It is not clear at what point in time did humans started keeping pets for companionship. It may have started with goats and dogs, but that has grown to encompass a wide variety of other animals from felines, birds, reptiles, and fish. Europeans are big pet lovers and are only rivaled by North Americans. According to the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF), as of 2018, about 80 million households in Europe keep at least an animal as a pet. About 24% of these own a dog, and another 25% own a cat. Owing to these vast numbers, there are about 132 big pet food-producing industries that have an annual turnover of over $23billion. A more in-depth look at pet ownership in Europe reveals varying degrees of popularity that comes with each type of pet. The most popular pets include the following.
Cats top the list of the most beloved pet by Europeans living in the EU. There are 75, 324,000 cats kept as pets in households in the region. Romania leads the pack with 47% of households with a cat. Latvia comes a close second at 38%, followed by Hungary at 34% with Slovenia (33%) and Portugal (33%), wrapping up the top 5 countries. The cat breeds most likely to be found in Europe include the Birman that originated from France. There is the German Rex developed in Germany and is famous for its curly coat. The Aegean cat from the Greek islands of Cycladic is famous in Greece and is considered among the most ancient cat breeds. The Norwegian Forest Cat, with its long thick coat, adapted for the harsh Norwegian cold is mainly kept in farms because of its excellent hunting skills. The Turkish Angora is another unique breed from Turkey that dates back to the 1600s. There is also the Ukrainian Levkoy that is devoid of any hair with ears that fold over the face. The breed was created by crossing a Donskoy cat and a Scottish Fold. A majority of cat owners in the European Union keep them for companionship in urban areas.
Dogs were among the first animals to be domesticated by humans, and that can only rival the love for canines in the European Union for cats. There are 65,509,000 dogs in households across the EU. Once again, Romania ranks the highest in the number of homes that own a dog with 42%. Poland comes a second with 42%, followed by the Czech Republic at 41%. Lithuania (37%) and Portugal (36%) rank at 4th and 5th, respectively. Europe is the cradle to over 200 breeds of dogs that are now found worldwide. The most preferred dog breeds in most households in the EU include Collies, a Scottish breed loved for its long hair, the ease of training them, and absolute loyalty. The Spanish Mastiff is popular with farmers because of its excellent hunting skills and ferocity in guarding livestock. Adult Spanish Mastiff can weight up to 154 pounds. Dog de Bordeaux is another guard dog that originated from France loved for their attachment and calm nature. They are also preferred because of their long lifespans and resistance to most diseases. The Beagle, an English breed with a 2000-year history, is famous in the English countryside. Beagles are loved for their short legs and long drooping ears, and high intelligence, traits that made them a favorite of the ruling class during the Elizabethan era. Other notable breeds are the Brussels Griffon, the Welsh Terrier, and the Deutscher Boxer.
There are about 19,400,000 ornamental birds kept as pets in the European Union. Italy has the highest number of ornamental pet birds, with over 12,884,000 of them. France comes second with 5,600,000, Spain with 5,300,000, Germany with 4,800,000, and Netherlands coming 5th with 2,020,000. A huge number of these birds have their origins in tropical regions of South America, Africa, and Asia. The most common ornamental birds include Cockatiels, loved for their singing, and talking, and they are popular with European families. Healthy Cockatiels can live for 20 years. The African Grey Parrot, best known for its high intelligence, is a great talker and has an impressive lifespan of 40 years. Finches are loved for their bright colored pelts and singing. They live for ten years and only survive when kept in pairs. The Parakeet, another parrot species, are best known for their low noise talking and ability to play with toys. Parakeets live for 10-15 years, depending on nutritional care provided for them. Other birds worth a mention are the Canaries, Conures, Ring-necked Doves, and Macaws.
Small mammal pets refer to small animals, mostly rodents, kept as pets. There are over 19,400,000 small mammals in different households across the European Union: The most common ones include the Guinea Pig, which weighs up to 3 pounds and is loved by children. They have a lifespan of between 5-10 years. Hamsters are a unique animal that works very well as a pet and have been treated as such since the 1930s. They live for two years and are suitable for children aged eight and above. Rabbits come in varying sizes, but as far as the small mammal category is concerned, they are among the biggest. They live for 8-10 years. Others under this category include Ferrets, which live for up to 10 years, Chinchillas, which live for 20 years despite their diminutive sizes. Rats are also kept as pets by some people, although most are a health hazard.
Fishes and crustaceans are widely kept as pets, and there are about 10,643,000 of them across the European Union. They can be high maintenance compared to other pets as they require well-maintained aquariums at all times. The most popular fish kept as pets include the Goldfish, Tetras, Guppies, Platies, Swordtails, Mollies. Famous crustaceans include Hermit Crabs, Red Cherry Shrimps, and Crayfish. Small varieties of Octopus and squids can also be kept in larger aquariums.
Reptiles have a reputation for being a group of animals with the most dangerous individuals. However, this has not stopped people from rearing them as pets. There are about 6,3030,000 reptiles kept as pets across households in the European Union. The most common reptile pets include turtles and tortoises, which live for very long, reaching 30-50yrs. Crested geckos are another popular option followed by the Water Dragon, which needs a lot of space to thrive as a pet. Pet snakes include the Rat Snake, the Python, the Rosy Boa, the Gopher Snake, among many others. Most snakes are usually confined in glass enclosing for safety purposes.
Importance Of Pets
People keep pets for many reasons, with companionship being the most common one that cuts across genders and ages. In recent years, pets are being trained to assist people who may be physically incapacitated to carry out daily tasks. Guide dogs, for example, are used by blind people to walk. In the medical world, dogs have been found to have the ability to discover cancer in its early stages, thanks to their acute sense of smell. Playing with, and taking pets for walks helps people keep their fitness in check as it is an excellent form of exercise. There is no end to the benefits that one gets from owning a pet.