Furry Fads

The top two pets these days are cats and dogs, and among the most-chosen names are Max and Sam. No surprises there. But as long as humans and beasts have roamed the earth, they’ve been working out the finer points of the cohabitation arrangement. Beyond pooper-scoopers, “Best in Show” awards and matching dog-and-owner sweaters, hard-core pet enthusiasts may find their tastes reaching beyond feline and canine to a whole world of creature companions. But this is nothing new: From Julius Caesar’s beloved giraffe to the Empress Josephine’s dinner-coat-sporting orangutan, there have probably been as many pet possibilities as there are folks to serve up the Scooby Snacks today.

Coming to a living room near you?: Pot-bellied pigs were all the rage for a time, thanks in part to actor George Clooney.

Want proof? Check out these key moments in pet history:

• 2000 B.C.: Egyptians consider cats to be demigods and the property of the divine Pharaoh. Obviously Pharaoh isn’t changing the litter box.

• A.D. 2: Parrots are commonly kept by Roman citizens.

• 1200s: Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan owns 5,000 mastiffs, supposedly the greatest number of dogs ever kept by one person. (Later, the Bouvier Beale ladies give him a run for his money with their cat collection.)

• 1340s: Many survivors of the Black Death (which swept Europe, carried by rats) turn out to be cat owners.

• 1400s: Chinese royalty in the Forbidden City carry Pekingese tucked into the sleeves of their robes—a precursor of the designer pet purse.

• 1524: Spanish explorers discover a South American tribe whose members keep chinchillas both for their pelts and as pets.

• 1600s: European settlers bring their own dogs to the New World. Little did they know that PetSmart and SuperPets would render BYOD obsolete.

• 1820s: Canaries arrive in America to be raised for sale; by the 1870s, they are the most popular pet bird.

• 1840s: “Purebred” animals gain in popularity.

• 1850s: The “balanced aquarium” (miniature ecosystems) concept trumps the solo goldfish in a bowl.

• 1860s: Rabbits, white mice, rats and guinea pigs are named perfect children’s pets.

• 1870s: Cat breeders begin holding shows, which may lead to the term “herding cats.”

• 1895: The National Mouse Club is founded in England, attesting to the popularity of colored mice as pets.

• 1904: A British magazine prints an early description of the Lhasa apso, a dust-mop-sized dog with an aggressive underbite used to guard Buddhist temples in Tibet. (They probably didn’t expect many intruders.)

• 1910: This is the last year wild squirrels are sold through pet stores.

• 1930: A scientist from Jerusalem discovers hamsters in the Syrian Desert. Strangely, he never receives a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

• 1943: Life magazine reports, “Domestic rabbits are one of the few pets that can be enjoyed dead or alive.”

• 1950s: Hamsters become the new pet craze.

• 1970s: Some U.S. states outlaw the sale of painted box turtles, leading to the rise in popularity of another favored pet of the allergic kid: hermit crabs.

• 1975: The Pet Rock fad arrives. It lasts about six months, ending around the Christmas season, perhaps because a Pet Rock in the stocking is a bit too close to a lump of coal for comfort.

• 1980s: Ferrets, a relative of the polecat, gain in popularity in the U.S., thanks to otherwise unknown folk singer Wendy Winstead. By 1996 there are 800,000 domestic ferrets in America.

• 1980s: Vietnamese potbellied pigs rise to worldwide fame. Actor George Clooney helps the cause with his own pet pig named (popularly) Max.

• 1995: The first virtual (later known as digital) pet, Dogz, is released. Kids already bleary from too many video games rejoice. Digital pets become a huge fad in Japan (and, to a lesser extent, in the U.S. and U.K.) during the 1990s.

• 1995: The Taco Bell Chihuahua is born.

• 2003: An outbreak of the more-funny-than-scary sounding Monkeypox prompts a ban on the sale of prairie dogs as pets.

• 2006: The Taipei Times reports that the newest craze is large spiders, including the Mombasa golden stardust baboon spider and the Singapore blue tarantula.

• 2007: An estimated 7.5 million American households dress their pets in Halloween costumes. Devils and pumpkins are the favored disguises.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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4 thoughts on “Furry Fads

  1. yikes

    Here is a recent trend in Asheville: in the 5 years I have lived here, I have found it increasingly difficult to rent an apartment that will accept a dog. It’s nearly impossible, at least in the $500-600 range.
    Even an older, well-trained & well-behaved one.

  2. Juliet Clawson

    I’m not trying to make this an advertisement for the company I work for, but Alpha Real Estate is a pet friendly property manager. More than 75% of our rental properties are pet friendly. We even accept large dogs assuming they are well behaved, current with their shots and licensed (for homes rented inside the city limits). Unfortunately, expenses such as taxes and insurance, have been rising for several years making it more expensive for landlords to own rental properties, and those increases have made an abundance of $500 apartments a thing of the past in Asheville.

  3. Moxie

    There are quite a few pet friedly rentals in this area. I have never run into a problem. I just use craigslist and select the dog friendly box at the top of the rentals page.

  4. Crystal Mchguh

    i need a pet store near Ashvillie please send a comment and HELP me out PLEASE im 14 looking for a little Panda Bear for our loveing family to bring a loveing new life to us Please help our family look for a pet store Thank You All

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