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award, he ended with that same, unfaltering appeal.

Tom Burns is a blogger, vlogger and self-confessed political junkie.

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