Ditch Rover and get a virtual or robot pet? Clearly not, but this article from the Guardian has a short study of pets and in particular dogs over the centuries. Some of it does not make great reading. The basis of the article comes from a book: “Run spot run”, The ethics of keeping pets.
Before you dive into this article however, also consider that despite its commentary others such as the Smithsonian have also researched how long we have been keeping pets. There are some historical records in this report that seem to illustrate that we have been close to these animals for thousands of years. Wikipedia seems to indicate both cats and dogs have been companions in one shape or form for over 8,000 years. The cultural differences are probably the difference in how they have been treated!
Kirkus reviews the book accordingly:-
“Bioethicist Pierce challenges pet lovers to recognize that animal ownership is definitely a dicey affair; no matter how well loved they are, our pets are essentially being held captives…. She reminds us that the animals we love and treat as companions ‘are denied nearly all of their natural behaviors, not to mention their freedom.’”
Here are a couple of extracts from the article:
………….Widespread pet keeping is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until the 19th century, most animals owned by households were working animals that lived alongside humans and were regarded unsentimental. In 1698, for example, a Dorset farmer recorded in his diary: “My old dog Quon was killed and baked for his grease, which yielded 11lb.” However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, animals began to feature less in our increasingly urban environments and, as disposable income grew, pets became more desirable.
………….More recently, however, several countries have moved to change the legal status of animals. In 2015, the government of New Zealand recognized animals as sentient beings, in effect declaring them no longer property
The last comment especially in light of the rapid adoption of vegetarianism and veganism seems more of a trend. No one can dispute the fact that the domestic and genetically modified creatures we keep these days have emotions and that they bring endless joy and keep many of us healthier than would otherwise be the case. Virtual pets may be OK for some, but its never going to be the real thing.