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The transformation from animals to pets


Dogs and cats have been working their way into our lives—and our budgets—for thousands and thousands of years.Bowman ReportJuly 2021
The transformation from animals to pets
  • Between 40,000 and 13,000 BCE

    People domesticate dogs from descendants of Eurasian gray wolves.

  • 1980 BCE

    Ancient Egyptians domesticate cats.

  • 20 AD

    The Romans keep small toy-breed dogs that appear to have no utility, but they came into fashion around the same time that the black rat became a major pest in Europe. For more detail, read "Ask Smithsonian: When Did People Start Keeping Pets?" from Smithsonian Magazine.

  • 1598

    Carlo Ruini's book Anatomia del Cavallo (Anatomy of the Horse) is the first comprehensive publication on the anatomy of any animal aside from humans.

  • 1762

    Claude Bourgelat establishes the first veterinary school, which opens in Lyon, France.

  • 1840s

    First pet stores open, mostly selling songbirds in cages.

  • 1869

    The Women's Branch of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opens in Philadelphia as the nation's first animal shelter.

  • 1920s

    Ken-L-Ration introduces canned dog food to the United States. The food was made mostly of horsemeat, and the brand is now defunct.

  • 1958

    American Pet Products Association—then called the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association—is founded.

  • 1980s

    The American Kennel Club celebrates its 100th anniversary and conducts the first Canine Good Citizen tests.

  • 1998

    The world's first cat café, Cat Flower Garden, opens in Taipei, Taiwan, as a place for young city dwellers to unwind after a hectic day.

  • 2000

    Pets.com—one of four online pet stores founded during the dot-com bubble—raises $82.5 million in a February 2000 IPO. Nine months later, it files for bankruptcy.

  • 2005

    The first cat video, called "Pajamas and Nick Drake," is uploaded on YouTube by cofounder Steve Chen. One year later, the YouTube video "Puppy vs Cat" becomes the first viral cat video. As of 2021, it has almost 16.4 million views.

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